30 Jun 2016

Kiwis in Australia hope for better deal

8:47 pm on 30 June 2016

New Zealanders living in Australia are hoping they will get a better deal following the result of Saturday's federal election.

The lack of rights for New Zealanders living there has been a sticking point in the trans-Tasman relationship since Australia denied New Zealanders access to welfare and other entitlements in 2001.

Erina Morunga and protesters march from the Australian High Commission

Protesters march in Wellington, calling for more rights for New Zealanders in Australia, in October 2015. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Braden Warnock, 19, moved from Christchurch to Sydney eight months ago. He's living in Western Sydney and working in the central city and loving it.

So much so, he wants to stay there permanently.

But Mr Warnock said he was not sure if he would be able to get citizenship.

"The only pathway is the $53k [thousand] permanent visa. I could go for a working visa but its difficult and expensive."

Under new rules introduced by the Liberal-National Coalition government this year, New Zealanders who have been living in Australia on Special Category Visas, prior to February 2016, are eligible for citizenship if they earn over $A53,000 for five years.

Mr Warnock said he hoped whichever party was elected into government this weekend, they would make it easier for New Zealanders to live and work there.

If he lost his job or was made redundant, he would have no security, he said.

"I'd love to see more of a pathway for New Zealanders to get permanent residency, citizenship, eligible for social services.

"Pretty much medicare's the only thing we get, which is nice, but it would be nice to get student loans, study and not have to pay for it upfront."

Mr Warnock said he did not think either of the major parties would cut those rights further.

"But if there was a smaller party influencing them, I know some of them definitely want to strip our rights - or the rights of other immigrants."

Another New Zealand Sydney-sider, Katherine Barnsley, hails from Wellington.

But she said she was one of the lucky ones - she arrived in Australia a month before the 2001 immigration changes. She became a naturalised Australian in 2010.

Ms Barnsley said the most important issues for her at this election were the environment and social policies, such as making sure community and social groups were funded properly and higher-education institutions were protected.

"Health care, protecting medicare, are really big issues."

"I'd really love to see a more compassionate response to migrants and refugees. I think that we are an abject failure and quite an embarrassment in Australia on that front and I think that it would be nice to show some leadership."

Ms Barnsley believed Saturday's election would be close between the Coalition and Labor parties.

The tight race was making a lot of Australians anxious, because most did not like the idea of a hung parliament, or a minority government, she said.

"We're very used to that since MMP. At home we're used to the idea that parties don't get to govern in their own right and have to negotiate and form coalitions. I think that's part of what we think about when we cast our vote.

"Whereas here, people seem really anxious that that's a really unstable way to govern and I definitely don't share that [view].

"I think that we can be really effective and have really effective government when we have minority governments and I'm quite excited by the idea of the major parties having to share a little bit of power and negotiate around some of their legislation," Ms Barnsley said.

There's an estimated 600,000 New Zealanders living in Australia, mostly quite happily.

But it is only when something goes wrong do they discover how few rights New Zealanders have.

There's also not a lot of incentive for the Australian government to change that, or an appetite for a change from voters.

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