Anzac spirit: Does Australia even care about NZ anymore?

As another Anzac Day rolls around it's not the soldiers some Kiwis cannot forget, but Australia's perceived increasing ambivalence towards New Zealand.

There are growing calls for New Zealand to take a stronger stand against Australia's treatment of Kiwis living across the ditch. Since 2001, Kiwis in the lucky country have faced ever-greater restrictions on what they can and can't do and access.

A Newshub-Reid Research poll last year found Kiwis were in favour of retaliation the next time the Australian government takes more rights away.

Timothy Gassin, chairman of advocacy group Oz-Kiwi, said at the time retaliation might be cathartic but wouldn't work, since it would only affect the 50,000-odd Aussies living here in New Zealand - not the millions more back home.

Speaking to The AM Show on Monday, Dr Gassin said Australia is continuing to "push New Zealand around", if it even considers its smaller neighbour at all.

"There is this feeling that New Zealand has been neglected - that Australia doesn't think about New Zealand in making policies, and Australia hasn't exactly shown the generosity that might be expected of New Zealanders who have made their lives in Australia."

The AM Show Tim Gassin
Timothy Gassin. Photo credit: The AM Show

Around 600,000 Kiwis live in Australia.

"Australia benefits from all these New Zealanders there - they're contributing to the Australian economy, contributing to Australia society, they're paying their taxes," says Dr Gassin. "New Zealand has educated many of these people at great expense, and Australia is reaping the benefits of their working years."

Despite the growing gulf between Kiwis' rights in Australia and Aussies' rights here, Mr Gassin says trade and cultural ties are closer than ever.

Aussie banks cashing in on Kiwis

Dr Paul Spoonley, a sociologist at Massey University, says that's being exploited by Australia however, with its banks and insurance companies dominating the local marketplace.

"If you look at the stats, there are a number of Australians coming to New Zealand. If you look at those banks and companies, their middle and senior managers are typically all Australian. Why are we giving them rights?"

He says Australia's shunning of New Zealanders is partly financial - Kiwis were an easy target for former Prime Minister John Howard when he needed to balance the budget - but there might also be a racist element, with many of those coming from New Zealand having Maori or Pacific backgrounds.

"I've been in meetings over the years when we've talked to Australian ministers - particularly of immigration - where they bag New Zealand very significantly because they see us as the back door... People come to New Zealand, then move on to Australia. There's a little bit of truth in that."

The AM Show Paul Spoonley
Paul Spoonley. Photo credit: The AM Show

'Who is New Zealand's best friend?'

Australian broadcaster Jason Morrison told The AM Show no one in Australia thinks there is a problem with the status quo.

"I always hear this argument, 'Australia's turned its back on New Zealand, Australia has downgraded New Zealand'. Alright then, who's your best mate? Who is your best mate? They'd say, 'Oh, it's not you.' I'd love you to proffer to me, who is New Zealand's best friend?"

He said any Kiwis living in Australia who don't like it can always go home.

"Our relationship was born in fire, it was born on the battlefield, it's been born by geography... by the fact we're closer to you than anyone else. I don't think it was born by social security."

But he expects New Zealand to respond if Australia's ever in trouble.

"If someone comes for us, the first people we'll turn and reach for... will be New Zealand."

AM Show sportsreader and former New Zealand test cricketer Mark Richardson sided with Morrison.

"No matter what that Australian cricket team did to me and how they left me as an individual when I would return home beaten, embarrassed and humiliated, if they're in trouble, I'm over there. We're close to them, and it's not about what they give us - it's about the fact we are their neighbours."

Mark Richardson.
Mark Richardson. Photo credit: The AM Show

The current Government made good on a promise to restrict Australians' access to its fees-free tertiary education plan, even though Australia backed down on its threat to increase fees for Kiwis studying there.

Aussies will now have to live here for at least three years before being eligible.

Anzac Day is on Wednesday.