Shearer: Aust citizenship 'should be just the start'

  • 20/02/2016
David Shearer (file)
David Shearer (file)

It's been a long time coming, but the New Zealand Government has finally scored a victory of sorts for Kiwis living on Australian soil.

But opposition parties say there's more progress to be made and Prime Minister John Key needs to keep up the pressure.

The door has been opened for about 100,000 New Zealanders who have lived across the ditch for at least five years to apply for Australian citizenship.

The new pathway to citizenship, which comes with a few conditions, was announced by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull following his formal talks with Mr Key in Sydney yesterday.

Most New Zealanders move to Australia under a special category visa which has excluded them from applying for citizenship since law changes in 2001.

That means they're unable to access a range of social services like benefits and disability support.

It's also one of the reasons why so many Kiwis have been caught out by tough new immigration rules, which mean any non-citizen who's served a prison sentence of 12 months or more can have their visa cancelled and be deported.

The New Zealand Government has been trying for years to get a better deal for Kiwis across the Tasman and yesterday's announcement marks a significant shift on Australia's part.

Labour's foreign affairs spokesman David Shearer says Mr Turnbull's announcement is a step in the right direction, but there's still a long way to go.

"There is still a wide inequity in the way New Zealanders generally are treated across the Tasman, including the fact we have no access to social services despite paying taxes there," he said.

"This small concession should be just the start in restoring a more equal relationship with Australia."

The Green Party's global affairs spokesman Kennedy Graham agrees the new initiative is a good start, but it's still not comparable to the benefits Australians have in New Zealand.

"A real win for Kiwis would be to secure the same rights for New Zealanders in Australia as we give Australians living here," he said.

"Kiwis don't deserve to be second-class citizens across the Tasman when we treat Australians as one of us here."

Mr Key has promised he will continue to push for longer-term solutions to issues around the rights of Kiwis in Australia.