Information for New Zealanders living in Australia

Australian Kiwis say their rights are being eroded

26 June 2017
Lobby group Oz Kiwi says Australians have more rights in New Zealand, than Kiwis who move here. (Photo: Lawrie M, Wikimedia)
Lobby group Oz Kiwi says Australians have more rights in New Zealand, than Kiwis who move here. (Photo: Lawrie M, Wikimedia)

New Zealanders living in Australia are getting a raw deal.

26 June 2017

Inga Stünzner - ABC

New Zealanders living in Australia are getting a raw deal, and the proposed changes to Australian citizenship will only make it worse.

That is the warning from a lobby group for New Zealanders living in Australia, Oz Kiwi, which spent the past week in urgent meetings with politicians on both sides of the Tasman.

Oz Kiwi spokesperson Joanne Cox said there had been a steady erosion of rights since 2001, when New Zealanders were no longer considered permanent residents on arrival.

The changes will see citizenship applicants reside as permanent residents for four years rather than one.

New Zealand students may have to pay full domestic fees for university, and the New Zealand government has had to seek assurances from the Treasurers office that SCV New Zealanders who sell a home in Australia will not be charged capital gains tax.

“These things are happening on the sly,” Ms Cox said.

“What was happening 10 yeas ago is no longer the case and people don't realise the changes until it's too late.”

Crossing 'the ditch'

More than 600,000 New Zealanders live in Australia, mainly in New South Wales and Queensland, and until recently the flow between countries was one-sided.

Over the past three years, the number of New Zealanders heading to Australian shores had dropped from an average of 27,600 a year to 20,500 last year, according to Statistics New Zealand.

More people are also moving from Australia to New Zealand, with numbers over the past three years almost doubling to 15,800 a year compared with an average of 8,900 each year for the previous 35 years.

There are now more than 62,000 Australians living there.

Currently, Kiwis in Australia:

When Australians arrive in New Zealand, they are granted permanent residency, can access welfare after two years, access student loans after three years and, after five years, pay just $480 to become citizens.

New Zealanders who arrived in Australia before February 2001 were granted permanent residency and a direct pathway to citizenship, but those who arrived after that date do not.

Kiwis arriving after this date do so under a temporary Special Category Visa that allows a person to live in Australia indefinitely, but with no access to social security, student loans or disaster relief — and Oz Kiwi is critical of the lack of balance.

Rights whittled away says advocate

Oz Kiwi said New Zealanders were now in a situation where they could be brought to Australia as infants, live their lives until 90 years old and never be able to gain citizenship.

Ms Cox said rights were being carved away steadily, and another blow was with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Currently, Australians in NZ:

New Zealanders will be the only group paying a levy, starting next month, but will have no access to its services if they are not permanent residents.

“Other foreign nationals don't pay that levy and if they do, they are here as a temporary visa holder; they can reclaim that money when they leave,” Ms Cox said.

Those with disabilities currently have support through other services, but this will be discontinued when the NDIS is rolled out, she added.

Oz Kiwi met with the federal opposition and cross benches last week, asking them to block the Turnbull Government's citizenship and higher education reforms.

Ms Cox said the meetings were productive and she was encouraged by Labor's decision to block the bill.

“If the bill gets completely blocked, that four-year wait as a permanent resident will be gone, so that should resolve a lot of issues for students caught in limbo,” she said.

Disparity not unnoticed

The situation has not gone unnoticed in New Zealand, and its Minister for Foreign Affairs Gerry Brownlee warned New Zealanders in Australia to consider taking out dual citizenship or face fewer rights.

Ms Cox, who met with the minister and his advisors last week, said this was not easy as New Zealanders did not have the same pathway to citizenship as other migrants.

The temporary Special Category Visa, which entitled New Zealanders to work and live in Australia indefinitely, did not provide the same pathway to citizenship, she said.

“There's a large cohort of New Zealanders who've arrived in Australia since February 2001 and [in] recent times who are really disenfranchised and they don't have many options to gain citizenship,” Ms Cox said.

“The longer they live here, the more disenfranchised they become.”

New Zealand's Prime Minister Bill English has called the proposed changes “disappointing”.

If they have an Australian partner, their partner can sponsor them, but that visa costs $7,000 plus the medical tests and other fees associated with applying for that sponsorship,” she said.

Ms Cox said the only other avenue was to apply for a skills visa based on the skills shortage list, however New Zealanders were not sponsored for these roles.

“They can just get on a plane and work here anyway so, why would an employer look at a New Zealander and say, 'Well, I'm going to pay $3,000 or $4,000 more to get them over here' when they don't have to?” she said.

'We're all Anzacs' say Kiwis in Australia

New Zealander Lisa Kibblewhite moved to Rockhampton, in central Queensland, three years ago with her Australian husband and said she was shocked at the rollback of entitlements.

“I assumed that even back in the old days, Kiwis who moved to Australia got the same rights as an Australian,” she said.

“It's devastating actually to think that I'm not valued enough in this country to be given a fair go, but Australians are valued in my country.”

Ms Kibblewhite said she was horrified at the thought of having to be a permanent resident for four years and then having to pay $7,000 for her application as a spouse.

“Financially, that's not viable for my family,” she said.

“It terrifies me that if something, God forbid, happens to my husband and he dies or something awful and is incapacitated somewhat, I have no fall back. It's very scary.”

Neil Halliday, who now lives in the coastal town of Yeppoon, is like many New Zealanders unaware of gradual changes to visas.

“I just live here with my family and try to provide — I haven't been forced to,” he said.

On discovering what rights New Zealanders did have in this country, he was surprised.

“It's a little bit unfair the conditions New Zealanders are being put into in Australia, considering we're all Anzacs and all our history means we spend a lot of time together,” he said.

Although he is a permanent resident because he lived in Australia during the 1990s, he said the cost of citizenship for him, his partner and five children was prohibitive.

“I'm just looking to solidify our family situation, [so] maybe down the track,” he said.

“[The application fee] is part of a deposit on a house, which would be more beneficial to my situation.”

New visa will be welcome change

Last year the Turnbull Government brought in a new category of visa — a skilled independent New Zealand visa — where applicants needed to average $54,000 annually for five years to qualify.

This comes into effect on July 1, and Ms Cox said it was a welcome change, providing a new pathway to permanent residency followed by citizenship for up to 100,000 New Zealanders.

However, many business owners who ploughed their money back into their business would miss out, Ms Cox said.

Through a media statement, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection did not address whether any historic reforms would be addressed, but said the new pathway to citizenship was an acknowledgement of the special bilateral relationship between Australia and New Zealand.

The spokesperson said eligible applicants could then apply for citizenship after a year as a permanent resident.

Ms Kibblewhite said she should have done her homework before moving to Australia.

“We've always been neighbours — and there's the natural rivalry across the Tasman — but when the chips are down we Kiwis and Aussies look out for each other,” she said.

“This isn't looking out for each other. This is just taking.”

Read the ABC article.