16 Apr 2014

Call to challenge Australian law

7:33 pm on 16 April 2014

A test case needs to be brought against Australia to challenge laws that discriminate against New Zealanders, the Maori Affairs Select Committee has been told.

Paul Hamer, of Victoria University, briefed the Maori Affairs Select Committee on Wednesday on his survey of 540 New Zealand born-Maori who moved to Australia after the 2001 laws were introduced which stopped them from accessing social security.

Mr Hamer said the road to gaining citizenship was expensive and uncertain, and that only nine of the 51 people who applied for the status got it.

Most gained citizenship through living there previously, or arriving during a grace period around the law change. However, only two people obtained it through a successful permanent visa application.

Mr Hamer said a test case needed to be brought against Australia to challenge laws that discriminated against New Zealanders.

"The desire is to test whether New Zealanders should be regarded as permanent residents for most of those purposes, and also whether the social security legislation is itself consistent with the Federal or State anti-discrimination laws about not discriminating against people on the basis of, say, their national origin."

Private companies were applying the same rules and not allowing those New Zealanders to buy life and house insurance, he said.

The survey showed many Maori still enjoyed improved finances, housing and employment as a result of moving to Australia.