Sunday, September 15, 2013

Shame on Australia, the unfair country

I have copied this from the Sydney Morning Herald
The bold is mine

Australians and New Zealanders have fought alongside one another in world wars, can move without restriction under our trans-Tasman travel arrangement and share a mutually beneficial free-trade agreement. Yet when it comes to our expatriates, Australia has been accused of treating Kiwis like second-class citizens.
And while incoming prime minister, Tony Abbott, was only elected a week ago, New Zealanders hope the fact his wife, Margie, is a Kiwi will help influence change.
Under travel arrangements reached in the 1970s, expats can live and work in either country indefinitely. But legislative changes introduced by the Howard government 12 years ago - as well as amendments to several other laws thereafter - mean that although Kiwis can permanently reside and seek employment in Australia on special category visas, they are not entitled to permanent residency. Nor do they get automatic rights to citizenship.
In contrast, Australians are granted residency on arrival in New Zealand, can vote after living there for a year and become eligible for citizenship after five years. They are also entitled to welfare benefits after two years.
''Basically, any [New Zealander] who arrived here after February 26, 2001, or who had been living here and, for whatever reason, was living overseas the year the law was changed, is affected,'' said Tim Gassin, the spokesman for Oz Kiwi, a group campaigning for equality for the estimated 300,000 unprotected Kiwis affected.
Academy Award-winning actor Russell Crowe is among them. Despite moving here in 1968, Crowe was working overseas filming Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind when the Family and Community Services Legislation Amendment (New Zealand citizens) Act 2001 was brought in.
He planned to get naturalised in 2006 only discover he was ineligible - despite living here for 37 of his 49 years.
Crowe has described the immigration loophole as ''arbitrary and ridiculous'', noting that, while he could not become a citizen, he had featured on an Australian Legends stamp and was awarded a Centenary of Federation medallion.
''There's a whole bunch of New Zealanders who have committed to a life here, who have had children here, who bought their first houses here, who have been productive, taxpaying members of society … Until recently, I had an Australian wife. I have two Australian children. But I still fall between the cracks,'' Crowe said.
Mr Gassin's Kiwi fiancee Grace Edwards has even taught Australian history at Melbourne University where they met in 2007 and are both doing their PhDs.
''Essentially, the way the system now operates in Australia, despite all the history between our two countries, New Zealanders are treated the same as anyone sitting in the desert in Namibia who wants to come here and get citizenship,'' he said.
''They have to go through the same skills tests, security checks and health checks for things like contagious diseases, which is a bit stupid when they've already been living and working here - some of them - for 10 years.''
He said Kiwis had the highest workforce participation rate in Australia and it was ironic that many residency and citizenship applications had been rejected by the Australian government on the basis their skills were not in demand.
''But a lot of occupations are not in demand here because there are so many Kiwis filling the gaps,'' he said.
Without citizenship, Kiwis cannot vote or access any form of social or disability welfare - even though they contribute an estimated $5 billion in income tax annually. Furthermore, children born here to New Zealand citizens are no longer considered Australian. Such children only qualify for citizenship after they have lived here for 10 years, meaning those born with disabilities are not eligible for any government assistance.
The productivity commissions of Australia and New Zealand completed a joint report last year on the trans-Tasman relationship and found Australia's treatment of Kiwis was unreasonable, unjustified and required change.

Actually I think there are some inaccuracies. I received the NZ aged pension backdated to the day I arrived.  My Australian Aged pension is paid to the NZ Government but as it is means tested it is less than what I receive from NZ.
I was able to vote in the first elections after I arrived, the local elections were held about 9 months after my arrival and I received voting papers.
Unlike an American citizen, as an expatriate, I have lost the right to vote in Australia, so my views are of no interest to politicians. 
In fact, if I did not have relatives and friends in Australia, I would have no interest in ever returning to that country again.

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