Labour leader Andrew Little and MP Phil Goff are lobbying in Canberra
25 November 2015 – Nicholas Jones (New Zealand Herald)
Australia won’t budge on deportations and shows little appetite to examine support for Kiwi expats – but Labour senses softer ground among politicians from both major parties.
Labour leader Andrew Little and MP Phil Goff have completed a day of lobbying in Canberra after meeting Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Opposition leader Bill Shorten.
They received little encouragement from Mr Dutton, except for a promise to look at any individual deportation cases raised by Labour.
“There wasn’t a eureka moment where he said, ‘Oh no, I’ve got it all wrong but it was useful to have the opportunity to put the case and put the arguments,” said Mr Little, who will tomorrow visit Sydney’s Villawood Immigration Detention Centre.
“Talking to other MPs shows that there is, I think, an appetite to reconsider some of the policy issues and over time we may well see a change.” An estimated 250,000 to 350,000 Kiwis living in Australia on “non-protected” visas have few welfare safety nets, and no automatic path to permanent residency or citizenship.
Both Labour and National-led Governments have been lobbying Australia after Kiwis’ rights were greatly reduced in February 2001 by John Howard’s Liberal Government.
The visit of New Zealand’s Opposition leader went largely under the Canberra radar. He entered Parliament in the early morning heat past a pack of local reporters with no question asked, and there was only minor interest from Australian media outlets.
However, Mr Little said that there was a broad acceptance from Liberal and Labor members of two committees he presented to that there was some unfairness in the way the rules were applied.
That was particularly true in terms of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which Kiwi expats’ help fund through Medicare levies.
Earlier this year Australian Labor, for the first time, adopted a resolution that recognised the unfairness in the way New Zealand expats are treated.
Jim Chalmers, one of a handful of the Labor MPs championing the issue, said that recognition was an important starting point.
Asked about other politicians’ understanding of the citizenship issue, he conceded it was “a big task” to explain the facts.
The differing opinion within both major Australian political parties was demonstrated during the morning’s “doors” session, where media stop MPs at Parliament’s side-entrance.
Labor MP and shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said most of the Kiwis he talked to declined to become citizens because they planned to one day return home: “There is absolutely no reason why New Zealanders can’t become citizens here. “Sharman Stone, a Liberal MP from Victoria, was on one of the committees to which Mr Little presented, and said while the issues could be examined, the sweeping changes in 2001 weren’t without cause.
“Now you have to have a visa to come – you just don’t walk in the door and say, ‘where’s Centrelink’, which used to happen, particularly for a lot of the single-supporting parents, because our welfare was higher value.” But Dr Stone’s Liberal colleague, Craig Laundy, said if the issue was genuine he’d have “no major dramas” ensuring a path to citizenship.
“Given the camaraderie the shared set of values and the fact that we have a history that has been forged originally on the battlefield.”
[New Zealand Herald source]