New Zealanders and the Hypocrisy of Australian Democracy
The Australian 2016 election held a “bitter taste” for many New Zealanders living long-term in Australia, writes New Zealander Megan Anderson, a Melbourne journalist, discusses how. “Because none of us can vote,” Anderson writes. “There are an estimated 650,000 New Zealanders living in Australia under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement, which supports the free movement of Australians and New Zealanders across the Pacific.
“Traditionally, the agreement meant New Zealanders and Australians could live and work in either country and receive the same benefits; cementing the shared history, culture and values between the countries.
“Australians moving to New Zealand can still vote after one year, receive welfare after two, and become citizens after five.
“The Howard-led Australian government tweaked the arrangement in 2001, blocking a clear pathway to citizenship for New Zealanders. Since then, New Zealanders entering Australia have been granted Special Category Visa (SCV) status.
“Essentially guest workers, Kiwis are considered permanent residents for tax purposes, but without access to government benefits, student loans or the ability to apply for citizenship.
“The instability of this ‘guest worker’ status was highlighted last year, as hundreds of New Zealanders with criminal records were detained and deported after a change to the Migration Act, which saw the visas of low as well as high-level offenders revoked.
“‘It is a human rights issue,’ New Zealand Labour MP Kelvin Davis told me in November.
“‘Some people […] have come across as babies: they’ve been educated in Australia, they’ve found work in Australia, they’ve married and had children and grandchildren in Australia. They consider themselves Australian; they just happen to be officially New Zealand citizens.’
“In New Zealand, permanent residents as well as Australians, Tokelauans, Niueans and Cook Island Maori can vote after one year. Even during Brexit, anyone from a Commonwealth country such as Australia and New Zealand could register to vote while residing in the UK. Meanwhile, every EU citizen has the right to vote in another EU country.
“That such an arrangement isn’t in place for New Zealanders in Australia, where many have lived, worked and paid taxes for decades, seems more suggestive of nasty employer relations than the chummy ‘sibling rivalry’ portrayed by media and politicians.”
Original article by Megan Anderson, Aljazeera, June 30, 2016.