Most Australians would support hardworking Kiwis becoming citizens –
and if New Zealand wants closer ties it should become his country’s
seventh and eighth state, an Australian senator who helped review tough
new deportation rules says.
Ian Macdonald, who chaired the
parliamentary committee that recommended a new law that has led to the
detention and deportation of New Zealanders, said Labour leader Andrew
Little’s calls for, among other improved rights, access to citizenship
for Kiwi expats would be uncontroversial with most Australians.
issue of closer ties with New Zealand is one beyond any limited
expertise I might have, but as an observer…I would love to have New
Zealand join us perhaps as the seventh and eighth state – you can have
two. And what a wonderful country it would then be, and I wouldn’t need a
passport to get across to Queenstown with the wineries, it would be
Mr Little and his MP and recently-confirmed Auckland mayoralty
candidate Phil Goff will appear tomorrow before two committees in
Canberra, as well as meet with Opposition leader Bill Shorten and
Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.
The primary purpose
of the trip is to highlight the lack of rights between an estimated
250,000 to 350,000 Kiwis living in Australia on “non protected” visas
have – including little welfare safety nets, and no automatic path to
permanent residency or citizenship.
Both Labour and National-led
Governments have been lobbying for change since Kiwis’ rights were
greatly reduced in February 2001 by John Howard’s Liberal Government.
Little will also talk to Mr Dutton about a new law, introduced last
December, that enables the deportation of non-Australians who are
sentenced cumulatively to a year or more in prison, or who are judged to
fail character tests.
He will ask for better discretion to be exercised at the point of revoking a visa.
Macdonald, a Liberal senator from Northern Queensland, told the Herald
that, in his view, any appeals to significantly change the policy would
“There has been a feeling building up in
Australia for a long period of time that people who are not Australians
and who break our laws, should go back to their country of origin. If
they don’t like the Australian way of life…they have an alternative,
and that is to go back to where they came from.
“I hasten to add
that whilst I chair a Parliamentary committee that oversights this part
of government administration…I am not a member of the executive
government…but I would think, from my knowledge of [Mr Dutton] and
what I have seen of his public comments, I don’t think he is going to
take a view any different to the one I have just expressed.”
if it was fair for Australia to deport people who had left New Zealand
at a very young age, Mr Macdonald questioned why they had not become
“If they are so embedded in Australia, if it is where
all their support and family is, why the hell haven’t they taken the
step of becoming Australian citizens and getting a vote?”
calls from advocacy groups such as Oz Kiwi and both the National
Government and Labour for a clearer path to citizenship for Kiwi expats,
Mr Macdonald said the issue was not one he was aware of.
impression has been that they [citizenship criteria] are never terribly
arduous for anybody, and New Zealanders would start ahead of the eight
ball in understanding how it all works. Nobody has ever approached me in
my capacity as a Parliamentarian, from New Zealand, to ask if I could
help them, and that the test was too high.”
Kiwi expats’ rights
in Australia has become a political issue in recent weeks. While in
Manila for an Apec summit Prime Minister John Key told media that he
sensed Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull could move on giving a
clearer path to citizenship, as an alternative to changing the
threshold at which deportations occur.
And on Monday he took a
swipe at Mr Little’s Canberra trip, saying it could jeopardise progress
being made by the Government’s quiet diplomacy.