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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 Zealanders differently.
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.