Immigration rules in Australia that specifically affect residents from New Zealand and lead to disadvantages, especially for children, may be in line for change.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has held talks with Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey over the issues, which include the fact that New Zealanders living in Australia pay taxes but are not able to access benefits such as welfare, disability care and social housing.
It is estimated that around 300,000 New Zealanders are living in Australia on special category visas and are affected by the rules.
Key said that he came away from the meetings with the impression that some changes are under consideration, particularly for disabled children. He added that Hockey sounded surprised to discover that they are currently not getting the support they deserve.
“If you’re a child that’s badly disabled, born to New Zealand parents in Australia, then you are not eligible for State support till the age of 10 under the current rules, because you’re not a citizen and not a resident. But you would be, even though you’re neither of those things, when the child turns 10,” explained Key.
“That’s both very unfair on the child and on the parents and also doesn’t make sense because long-term the State would be paying anyway and actually, it would make sense for the child to get as much support as he or she needs on compassionate grounds,” he added.
After the meeting, Hockey said there were welfare issues that Key had put a pretty convincing case for changing. He pledged to study the cost of possible changes.
New Zealanders are in a unique position in that they get an automatic right to residency and rights to work in Australia, a right given to no other nationality. This means if you arrive in Australia on a New Zealand passport, you will generally be issued a Special Category Visa (SCV).
As a result, New Zealanders qualify for certain tax benefits such as child care, health care, family tax and the baby bonus, but they do not qualify for disability allowances, social housing and other welfare benefits.
For other allowances such as sickness and youth payments, the visa holder has to have been living continuously in Australia for at least 10 years. However, time spent in Australia prior to 27 February 2001 cannot count towards these 10 years.