No change to Kiwi citizenship status - Aust PM
TRACY WATKINS IN CANBERRA
Should NZ push harder for more rights for Australia-based Kiwis?
New Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has made it clear he won't revisit the plight of Kiwis across the Tasman - and is using his New Zealand-born wife Margaret to support his hardline stance.
Prime Minister John Key yesterday made a whistle stop visit to Canberra to meet Abbott ahead of the Apec conference in Bali this weekend, the first foreign leader to call on Abbot in Australia since the change of government last month.
Key raised the perennial issue of Kiwis across the Tasman who are treated as second class citizens by Australian law, which denies them many basic entitlements afforded to other workers who pay taxes.
After an hour-long meeting with Key, Abbott said he was "very happy" with the situation as it stood and Kiwis who came to Australia were expected to work and pay taxes like everybody else.
Abbott used his Wainuiomata-born wife as an example of how the arrangement worked for both sides.
"I'm very conscious of the great debt I personally owe New Zealand - on the other hand [my wife] says that she owes something to Australia given that Australia has been a good home to her over the last 25-30 years now."
New Zealanders had better access to Australia than the citizens of any other country - "and that's as it should be", Abbott said.
"What I admire about Kiwis in Australia is their commitment to have a go. They are have-a-go people. I want everyone who comes to this country to work and pay taxes from day one and in delighted that's exactly what Kiwis have done."
After emerging from their meeting, Abbott addressed Key as his "brother prime minister" and talked about the strong bonds in the trans-Tasman relationship.
"New Zealand is in many respects Australia's closest relationship. We go back a hell of a long way together. New Zealand is family in a way that probably no other country is."
While Key and Abbott have met previously it was their first formal meeting as prime ministers since Abbott's conservative party tipped out the ruling Labor party.
"So I'm really thrilled that John has chosen to come to Australia to touch base with me so early in the life of the new government.
Abbott said he hoped to take Key up on an invitation to visit New Zealand next year.
"I would hope to do that because its important to keep our relationship in the best possible repair. Just because we are family doesn't mean that we should take each other for granted."
Abbott also praised the Key Government's programme and said it was something his Government hoped to learn from.
"I am impressed with the way the New Zealand government has created economic growth, pursued very sensible economic policies without in any way engaging in what's become known as austerity.''
Abbott was also asked about Australia's boat people policy, which was a centre piece of his election platform. He visited Indonesia this week to underscore the importance of the policy.
"I dont think anyone in Indonesia is under any illusion about Australia's resolve to stop the boats. This must happen, the boats must stop."
Asked about the Key government's previous commitment to the Julia Gillard led Labor government to take up to 150 of Australia's boat people each year as asylum seekers, Abbott made it clear he did not want that offer to make Australia look like a soft touch.
"We did canvass the commitment that New Zealand has previously made to help Australia in this respect and we're grateful for New Zealand's help and if and when it becomes necessary obviously we will call on it.
''But our determination is to stop the boats and one of the ways that we stop the boats is by making it absolutely crystal clear that if you come to Australia illegally by boat you go not to New Zealand but to Nauru or Manus, and you never every come to Australia. And people ought not think that New Zealand is some kind of a consolation prize if they can't come to Australia."
- © Fairfax NZ News
Can the ACT Party survive?Related story: ACT life support still on