Labour leader Andrew Little says he will continue to fight “obvious injustice” facing Kiwis who live in Australia.
26 November 2015 – Sam Sachdeva
A positive reception from politicians and Kiwi detainees in Australia has given Labour leader Andrew Little extra motivation to fight the “obvious injustice” facing Kiwis who work and live across the Tasman.
Little and Labour MP Phil Goff have wrapped up a lobbying trip to Canberra and Sydney, where they spoke out on the rights of expat New Zealanders who live and work in Australia.
On Wednesday, the two MPs spoke to Australian politicians about the rights of up to 300,000 Kiwis with “unprotected” work visas that deny them access to government services their taxes pay for, while making their path to citizenship difficult and prohibitively expensive.
Little also talked to Australian immigration minister Peter Dutton about the controversial visa law changes that are expected to lead to the mandatory detention and deportation of hundreds of Kiwis – including some who have spent decades living in Australia.
On Thursday, he and Goff visited the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney to speak to three of more than 60 Kiwis locked up while they await deportation or fight their visa cancellations.
Little said the discussions with Australian politicians about the rights of working Kiwis went better than expected, and he believed there was a willingness for change.
“The number of both Labor and Liberal MPs who expressed a level of sympathy and understanding…they are getting the calls as well [from Kiwi constituents] and they get it.
“I just think we’ve got to continue to work with them, continue to highlight the cases where there is obvious injustice and continue the work of keeping up that pressure.”
Goff, who was in the Labour Government when Australia’s 2001 law change stripped Kiwis of many rights, said he believed politicians were now much more aware about the unfairness of the situation – particularly Australian Labor, which had formally recognised the concerns in its policy.
“The vast majority of Kiwis are working hard, paying their taxes, good honest citizens – [they should] give them a fair go and they’re not getting a fair go in a whole lot of ways at the moment.”
Despite no “eureka moment” during the discussion with Dutton about the deportation laws, Little said hearing the stories of Kiwis who were locked up had fueled his desire to continue the fight for more leniency.
“Mandatory [visa] revocation and detention…is capturing some people for whom that is just an extra punishment that they don’t deserve.
“Where there is an obvious injustice…I’m not going to let it go, and I don’t think others in NZ Labour will let it go either.”
While it would take some time to get change on both issues, Little said there was “an obvious injustice and you never give up on that”.
Claims from Prime Minister John Key that Little’s visit could undermine quiet diplomacy behind the scenes had been misplaced, the Labour leader said.
“Australians, we love them dearly, they understand robust discussion, and I think we’ve got to keep that up and we’ve got to keep the issue alive, and keep it front of not just Australian politicians but the Australian public as well.”