New Zealanders Fight for Rights in Australia with Expat Party's Race to Parliament

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A couple hold hands as they walk through downtown Sydney with their shopping from Australian department store retailer Myer, March 6, 2014.
A couple hold hands as they walk through downtown Sydney with their shopping from Australian department store retailer Myer, March 6, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Reed REUTERS/Jason Reed

Kiwis living in Australia are gearing up to fight for social service rights by making a bold move to win a seat in the New Zealand Parliament. If they succeed, they will lobby for New Zealanders in Australia to have fairer access to the country's social services and push for permanent residency rights.

According to reports, the ultimate goal is to push back restrictions which were first introduced in 2011. The restrictions do not allow New Zealanders in Australia to apply for university loans or benefit from the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

However, advocates for Kiwi rights are not interested in the dole for unemployed New Zealanders. Reports said the Expatriate Party of New Zealand has gathered the required 500 voters for registration in time for the country's election on September 20.

The new party is banking on the support of more than 640,000 Kiwis living in Australia. Grant Cheesman, the Expat Party founder and chairman of the New Zealand Club of Western Australia, said his fellow Kiwis love being in Australia. He said they felt "as much Australia as New Zealander."

Since the Howard government decided to cut off their social services' access, New Zealanders living in Australia have complained about the growing discrimination. Kiwis are allowed to live and work in Australia. They are required to pay local taxes but they only have limited access to Australia's Medicare.

New Zealanders cannot vote in Australian elections and they are limited by restrictions to permanent residency and citizenship. Kiwis in Australia don't have the same rights as Australians living in New Zealand.

According to Iwi n Aus Foundation, 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.

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.

Labor leader David Cunliffe urged Mr Key to take a tougher stance and fight for the rights of Kiwis living in Australia. Mr Cunliffe added that Kiwis are being "treated like third-class citizens" despite their contribution to Australian society, including tax payments. 

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