Australia is within its legal rights to discriminate against
New Zealanders working there, but its moral position is much
shakier, Prof Mark Henaghan says.
A lobby group called ''Iwi in Oz'' recently held protests in
several Australian cities urging that New Zealanders who had
long been working there should have access to Australian
citizenship and voting rights.
Another Australian-based lobby group, OzKiwi, has also
campaigned for New Zealand residents in Australia to enjoy
the same benefits as Australians living in this country.
Changes to Australian law in 2001 prevented most long-term
New Zealand workers arriving after that date from receiving
unemployment and sickness benefits. Most workers were also
denied citizenship and voting rights in Australia.
By contrast, Australians living in New Zealand are allowed to
vote after one year, to receive government services after two
years and to become New Zealand citizens after five years,
the lobby groups point out.
Prof Henaghan, who is dean of the University of Otago Law
Faculty, said sovereign nations could make their own laws,
and Australia was entitled to make laws that treated New
But from a moral perspective it seemed questionable in the
long term New Zealanders had fewer rights to citizenship,
voting and benefits in Australia than Australians had in this
country, he said.
And New Zealand workers who arrived in Australia after
February 2001 are required to contribute to the National
Disability Insurance Scheme through taxes but are denied
benefits under the otherwise universal scheme.
Prof Henaghan said those insurance scheme requirements seemed
''just very unfair''. Prof Henaghan said he opposed any
merger with Australia, saying the two countries had somewhat
different histories and world views.