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Prime Minister John Key recently visited Australia to discuss trans-Tasman matters with his counterpart Malcolm Turnbull.
One of the main discussion topics—among refugee detainment and rising tensions in the South China Sea—was the citizenship rights of New Zealanders who have relocated to Australia.
After a few busy days of kayaking, wine tasting, and luxury accommodation, the PMs reached an agreement, giving New Zealanders who have lived in Australia for five or more years, and are earning more than $54,000 per annum, easier access to citizenship.
According to the 2013 Census, roughly 650,000 people—15% of New Zealand’s population—live in Australia. After moving to Australia, New Zealanders are given temporary resident visas, which in layman’s terms, means they are not eligible for medical benefits, emergency government aid, public housing, and disability support.
The limitations imposed on New Zealanders who relocate to Australia are a concern for tertiary students considering postgraduate study abroad. There is no student assistance for New Zealanders studying in Australia, so the cost of studying at a postgraduate level could dissuade those who want access to higher education.
The temporary visa also applies to the children of New Zealand migrants born after February 27, 2001. This means that if the child’s parents aren’t yet citizens or holders of permanent visas, normal citizenship benefits are unavailable.
Those wanting live permanently in Australia are able to apply for a permanent resident’s visa or citizenship, but the Australian government advises that only those looking to stay for several years or more to seek out this option.
Before the meeting, Labour leader Andrew Little urged Key to use the opportunity to push for the rights of New Zealanders in Australia and, “urge the Australian Parliament to treat Kiwis living in Australia better.”
“Since 2001 New Zealanders across the ditch have been treated like second class citizens. They have lost basic rights such as access to social support, student assistance and the ability to become citizens of the country they live in.”
Maybe in between braiding their hair and making friendship bracelets, Turnbull and Key did lay down future plans for fair access to citizenship, but then again, the Australian government is full of hardliners and people who love running rings around us New Zealanders—so who bloody knows.