Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

Kiwis in Aussie protest welfare reforms

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Hundreds of New Zealanders living in Australia have signed a petition against discriminatory social security laws which they say have created a Kiwi "underclass".

An amendment to Australia's social security legislation classes New Zealanders who arrived after February 26, 2001 as non-protected visa holders, which makes them ineligible for many social security benefits.

Now an online petition has attracted more than 1500 responses from people calling for a "fair go" for New Zealanders in Australia.

The petition group, New Zealand Citizens Living in Australia, said the social security amendment was discriminatory in areas such as employment, education, training, student loans, social services and access to Australian citizenship.

"As a result of these changes, many people who live, work, pay taxes, and raise families in Australia are now never able to enjoy equal rights simply because they come from New Zealand.

"In short, the 2001 amendments have made an underclass out of New Zealanders."

The petition is calling for New Zealanders to be recognised as residents under the Social Security Act and as permanent residents under the Australian Citizenship and Migration acts.

It aims to gather 2000 responses and will be presented to Prime Minister John Key and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

More than 175,000 New Zealanders, or up to half those living across the Tasman, are thought to be affected by the 2001 social security amendment.

To qualify for many social security benefits, New Zealanders must apply to become permanent residents after working in the country for at least two years.

Mr Key raised concerns about the law when he met Ms Gillard in Canberra last year.

Consular officials had also raised issues over discrepancies with the law, Foreign Minister Murray McCully said last year.

- APNZ

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