Kiwis' migration rights to Australia caught up in poll battle

7:11 pm on 26 July 2010

New Zealanders' migration rights to Australia are may be restricted as the opposition pledges to curb the immigration intake.

The opposition Liberal Party has said in its election manifesto that it would cut the immigration intake from 300,000 people last year to 170,000 a year if it wins the 21 August federal election.

The party's immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, said all categories other than skilled migrants and refugees would be reviewed, and that included New Zealanders.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard also wants lower immigration but says this has already happened for economic reasons. Ms Gillard did not make any specific reference to New Zealanders.

The debate on immigration comes amid a larger discussion on a so-called big Australia versus a sustainable one.

Migration advisers say the 500,000 New Zealanders who call Australia home should not be overly concerned about a proposal to review all immigration categories.

Migration Institute of Australia chief executive Maurene Horder says New Zealanders' contribution to the Australian economy is highly valued by many Australian employers.

Ms Horder says it is unfortunate that immigration has been dragged into the election debate, but she does not expect any disruptions to the long-standing relationship between New Zealand and Australia.