Australia has "a permanent second class" of New Zealanders living across the ditch, its top multicultural body says.
The Australian Multicultural Council has called for a closer investigation into how the government treats about 280,000 New Zealanders living in Australia on "temporary" visas.
Restrictions on temporary visa holders' access to tertiary education and welfare had created "a permanent second class of people without a clear pathway to either permanent residency or Australian citizenship", the council said.
This "economically disadvantaged group" of New Zealanders were reporting human rights abuse, social exclusion and racial discrimination. Within the group, Maori and Pacific Islanders also faced addition risks of cultural isolation.
"The AMC considers such experiences to be detrimental to Australia's long-term social cohesion and localised community harmony."
The council was established by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard last year to provide the government with independent advice on multiculturalism.
However, a spokesman for Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen yesterday rejected the suggestion that New Zealanders were second class. "It is patently incorrect to say that New Zealanders are considered second class in Australia."
Many New Zealanders were on temporary visas, despite being able to live and work permanently in Australia, but were eligible to apply for permanent residency like anyone else, he said.
The council's comments on New Zealanders were made in a submission to the Joint Productivity Commission draft report on trans-Tasman relations.
The council said the report, which covered everything from a common currency to immigration, did not address the problem of "second-class" New Zealanders in Australia. Other submitters also raised concerns about the unfair treatment of New Zealanders.
Queensland's Griffiths University said the lack of access to student loans meant New Zealanders were attending university at half the rate of the overall Australian population.
Many young New Zealanders were caught in a "catch-22" situation, unable to gain permanent residency without skills and unable to attend university to obtain the skills needed to gain residency.
Vicky Va'a, of the Nerang Neighbourhood Centre on the Gold Coast, said government restrictions on New Zealanders had led to more youth ending up on the streets.
"Families who don't, or more specifically cannot, take up Australian permanent residency leave themselves - and probably more so their children - open to a hugely unstable life in Australia."
Debate about New Zealanders' rights is heating up in Queensland, where the state government is trying to strip tens of thousands of Kiwis of protection from state discrimination.
It comes after a disabled New Zealand woman won a substantial settlement by suing the Queensland Government for discrimination for refusing care because of her nationality.
The law changes would prevent other New Zealanders from launching similar challenges.
Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie refused to confirm yesterday whether the changes were a direct result of the recent case. However, he said it would reduce government departments' exposure to discrimination litigation.
The amendments would affect everyone who was not an Australian citizen, not just New Zealanders on temporary visas.
The Joint Productivity Commission will submit its final report on trans-Tasman relations to both the New Zealand and Australian governments on December 1.
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 AUSSIE
New Zealanders are issued with an automatic "special category visa", which is indefinite, but are classified as temporary residents.
As such, they 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 permanent residency.
- The Dominion Post