Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Kiwi Citizens Cry In Vain

Last Post? The Aussies and the Kiwis were "mates" once. Since 2001, however, New Zealanders living across the Tasman have been subjected to the most extraordinary legal discrimmination at both the state and federal levels of Australian society. In spite of their rising clamour for equal treatment, New Zealand's Prime Minister, John Key, has, to date, proven deaf to his compatriots cry for a fair go.
 
“CIVIS ROMANUS SUM!” “I am a Roman citizen!” That was the cry that echoed from a lonely Sicilian headland two thousand years ago. A cry that roused the Senate and People of Rome to fury when the celebrated lawyer, Marcus Tullius Cicero, described how the corrupt Governor of this wealthy province had treated a humble Roman citizen who had come before him seeking justice. The Governor, Gaius Verres, had ordered the man, Publius Gavius, flogged and crucified. Gavius’s last words, shouted over and over again from the cross, were a ringing declaration of his political identity and legal rights. Three Latin words that invoked the sacred relationship between the Roman state and its citizens. No matter whether the speaker lived in Sicily or in the heart of Rome itself: “Civis Romanus sum!” was a cry that could not be ignored.
 
As anyone who has ever glanced at the words printed on the front page of their passport will know, that relationship between the state and the citizen remains as strong as it was in the days of the Roman Empire. Those opening the little blue book are enjoined by the New Zealand Head of State to allow “the holder to pass without delay or hindrance and in the case of need to give all lawful assistance and protection.”
 
But, for the more than quarter-of-a-million New Zealand citizens living across the Tasman those words have acquired a hollow ring. Australian law singles out New Zealanders for special treatment. Not only does it delay and hinder the progress of Kiwis in “The Lucky Country” but it specifically denies them assistance and protection. Our government is well aware of this legal discrimination against its own citizens and yet it does nothing to assist them.
 
As recently as this past weekend, when the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, met with our own Prime Minister, John Key, in Queenstown, to celebrate thirty years of the Closer Economic Relationship (CER) agreement with Australia, the opportunity to forcefully address that country’s unconscionable discrimination against New Zealand citizens was allowed to pass.
 
Mr Key’s position is that it ill-behoves a New Zealand prime minister to attempt to dictate to an Australian prime minister how her country should be run. We would not appreciate an Australian prime minister telling us how to run our affairs, says Mr Key, so he’s in no hurry to tell the Aussies how to run theirs.
 
That would be fine if New Zealand had not, thirty years ago, signed up to an agreement specifically intended to create a single Australasian market. Fundamental to the Australia-New Zealand CER was the acknowledgment that in economic (and, increasingly, in legal) terms the much larger Australian economy couldn’t help but influence the way New Zealanders earned their livings and pursued their careers. Ask a New Zealand farmer about how much – or how little – the big Aussie banks run his affairs. (But be prepared for more than a few hair-raising expletives in his reply!)
 
Back in 1983, a rising level of Australian influence did not unduly worry most New Zealanders. Since colonial times dwellers upon the great Australian island and its smaller “shaky isles” neighbour to the east have considered themselves members of the same “Australasian” family. We were governed by the same London-based imperial system and we came and went in each other’s territories without the slightest need of passports or visas. At Gallipoli, in 1915, we fought and died together under a single acronym – ANZAC. Mickey Savage, our most beloved prime minister, was born in Tatong, Victoria. Aussies and Kiwis were “cousins”. More importantly, they were mates.
 
Who else but a mate would have come to the aid of little Johnny Howard by helping him out of the embarrassing mess surrounding Australia’s illegal detention of the Norwegian-protected refugees aboard the cargo vessel Tampa in August 2001? Who else but a mate, this very weekend in Queenstown, would have agreed to receive 150 souls from Australia’s refugee gulags in Papua-New Guinea and Nauru? Who else but a mate (or a bloody fool!) would have struck such a morally repugnant deal without asking for something in return?
 
Maybe it’s time we just accepted that Australia stopped being New Zealand’s mate more than a decade ago. Time we realised that Aussies no longer even see the NZ in ANZAC. We are welcome to fill the gaps in their labour force, and the taxes Kiwis pay are gratefully received by the Australian Treasury, but when it comes to affording New Zealanders the same assistance and protection as Australians its: "Sorry, Cobber."
 
A closer economic relationship we may have with Australia, but when it comes to admitting us, without delay or hindrance, as equal participants in their society – forget about it .
 
