Labour leader David Cunliffe has told an Australian audience that it was time that expatriate New Zealanders were treated the same as Australians who had moved to New Zealand.

In a speech this evening at the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum in Sydney, he said it was Government's job to lobby for New Zealand citizens who lived overseas.

"The fact is, for all sorts of historical reasons, New Zealanders living in Australia are not treated equivalently to Australians living in New Zealand."

A law change prevented New Zealanders who arrived in Australia after 2001 from accessing most government support and welfare programmes.


Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said that his Government was unlikely to remove discrimination against expatriate Kiwis after Prime Minister John Key raised the issue during talks in Canberra last month.

Mr Cunliffe said that Australians living in New Zealand were able to access student allowances and loans after two years, but New Zealanders were denied similar payments when they moved across the Tasman.

He said that New Zealanders had to pay public disability insurance despite not being able to access the disability scheme. Australian expatriates, on the other hand, could access the ACC scheme.

The Labour leader was also concerned about the obstacles to citizenships for the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who had moved to Australia.

"Australian nationals who come to live in New Zealand and wish to become New Zealanders, who work hard, pay taxes and contribute to the community can eventually be full participants in New Zealand life.

"But many New Zealand nationals who come to live in Australia, and who wish to become Australians, who work hard, pay taxes and contribute to the community have no equivalent path."

Mr Cunliffe said there was a widespread misconception that Kiwi expats had limited skills and were more likely to become unemployed.

"The reality is very different," he said, emphasising that most New Zealanders who left for Australia were young and skilled.

"In many cases they bring with them the benefit of years of investment from the New Zealand education system, including at tertiary level."

Mr Cunliffe said he was committed to working with Australian counterparts to make sure that the ANZAC tradition of equality and respect was strengthened.