PM pushes welfare case of Kiwis in Australia

By Hayden Donnell

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key talk after PM Key addressed the House at Parliament, Canberra. Photo / NZPA
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key talk after PM Key addressed the House at Parliament, Canberra. Photo / NZPA

Prime Minister John Key has increased pressure on the Australian Government to change a social security law denying welfare payments to thousands of New Zealanders living there, reports say.

The Family and Community Services Legislation Amendment (New Zealand Citizens) Bill 2001 categorises New Zealanders who arrived in Australia after February 26, 2001 as non-protected visa holders.

That makes them ineligible for many social security benefits.

More than 175,000 people - or 47 per cent of the New Zealanders living in Australia - are thought to be affected by the law, which has been labelled "discriminatory" by campaigners.

It was recently used to cut off disaster recovery payments to thousands of Kiwis caught up in the Queensland floods and Cyclone Yasi.

A report in The Australian said Mr Key had raised concerns about the law during recent meetings with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

The topic was an area of "mutual concern and interest" and would be discussed, a spokeswoman from the Prime Minister said.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully has also confirmed the New Zealand High Commission in Canberra was raising "discrepancies" caused by the law with Australian federal authorities.

In a letter to Christel Broederlow, a New Zealander living in Australia, he said it was also encouraging to see cases had also been brought before Australian state governments over New Zealanders being denied employment opportunities and services.

He earlier told the Herald he was "concerned" about New Zealanders being denied social security payments.

There was no similar non-protected visa status for Australian immigrants in New Zealand, he said.

"No doubt this is a matter we will discuss with our Australian colleagues in due course."

Campaigner David Faulkner welcomed political pressure over the law he believes is discriminatory and "racist".

He was hopeful it would add impetus to his campaign to change the way New Zealanders are assessed for social security in Australia.

"It's not every day that the New Zealand Government officially complains that its citizens are being discriminated against."

Mr Faulkner has won a race discrimination complaint against an insurance company which denied him cover on the basis he was a non-protected Visa holder.

He is also supporting an anti-discrimination suit lodged against the Queenland Government by the Toowoomba-based Campbell family.

They are suing over its decision to deny disability support to 19-year-old Hannah Campbell, who suffers from severe cerebral palsy and needs 24-hour care.

Australian social security rules:

Protected visa holders: Kiwis who have been living in Australia since before February 2001 or who lived there for a year in the two years prior to that date qualify for protected Visa status. They are allowed to claim social security.

Non-protected visa holders: New Zealanders who were not in Australia on February 26, 2001, or who did not live there for a year in the two years prior to that date , are issued a 'non-protected' Visa. They are ineligible for many social security and disability support payments, along with services such as public housing. They are not able to become Australian citizens unless they are granted a permanent Visa.

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