Queensland bill hits Kiwis there

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 03/11/2012

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The Queensland Government wants to strip New Zealanders of protection from state discrimination after it nearly lost a battle to refuse help to a disabled Kiwi.

The changes were slipped into a broader bill which passed its first reading in the Queensland Parliament on Thursday, nestled between youth boot camps and sex workers' rights.

If the bill passes, it will no longer be discriminatory for government agencies to deny support based on someone's residency status.

This would impact tens of thousands of New Zealanders "temporarily" residing 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 comes after New Zealander Hannah Campbell came close to successfully suing the Queensland Government for discrimination.

Miss Campbell has cerebral palsy but was denied disability support because she was classified as a "temporary" resident, despite living in Australia for years.

The Queensland Government settled with Miss Campbell last month but the tribunal that heard her complaint said there was a "strong case" of direct discrimination.

Queensland's Justice Minister Jarrod Bleijie said recent litigation showed some government policies were vulnerable to accusations of racial discrimination.

The changes would help control costs and reduce the chances of accusations getting legal traction, he said. "Public resources are finite. Limits must often be placed on who is eligible for government funded assistance."

New Zealand rights advocate Vicky Va'a said the changes would enshrine existing state discrimination against New Zealanders and open the door for additional restrictions. "The proposal in itself is discriminatory," said Ms Va'a, who lives on the Gold Coast.

"I have been paying tax for five years but if I get multiple-sclerosis tomorrow there will be no support for me."

The bill will now be considered by a select committee, which is accepting submissions until November 8.

AUSSIES IN NZ

Australians do not need a visa to live permanently in New Zealand.

All Australians who intend to live in New Zealand for more than two years are eligible for the same health and disability services as New Zealanders, and can receive all social welfare benefits after two years.

KIWIS IN OZ

New Zealanders are issued with an automatic "special category visa", which is indefinite, but are classified as temporary residents.

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New Zealanders on this visa cannot receive social welfare payments, other than superannuation and severe disability benefits.

Some Australian states also refuse disability support and public housing.

More than 280,000 New Zealanders in Australia are technically on these temporary visas and many will never be eligible for citizenship or even permanent residency.

The restrictions have been blamed for an increase in crime and homelessness among young New Zealanders in Australia, particularly in southern Queensland.

- The Dominion Post

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