Brownlee urged to be more vocal on NZers’ rights


Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee will meet with a lobby group representing New Zealanders living in Australia today and will be urged to put more pressure on Australia over expat rights.
Representatives from Oz Kiwi met Brownlee at Parliament this morning.
The group has been vocal about the erosion of rights New Zealanders living in Australia have experienced, and the difficulties in attaining citizenship.
Brownlee told Radio New Zealand that New Zealanders who had chosen to live in Australia needed to accept they would have different rights unless they sought dual citizenship.
“New Zealanders can go and work there without too much restriction at all and … we do get singled out for better treatment than other foreigners in many, many cases,” Brownlee said.
Oz Kiwi was critical of Brownlee after he met his counterpart Julie Bishop in Sydney in May, saying he was not vocal enough on expat rights.
After the bilateral talks, the two ministers said they had agreed to get a better understanding of each other’s domestic policies which affected expatriates.
But Bishop emphasised that this agreement did not amount to a review of recent changes which affected New Zealanders, such as proposals to massively increase university fees.
Ahead of the talks, Brownlee said he wanted to ensure that the Australian government “communicated sooner” about changes which affected expats, after three major changes were announced in the past two years with little or no notice.
New Zealanders in Australia are not eligible for the unemployment of disability benefit.
Labour leader Andrew Little met with the group during a trip to Canberra in November 2015, to push for increased expat rights and protest the deportation of New Zealand citizens who had served time in jail or were judged to have failed a character test.
In April, Prime Minister Bill English confirmed a special pathway to citizenship for expat New Zealanders living in Australia remains intact.
Expats were concerned immigration changes announced by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would undermine an agreement signed by Turnbull and former PM John Key last year, which made it easier for New Zealanders to get citizenship if they arrived after immigration rules were tightened in 2001.
The Turnbull-Key agreement allowed New Zealanders who arrived in the country between 2001 and February 2016 and earned more than $53,000 for five consecutive years to apply for permanent residency. They could then apply for citizenship after a year. NZME

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