For many a decade New Zealanders have flocked to Australia to live. They have left New Zealand for a myriad of reasons. They include “the grass is greener”, or “too many earthquakes” which was a common reason given by expatriate Cantabrians in 2010-11. Others said “my _______ got a job there”. As New Zealanders, they have been able to enjoy many rights that other non-Australians do not. They have also become significant contributors to the Australian tax pie.
Australians call us family. Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in an historic address to the New Zealand Parliament that New Zealanders are family. And yet, like the Australian Prime Ministers before her, her successor Tony Abbott and more recently Tony Abbott’s own successor Malcolm Turnbull, Ms Gillard refused to change the Special Category Visa that only governs New Zealanders living in Australia long term. Family do not discriminate without good reason against family – at least that is my understanding of family.
So, Australia, there are two perfectly reasonable things I would like to see you do:
- Whether you make any concessions or not on this matter, create a clear path to Australian citizenship or at least the Australian equivalent of permanent residency for New Zealanders already living long term in Australia, which will solve numerous bureaucratic hang ups. Right now there is no path to Australian citizenship for New Zealanders living in Australia long term.
- Drop the discriminatory nature of the Special Category Visa – not being able to vote, have access to the social welfare benefits that the taxes of New Zealanders residing in Australia contribute towards and enjoy the same human rights protection that other immigrants to Australia who have a path to citizenship are able to get.
These are not unreasonable requests. If you really viewed New Zealanders living and working in Australia as family, why the discrimination? An article in 2014 that was published in The Guardian shows how vulnerable New Zealanders in Australia can be should something unfortunate, such as loss of employment, prolonged sickness or an accident happen. For people who moved to Australia when they were children this is particularly challenging since as a child, they had no real say in the matter. Now as adults they find themselves often with no real connection to New Zealand, a country that they might have to move back to should living in Australia become untenable.
Now is not the time to engage in tit-for-tat politics. However, given the long period of time over which this has been happening and the lack of change in the nearly 15 years since the Australian Government of Prime Minister John Howard introduced the S.C.V., it does need to be pointed out to Australia that further progress on Trans Tasman issues may stall if basic fairness towards each others citizens is not guaranteed by law.