08 September 2013

Kiwi ex-pats gain nothing from Aussie election

It's estimated there may be about 600,000 NZ citizens living in Australia. Most of them will be living and working there on the discriminatory marginal status of ‘indefinite temporary resident’ (on a ‘special category visa’), entitled to work in Australia but not eligible for welfare benefits, and not eligible to vote.
Neither Labor nor the Coalition made any election promise to rectify the status of New Zealanders who are working there, and paying taxes to the Australian government, but who are denied normal rights of citizenship. Well, why would either party promote such a policy, as New Zealanders can't vote? Promising to rectify the discriminatory status of New Zealanders in Australia would win no votes from Australians – indeed, it would have cost them votes. 
In effect, since 2001 when this policy began, New Zealanders are being treated in Australia as ‘guest workers’. On entry to Australia, they have a right to work and must pay taxes, but they have few rights to social protection, higher education subsidies and loans, and they are subject to the same tough conditions as any other nationality if they wish to apply for permanent residence or citizenship. The same restrictions apply to their children, even if they were born in Australia. One of the social problems arising from this set of policies is that Australia-born New Zealanders are growing up there, getting their compulsory education and seeking employment, but without social protections. The lack of tertiary education support means that higher qualifications are often out of the reach of families, and the lack of qualifications then counts against them if they apply for permanent residence or citizenship. It has been alleged in the media that these restrictions on social supports and opportunities are now leading to problems of poverty, youth violence and crime in some parts of Australia. Some states have even amended human-rights laws to prevent New Zealanders from taking discrimination claims.
New Zealanders in Australia are contributing to their host country's economy and to the Australian Treasury, but they are systematically locked out of the entitlements that normally go with such contributions. And the recent election shows that their plight counts for nothing politically.

Some facts, from Australia's Department of Immigration and Citizenship: The Special Category Visa is a temporary visa that allows a New Zealand citizen to remain indefinitely and live, work or study in Australia lawfully as long as that person remains a New Zealand citizen. The SCV is not a permanent visa and visa holders do not have the same rights and benefits as an Australian citizen or permanent resident. In addition to the limitation introduced in the 2001 changes for SCV holders, both Australian permanent residents and SCV holders are generally not able to: vote in Australian government elections, access student loans, join the Australian Defence Force, or obtain ongoing work for the Australian Government.
(PS: I have dual Australian/NZ citizenship, so I have no personal interests at stake here.)


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