New Zealanders in Australia are set to rally in cities on Feb 26 to protest the nation's "unjust" and discriminatory immigration laws. The Iwi n Aus Foundation have organised the protestes as Kiwis living and working in Australia will gather in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria.
Organisers said around 300,000 Kiwis are living in Australia with special category visas. New Zealanders living and working in Australia are required to pay taxes but do not have access to benefits entitled to permanent residents like social housing, welfare and disability care.
The restrictions were applied based on a joint agreement between former Prime Minister Helen Clarke's government and the Australian government in 2001.
According to Iwi n Aus, the discriminative laws not only affect the children of Kiwis in Australia but also the next generation of grandchildren who are born in Australia. Erina Anderson, the organisation's founder, said Kiwis who choose to live and work in Australia do not have any idea "how bad it can get" across the Tasman.
Ms Anderson said if New Zealand Prime Minister John Key wanted Kiwis to stop moving to Australia, he should be telling them what to expect. She added no one would want to move to a place where their children will not be given equal rights.
Ms Anderson reported that she has seen many Kiwis suffer from extreme financial stress and mental illness due to the difficulties encountered while living in Australia.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has maintained his ground on the rights of Kiwis living in Australia. New Zealanders who have migrated to Australia may have their hopes shot down when Mr Abbott said he expected Kiwis to be "lifters, not leaners" in a report by the Guardian.
In a joint press conference in Sydney with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key earlier in the month, Mr Abbott said he was pleased to have New Zealanders get automatic right to residency and rights to work since no other country in the world has been given the same opportunity.
In New Zealand, Labor leader David Cunliffe urged Mr Key to take a tougher stance and fight for the rights of Kiwis living in Australia.
Mr has said he is happy with the current arrangement with New Zealanders living and working in Australia. But Mr Cunliffe remarked it was time for Mr Key to assert that Kiwis in Australia don't have the same rights as Australians living in New Zealand. Mr Cunliffe added Kiwis are being "treated like third-class citizens" despite their contribution to Australian society, including tax payments.