Aussie papers not interested in citizenship fight

Michael Horton, former owner of the New Zealand Herald
Michael Horton, former owner of the New Zealand Herald

Australian newspapers have rejected an attempt to kickstart a campaign to get Kiwis equal rights across the ditch.

Michael Horton, former owner of the New Zealand Herald, took out an ad in The Listener last month highlighting 138 countries whose citizens can apply for Australian citizenship -- including Myanmar, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and one whose citizens can't -- New Zealand.

Mr Horton says the advert didn't take much effort to come up with.

"One Sunday morning I woke up and that very ad was in my mind, just there in front of me like a vision from heaven," Mr Horton told Paul Henry on Monday.

He tried to run it in a number of Sydney newspapers, including the Sydney Morning Herald, but was rejected -- and doesn't know why.

"It's very, very unfair and unreasonable, and for us to have no right at all for New Zealanders to apply for Australian citizenship is just nonsense.

"We have the right to live there and perhaps live there for 70 years and pay taxes, but get no benefits and no pension."

There are a couple of very tight loopholes. Kiwis who became permanent residents of Australia before 2001 can still apply, as can Kiwis who arrived between 2001 and February 2016, who have lived in the country for five years, and earn more than AU$53,900 a year.

"Australians on the other hand can come to New Zealand and draw, after one year of residency, all the benefits that a New Zealand citizen can normally claim," says Mr Horton.

The lopsided deal was agreed to by then-Prime Ministers John Howard and Helen Clark.

"New Zealand reduced their residency requirements for New Zealand citizenship from 10 years to five years, and I think John Howard said, 'Well that means boatloads of Chinese or Asians will come over via New Zealand, and we're going to put a stop to that,'" says Mr Horton.

It's led to the farcical situation where Australia has deported "New Zealanders" who have lived virtually their entire lives in Australia and have no family or friends in New Zealand.

Prime Minister John Key has discussed the imbalance with current Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, but has been reluctant to push it too hard, saying New Zealanders still enjoy free access to Australia.

"The other countries that [Mr Horton] names don't have that," he told Paul Henry. "I don't think New Zealanders would ever want their Government to trade off that free right."