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Wednesday, 21 October 2015
Page: 12128


Ms O'NEIL (Hotham) (09:48): Throughout our history New Zealanders have shown a great deal of generosity in sharing their cultural icons, achievements and creations with us Aussies. Some might even suggest that we have shown a willingness to appropriate these things. Whatever the intention, whether it is Crowded House and Kimbra or Weet-Bix and pavlova, New Zealanders have shown a willingness to share their culture with their friends across the ditch.

Unfortunately, the strong friendship which underlies our dealings with New Zealanders is today not reflected in the manner in which Australia treats New Zealanders living in our country. Policy changes made primarily by the Howard government have created significant injustices for New Zealanders living in Australia, and I believe that some of them need to be corrected.

Policy that reflects the long history of close friendship between our two countries allows New Zealanders and Australians to cross the Tasman freely. When Australians go to New Zealand, they have access to something that is very close to citizenship rights, but the reverse does not apply to New Zealanders who come to live in Australia. Changes made by the Howard government have created a lottery system for New Zealanders, where those who happened to be in Australia on certain dates have something close to citizenship rights whereas other New Zealanders—some of whom have now lived here for decades—have no such rights.

The stripping away of rights for New Zealanders is unfair on its own, but it has also created some really terrible human rights consequences. For New Zealander women who are caught in this visa trap and who are in domestic violence relationships, it can be a lot harder for them to access housing and other supports. For women in those situations who have Australian children, the situation is even worse. They cannot go home, because their kids are Australians. They are not able to get the services that they need, and many of them are unable to support themselves here in Australia, leaving some very unpalatable options available to them.

Another injustice is for New Zealanders living in Australia with disability. Children who are in Australian schools can currently access disability support, but they will not be eligible for the NDIS. This will mean that those young people actually see a reduction in their support, which is required to help them deal with their disability. HECS changes are another major issue. New Zealanders living in Australia are not allowed to access our HECS system. For people who may have lived in this country for decades, that means that they are trapped in low-skill jobs and unable to make the investment that they need to get the skills that are required to operate in a modern economy. We welcome the government's decision to finally try to correct this situation by allowing HECS legislation that was put forward by Senator Carr in the other place to take priority, but I want the government to go further and consider what rights we should allow New Zealanders living in Australia. We should not leave our friends across the ditch living in Australia in limbo. That is simply unfair and does not reflect the strong cultural and friendship connections that we have with our friends across the Tasman.