Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is visiting New Zealand next week. Whilst the Australian Prime Minister will be welcome as always, here is a valuable chance for his New Zealand counter part Prime Minister Bill English to strike a blow for issues that concern New Zealanders.
For decades New Zealanders have flocked to Australia to enjoy its lifestyle. They have gone there in their thousands – about 500,000 all up. They enjoy the higher pay, the better night life and the many social opportunities that a small nation of 4.7 million cannot afford. They can buy properties and live there indefinitely.
But there is a catch. Whereas other nationalities have a clear cut path to Australian citizenship, there is no such path for New Zealanders. Whereas other nationalities can become permanent residents, there is no such path for New Zealanders. If one contrasts that with the rights Australians enjoy here – they can become citizens; can become permanent residents; can stand in Parliamentary and local Government elections, it seems to me like New Zealanders are getting a raw deal in Australia.
The inability thanks to these restrictions of New Zealanders living there to enjoy the full benefits Australian citizens enjoy are not just political or about being citizen or permanent resident.The problems are further exacerbated by virtue of the fact that holding citizenship is the difference between whether one can access the Federal and State health services that Australia provides to its citizens. Citizens are also able to access support for housing, social welfare and have the same rights under criminal law as Australian citizens do.
But a New Zealander cannot.
The rights of New Zealanders in Australia have been highlighted starkly by a number of cases involving New Zealanders who moved across the Tasman Sea when they were very young. These New Zealanders have no connection to New Zealand in any way – they were raised in Australia; schooled in Australia and brought up to Australian customs. A few will unfortunately resort to crime to survive the high cost of living or become involved with drugs and gangs. If they get arrested, they have a high risk of being deported to a country they know nothing about, have no support network and may run the risk of falling into even bigger problems.
Of course I do not condone the crime. But nor do I want the social circumstances in which a criminal lives to encourage them to commit more crime, there, here or anywhere.
I wait with bated breath to see whether more than the usual trade, security and the Trans Tasman relationship will get discussed. If it does both countries will gain from the above being the subject.