Susan Wood talks about New Zealanders living in Australia
SUSAN For many Kiwis, Australia is the land of sunshine and good jobs, higher wages and a great standard of living. But since 2001, if you fall on hard times, there is no safety net in the lucky country, no access to any kind of government assistance unless you're skilled enough to become a permanent resident. Greg Rudd, who’s the brother of the current Prime Minister, Kevin, has taken up the Kiwis' cause before next week's election and is hoping to bring around change. Dita De Boni reports.
DITA Australians and New Zealanders fought side by side in Gallipoli. It’s almost the 100th anniversary of that deadly battle – a perfect time, some believe, to solve a festering social problem between the two countries. The Gold Coast-based Awatere family are the human face of this problem. Leah and Martin have worked and paid tax in Australia since they moved there in 2006, but their jobs don't allow the pair to apply for permanent residency, meaning their severely disabled son Nazareth, who was born in Australia, does not qualify for any help at all from the Australian government.
LEAH STRETCH – Nazareth’s Mum
We don’t want anything for ourselves. We're not looking for a carer's allowance or for us to be supported to care for Naz. We're just looking and wanting, you know, equal rights for our son to be able to access support and services that he needs for his everyday life.
DITA Nazareth's parents pay the $30,000 per year for his care themselves, with help from friends and family. They'll soon be asked, like all Australians, to pay a disability levy but won't qualify for a cent of it.
MARTIN AWATERE – Nazareth’s Dad
We're paying the tax, and he doesn't get it at all. You know, it’s like, ‘What the… is going on,’ you know?
DITA The Awateres are part of a group of Kiwis who went to Austalktralia after visa rules toughened in 2001. That group pays $2.5 billion in tax annually but will never become citizens. The list of things they can't access is long. They have no right to vote, no automatic access to citizenship, no access to benefits, student allowances or loans. Australians in New Zealand, by contrast, have access to all these things, either immediately or within a few years.
FILIPE PAYNE – Oz Kiwi Queensland
You just have to go into certain places in the Gold Coast, and you can see that there’s people that are, you know, struggling to survive.
DITA: Filipe Payne is the Queensland rep for Oz Kiwi, an organisation
trying to use people power to change the law.What kinds of things are they doing?
FILIPE Eating dog food, living in cars, children not going with lunches, children going to school with no shoes. You know, the poverty line here for New Zealanders is not the same as everybody else. It’s way down.
DITA Vicky Rose runs the Nerang neighbourhood centre where desperate Kiwis come for help.
VICKY ROSE – Nerang Neighbourhood Centre Inc
I’m seeing people who have been here six, seven, eight years, longer, who have established themselves but something’s happened and then they’ve truly realised what their residency status means. There was one woman I saw, and, yeah, she was in a violent relationship, and she was leaving her baby here to go back to New Zealand to fight for that baby, because there was no other choice.
DITA It obviously hits you very hard.
VICKY I see people like that every day.
DITA For his part, our prime minister, John Key, doesn't seem too keen to upset the apple cart.
JOHN KEY – Prime Minister
That's for a country like Australia to make decisions that are sovereign to them, but we do advocate for New Zealanders that live in Australia.
JESSICA Would you make it quid pro quo if they refused to change the rules?
JOHN I don't think so.
DITA But one man quite happy to stir the pot for New Zealanders in strife is Greg Rudd, brother of Australian Prime Minister Kevin.
GREG RUDD – Independent Senate Candidate, Queensland
I have no doubt Kevin will not win this election and it will be a Tony Abbott government. Myself and others have spoken to people in the Abbott Government in this area. I’m going to stir the crap out of the incoming government in saying, ‘How on earth can you celebrate a hundred years of Gallipoli and yet treat our New Zealand friends unfairly?”
DITA And Greg may just have backing, if a random sample of Aussies found on the streets of Brisbane can be any sort of guide.
MAN I've never quite understood why Australia and New Zealand are even separate countries.
WOMAN If they are going to pay taxes, they should be able to be citizens.
WOMAN Yeah. They should have the same rights.
DITA For the sake of kids like Nazareth, if no one else.
SUSAN And we contacted the Australian Immigration Minister, Tony Burke, for a response. His office says there are no current proposals to review this law.