Queensland's anti-discrimination commission has condemned plans to legalise state discrimination against New Zealanders, claiming it would create a "permanent second class of people".
The commission said denying access to state support based on nationality could lead to increased crime, suicide and homelessness.
The tens of thousands of New Zealanders who were allowed to live and work in Queensland indefinitely on "temporary" visas were particularly vulnerable, the commission said.
"Widespread denial of certain government services to long-term residents of Queensland may create a permanent second class of people."
The commission also urged better access to permanent residency for Kiwis living long term in Australia.
"There is an emergence of an economically disadvantaged group of New Zealand citizens living in Australia who do not have a clear pathway to either permanent residency or Australian citizenship."
The comments were made in response to a Queensland Government bill that, if passed, would allow government agencies to deny support based on residency status without it being considered discriminatory.
This would affect all New Zealanders living "temporarily" in Queensland, who are already refused access to welfare, public housing and disability support. Without the threat of legal action, it would also be easier to expand restrictions on New Zealanders.
The bill was introduced days after disabled New Zealander Hannah Campbell came close to successfully suing the Queensland Government for denying her care.
Submitter Angela Ogier said the bill would reinforce the "alienation" of tax-paying Kiwis living in Queensland.
Ms Ogier and her husband moved to Queensland last year. They earn good money working in the gas industry in Queensland.
But despite paying more tax than most Australian citizens, she cannot access many of the social benefits. "The bill . . . is a far cry from the Anzac spirit which normally characterises trans-Tasman relations."
Another opponent, Donna Soo, said Queensland risked being seen as "anti-New Zealand" if the bill passed.
"This proposal serves to reinforce stereotypes that New Zealanders simply ‘bludge off Australia', which is an opinion based on no actual data or evidence whatsoever."
Soo moved to Queensland nine years ago but, despite consistent highly paid work and a masters degree, she remains ineligible for permanent residency.
Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie has said the bill would limit costs and legal exposure for government agencies. He has dodged questions about whether the bill specifically targets New Zealanders.
There were no submissions received in support of the proposal.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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