Crucified Kiwis in Australia can cry “I am a New Zealand citizen!” until they are hoarse. Their state is deaf.
 
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 12 February 2013.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sorry to bring this up Chris, but the last kiwi PM to stand up to his Aussie counterpart was Robert Muldoon. The rest have kissed their bums.

The 'Gang of One' was pugnacious, but he knew who he played for -- NZ.

Mick

Chris Trotter said...

Don't apologise, Mick - you're right!









Nick said...

Verres got exiled and then executed....how lucky our politicians have been (to date).

Unknown said...

I am a New Zealand citizen. My wife is a Philippine citizen. I have lived in Australia for 7 years now. I have worked then entire time. Five years in the one agency in fact. none of this means anything to Australia.

My daughter, born in Australia, was born citizenship-less because of this.

I have had to apply for her to be a New Zealander by descent.

Currently if things stay the way they are for her; she cannot pass on any form of citizenship to her children.

Go figure.

I am forced to stay in Australia for 10 years to get her Australian citizenship, or to try and get myself permanent residency then citizenship and have both my wife and daughter as dependants on my application.

As I work for state government getting sponsorship is next to impossible so I have to go through the skills assessment process (even tho I have skills as I have a job right now) which costs $450 - 3 months wait with no guarentee, and then general skills visa up to 2 years processing on that with $7000 at least in costs with no guarantee or refund.

Furthermore my wife is on a 461 NZ Citizen Family visa and her rights to any form of benefits (even medicare) is stated as one word: "None". And she pays tax!

So in some cases, the family (children included) of a New Zealand citizen is treated even worse than the New Zealander is.

Australia, when boat people are getting perm residency and don't bring any skills; when the path of being on 457 visa to perm residency is easier than being on a 444 visa is don't you think SOMETHING IS WRONG?

The fact is 90% of kiwis migrating are now skilled workers who contribute to Australian society; no longer are we the hated surfing dole bludger - and god forbid we're out of a job with no cash reserves...

Perhaps, Australia, it's time for a change in perspective again. Stop treating us like cattle and making it harder for your friends to get PR than it is for your enemies.

RedLogix said...

Or as my father who once worked for an Australian company in the 1970's said, "bloody Aussies treat us Kiwis like ... we treat the Cook Islanders!!"

Shazza said...

RedLogix - exactly!

We sound like a bunch of sooks to be surprised that Australia operates with their own interests at heart.

And I'm not completely heartless, it took me five years and thousands of dollars to finally become an American citizen, but immigration policies exist for a reason.

Our PMs are a bunch of pussies. Threaten to slap a tax or make life bureaucratic hell for the 60,000 odd Aussies living in NZ and see if we can't get some love for our NZers in Australia.

Gaetano said...

Apart from all the other implications, all these New Zealanders working in Australia will pay taxes to the Australian government for a significant part of their working life, and then return to New Zealand to live off a retirement pension supplied by the taxes of those who never left New Zealand.

Loz said...

To be fair to our Australian cousins, I don't believe that very many do actually know or understand that kiwis occupy a second-class status. After being in Australia for 7 years myself, I know that we Antipodeans tend to share common values of fairness and goodwill toward each other. I also know that contrary to what was reported after the Prime Ministerial summit last week; kiwis across the ditch are never heard asking for "benefits". All that is hoped for is a pathway to gain permanent residency in the place we have lived for a very long time.

I am horrified with the plight of the previous contributor's daughter. She was born in Australia. She'll grow up with an Australian accent. She will call the sunburnt land home. Even though her parents will have paid large amounts in tax, she won’t be able to access tertiary education or student loans & currently has no pathway to ever being a permanent resident herself. She will never be able to vote in Australia or New Zealand (as we lose the right to vote after 3 years out of the country). Most frightening, if the teenage child falls pregnant to another "not-aussie-but-born-in-australia" non-citizen or to a male who won’t acknowledge his paternity, their child won’t be eligible for citizenship of any country!

Most Australians I know are proud or the immigrant melting pot & would hold disbelief that the status of Kiwis in Australia is actually lower than the boat people who are granted asylum.

Anonymous said...

If you work away from Britain in a non EC country for any length of time you lose out on the Brit pension.

danial young said...

God. When is that ferry arriving.Great Barrier can!t pronounce that other place.

jh said...

Thanks to progressives of the internationalist tradition in the Labour Party, NZ is seen as a back door for migrants from poor overcrowded countries.