The following is Oz Kiwi’s assessment of the outcome of the meeting between John Key and Malcolm Turnbull earlier today.
On student loans:
We’re glad that the Australian Government has agreed to pass legislation in the coming weeks that will grant HECS access to some Kiwis. However, it should be noted this legislation still denies access to most Kiwis in Australia and falls well short of the arrangements New Zealand provides for Australians and that Australia provided for New Zealanders until 2005.
This announcement has been presented as a ‘win’ for New Zealand. Certainly, it is welcome news. It should be remembered, however, that this policy was first announced almost three years ago and has already been re-announced several times. The failure to pass legislation up to this point reflects a failure by Australia to properly honour its agreement with New Zealand and a failure by the Key Government to apply adequate pressure.
John Key has been holding these changes up for almost three years as an example of the ‘progress’ he is making on Kiwi rights in Australia. In this time, we’ve seen no evidence of progress on other matters and, in fact, the rights of Kiwis in Australia have worsened. This is simply not good enough.
Malcolm Turnbull said Australia would not be changing its laws, but would take a ‘more compassionate’ approach.
While more compassion would be welcome, we cannot see how this can be achieved so long as the laws introduced in December last year remain as they are.
Indeed, there is no room for compassion in these laws and that is the entire problem.
They compel immigration officials to take a predetermined series of actions – visa cancellation, indefinite detention, and deportation, without reference to individual circumstances. There is no requirement for immigration officials to accord natural justice and no appeals process.
If someone can explain to us how ‘compassion’ can be brought into this essentially automated process, we would be very interested in hearing from them.
As far as we can see, Turnbull has chosen a form of words that allows Key to look like he has won some concessions, when
On the relationship more generally:
We heard a lot of the usual statements about how close the relationship is and how we should make it even closer. We welcome Prime Minister Turnbull’s statement that both countries need to keep working on the relationship and addressing problems that emerge.
Unfortunately, there was nothing concrete. There was no commitment to resolve the growing issues faced by Kiwis in Australia – an issue that has been dominating the relationship for years and will only continue to grow. There were no solid announcements about the resolution of other outstanding issues or initiatives to enhance co-operation and integration.
There was also no real vision for the future. This has become all too common at Australia-NZ prime ministerial meetings in recent years – lots of nice words, but nothing that will really take the relationship forward. There is a sense that at these meeting the leaders are just going through the motions and the relationship is drifting.
What we need is a true vision to guide the relationship and a commitment by both countries to take the necessary steps to achieve this.
We can only hope that, in future meetings, Key and Turnbull will announce solid actions to meet their rhetoric.