Australia's dirty secret: the way we treat New Zealanders
12 August 2015
Sam Roberts - National Union of Workers
They live just across the ditch but the National Union of Workers says Australia treats New Zealanders living here like second-class citizens.
The lost Kiwis
Australia fought alongside the Kiwis to forge the Anzac spirit. We even have a Trans Tasman Partnership founded upon reciprocal rights and kinship. But did you know Australians don't treat New Zealanders with the same respect Australians receive in New Zealand?
This situation is unfair and we need to change it. So National Union of Workers (NUW) members moved an amendment about justice for immigrants from New Zealand living in Australia at Labor's 47th National Conference.
But what's the fuss about? Here are some facts you might not have known about New Zealanders in Australia.
1. There is no automatic pathway to citizenship for New Zealanders in Australia
Since 26 February 2001, New Zealand citizens who come to Australia to make their lives here have been effectively relegated to the back of the bus that is our national economy.
For many New Zealanders there is no automatic pathway to citizenship and they are locked out of much of the social support necessary to invest in their education and skills.
2. New Zealanders treat Aussies better than we treat them
Currently, Australia treats New Zealanders living here like second-class citizens, even though we have a Trans Tasman Partnership founded upon reciprocal rights and kinship.
Australians in New Zealand get to vote across the ditch after only one year of residency and become citizens after five years - for New Zealanders in Australia, there is no automatic right to vote.
Australians are not treating New Zealanders with the same respect Australians receive in New Zealand. This situation is unfair and we need to change it.
3. New Zealanders contribute to Australia's economy
'Lost Kiwis' can come here and do the hard jobs that keep our country running. Many of them work in warehousing and distribution to make sure you can buy what you need when you want it. They also pay the taxes we use to help each other out.
4. Even though New Zealanders pay taxes, they're not entitled to many benefits
New Zealanders pay tax on the same basis as Australian citizens and yet they are locked out of most of our social services.
For instance, Lost Kiwis cannot access our FEE-HELP system of student loans, which effectively locks New Zealand workers in Australia out of higher education as an option to upgrade their skills or retrain. Instead, we tell them they can stay as long as they remain at the back of the bus doing the necessary and vital jobs the rest of us don't want to think about.
Locking large numbers of Lost Kiwis out of tertiary education limits what they can achieve during their lifetime and denies all of us the opportunity to benefit from increased tax revenue and innovative thinking.
When we hold back any member of our community, we hold back the entire community. Instead, our lives can be richer for embracing and recognising the contribution our family can make if we can support them to reach their full potential.
5. If New Zealanders living in Australia want to access the same things Australians living in New Zealand have, they have to pay
New Zealanders have to apply to become permanent residents before becoming citizens. This process costs thousands of dollars per person, a figure any ordinary working family in Australia would struggle to afford.
There is no guarantee of success with a permanent residency application. Success instead depends on an arbitrary list of skill shortages in the Australian economy, ignoring the fact that New Zealand workers are already using their skills and contribute to our economy via their labour and the taxes they pay.
6. The NUW is doing something about this inequity
We want to see justice accorded to our New Zealand siblings. It is worth celebrating that this aspiration is in the platform for the Australian Labor Party. Our Queensland members will be taking the cause to their state Labor Party conference in August.
Through the excellent work of Oz Kiwi and our NUW members, we can deliver justice for our New Zealand friends.
Read about the Australian Labor Party support for New Zealanders living in Australia.
Sam Roberts is the General Branch Secretary of the National Union of Workers.