Although New Zealanders may live and work in Australia, they cannot become citizens, vote, or have the same access to health and education services as Australian citizens.
Australians in New Zealand are able to become citizens.
At the recent trans-Tasman summit in Queenstown, the issue was not mentioned in the final communique, something former New Zealand opposition leader and foreign minister Phil Goff of the opposition Labour Party tells Bruce Hill he's unhappy about.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Former New Zealand opposition leader and foreign minister Phil Goff, of the opposition Labour Party
GOFF: Well that's something John Key hasn't explained. Julia Gillard was able to use the weekend at Queenstown very effectively to persuade John Key to accept an annual quota of boatpeople, but he seems to have made no progress at all on the issue of discrimination against Kiwis who are permanently resident in Australia. He really doesn't seem to have made the effort, rather than made the effort of being rebuffed, very little comment was made.
HILL: There was some expectation that this issue would be addressed before the summit took place wasn't there?
GOFF: The issue should have been raised quite frankly. We look to have the closest possible relationship with Australia, we're talking about a single economic market, we're certainly talking about a common labour market, but one part of that has got to be that anybody that goes to make Australia their home permanently, who pay their taxes, who contribute their skills and their hard work, they should get all the benefits that their taxation goes towards funding. And yet New Zealanders, alone amongst those living permanently in Australia, don't get the same rights in terms of that social safety net that most will never use, but you'd like to have there in case one day you become ill or you're made redundant or something else happens in your life where you need that support.
HILL: Is there any legitimacy to some of the Australian concerns that people from other countries are using New Zealand as a kind of a way station, a transit point, moving there from some Pacific Island countries and parts of Asia, getting New Zealand citizenship which doesn't take that long, and then subsequently going to Australia, which was the whole point of their immigration right from the word go? Is that a legitimate concern?
GOFF: Well I think less than it used to be, because these days in New Zealand you have to have been living in New Zealand permanently for five years before you can get citizenship. So if people were looking at New Zealand as a stop-off on the way to Australia, it would really have to be a long-term plan. In the old days when it was only two years, maybe there was some legitimacy to that concern. But if Australia was worried about that, then simply it says well if you're a New Zealand citizen and you come across, then after a couple of years of living in Australia you'd get the same rights in Australia as Aussies coming to New Zealand get after they've lived a couple of years in New Zealand. Effectively that means they've lived in New Zealand for at least five years and then another two years in Australia. By that time they've shown that whether or not they're genuine citizens, willing to make a real contribution to your society.
HILL: If this issue wasn't raised between John Key and Julia Gillard well how big an issue between the two countries could it be really?
GOFF: If you're cynical you'd say that Kiwis living in Australia are effectively disenfranchised. They've got no right to vote in Australia unless they're citizens, and they lose their right to vote in New Zealand. So a cynic would say that on neither side of the Tasman was there a political imperative to address the problem. But I think there's a moral and a humanitarian imperative. You do have cases of real disadvantage, and in some cases serious social hardship suffered by Kiwis living permanently in Australia, and that must be addressed. And most particularly if the kids that grow up in Australia that regard themselves as Australians, it's the only country they've ever known, they don't get the same rights for example to gain a tertiary education and skills training, that doesn't just damage them, but it damages Australia because you're losing the potential of those young people.
HILL: Again is this really an issue in New Zealand, it doesn't seem to feature much in the newspapers and I'm not sure there's been any parliamentary debate about it? Are you going to make this more of an issue than it has been?
GOFF: It has risen in prominence in New Zealand in recent times and it has been looked at by the foreign affairs select committee in parliament and we're continuing to do that. I think when it comes down to it it's about the shared ideology of Kiwis and Australians, both believe that people should have a fair go. Neither of us have got any time for bludgers, but people who pull their weight, pay their taxes, surely are entitled to the same benefits as everybody else that are working and paying their taxes. And that's not happening, you simply have a group of New Zealanders permanently Australians now, but who don't get those rights. And that's not a fair go, it's not right.
HILL: You've been a minister of foreign affairs in your time, how does this trans-Tasman relationship works? Is New Zealand just nervous about raising any of these issues with Australia? Is New Zealand scared of Australia?
GOFF: Well I think the trans-Tasman relationship CER works really well, and it's worked to the benefit of both countries. Some people say if you push Australia on this they'll close the door and you won't get free access to live and work across the Tasman. But actually Australia is the beneficiary of that. People who are educated and skilled and raised at the expense of the New Zealand taxpayer then go on to contribute the best working years of their life in Australia. They pay something more than three-billion dollars of tax a year. Well if you're paying that level of tax then surely you're entitled to the same level of protections as every other permanent resident in Australia who's paying their taxes.