22 Apr 2023

'A blimmin' good day for Kiwis living in Australia' - Hipkins on citizenship changes

5:40 pm on 22 April 2023
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins speaking to media after the announcement of a pathway to citizenship for New Zealanders living in Australia on 22 April, 2023.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins speaking to media after the announcement of a pathway to citizenship for New Zealanders living in Australia on 22 April, 2023. Photo: RNZ/ Giles Dexter

The changes to Australia's citizenship policy is a significant step forward in the relationship between the two countries, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says.

The Australian government has announced a pathway to citizenship for New Zealanders living in Australia.

From 1 July, New Zealanders who have been on the Special Category Visa and lived in Australia for four years will be able to get citizenship.

"I think it's a blimmin' good day for Kiwis living in Australia," Hipkins said this morning ahead of a flight to Australia to mark Anzac Day, and celebrate 40 years since the Closer Economic Relations agreement was signed.

Hipkins acknowledged the Australian government's commitment to implementing the new policy, something Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese pledged to review last year.

"It's something New Zealand governments have argued for for a very long time.

"It's fair to say we've had a much more open door for these conversations over the past year."

But he stressed this was not the result of a negotiation between the two countries.

"These were Australia's decisions," he said.

"The current Australian government really have taken this on board and we really thank them."

Hipkins did not think the changes would significantly impact the calculations New Zealanders make when deciding to make a move across the ditch.

New Zealanders were some of Australia's most valuable migrants and were hard workers, he said.

"And they have been treated differently from others."

Babies born in Australia to New Zealand parents would still be able to claim New Zealand citizenship and could continue to be dual citizens, Hipkins said.

The change in policy was also a positive development for the issue of 501 deportees, he said.

Hipkins was on his way to Brisbane with Trade Minister Damien O'Connor and a business delegation with senior Māori representatives.

Australia's Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil said New Zealanders would be treated the same way as Australians living on this side of the Tasman.

"When Kiwis migrate to Australia they're essentially treated worse and differently than other migrants, so what the Australian government's announcing today is that for the first time Kiwis will be able to become Australian citizens in the way that other migrants are able to in Australia."

It was unfair to treat Australia's "Kiwi cousins" that way, O'Neil said.

'It may well be more of a drawcard for Kiwis'

ABC chief political corespondent Laura Tingle told Saturday Morning it was part of a wider overhaul of immigration happening in Australia.

"We've had these crazy rules which might have seemed like a good idea at the time where a massive number of people who are in Australia now don't come as permanent arrivals, they come on these temporary visas but they're permanently temporary."

It has had a distorted impact on the workforce, Tingle said.

She said nursing shortage faced by New Zealand was universal and was an area the Australian government has been actively working on.

The numbers were already staggering, with around ten percent of the country's nursing workforce made up of New Zealanders, she said.

Tingle said the change will see the end of temporary special category visas that make the current prisoner deportations possible.

If someone was an Australian citizen, they could not be deported, Tingle said.

The government has already been moving away from the policy, with fewer deportations in the past 12 months, she said.

Oz Kiwi had been advocating for the changes for more than a decade and drafted policy options for the Australian government several years ago.

Its chairperson Joanne Cox said the rights organisation had been working Australian officials on this policy since 2015.

Everyone now had a fair and affordable pathway to citizenship, no fishhooks and no barriers, she said.

It had been a long wait and ultimately down to having an Australian government under Labor leadership, Cox said.