Kiwis urged to fight for rights in Australia

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 15:49 16/04/2014
Kiwis in Australia protest
COURT ACTION NEEDED: The rights of Kiwis who moved to Australia on the special category visas introduced in 2001 were being eroded, Paul Hamer says.

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Brave Kiwis are needed to take test cases over Australia's anti-Kiwi discrimination to try to stop the whittling away of New Zealanders' rights across the Tasman, an academic says.

Tough restrictions on access to social security and permanent resident status for New Zealanders living in Australia have led to an outcry.

Australians living in New Zealand receive much more generous terms, though the Government says there is little it can do.

Victoria University adjunct research associate Paul Hamer, who studies the migration of Maori to Australia, says the Australian Government has continued to turn the screws on New Zealanders who have crossed the ditch. This includes a recent court decision preventing New Zealand students from getting public transport concessions in Victoria.

A Victorian judge ruled the decision was racial discrimination against New Zealanders, but it stands, regardless.

Hamer said there appeared to be legitimate grounds for discrimination suits by Kiwis being penalised by the system in Australia.

However, it would require Kiwis willing to stand up.

"In every case of discrimination or alleged discrimination you need a plaintiff, so you need someone to say that they've been prejudicially affected," Hamer said.

"And those people ideally need to be willing to see an expensive court process through and they need in some ways to have nothing to lose - it makes it much easier for them to go through the process."

The rights of New Zealanders who had moved to Australia on the special category visas introduced in 2001 continued to be eroded, he said.

That those Kiwis were not permanent residents led to them being discriminated against by government departments and private businesses such as insurance companies.

"To say 'well, because you are not a permanent resident under the Social Security Act, we're not going to let you have concessional travel or we're not going to sell you life insurance or health insurance' or whatever.

"The desire is to test whether New Zealanders should be regarded as permanent residents for most of those purposes and also whether the social security legislation ... is itself consistent with the federal or state anti-discrimination laws about not discriminating against people on the basis of, say, their national origin."

Some of those cases were likely to succeed, he said.

His recent survey of 900 Maori living in Australia found only two had been granted permanent residency - a status which which was very difficult to achieve, he said.

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Most New Zealanders did not realise this when they went there, he said.

While the open-door policy gave New Zealanders more access it made it more difficult to get the benefits of permanent residency, but the benefits outweighed the costs.

"Sure we can talk about New Zealanders being inherently vulnerable but ... it's been a really important gateway, it's really made enormous differences in people's lives."

Most Australians did not realise the extent to which New Zealanders were penalised and there was no-one to champion the cause, he said.

- Fairfax Media

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