14 Dec 2012

Call for better conditions for NZers in Australia

5:16 am on 14 December 2012

Productivity commissions on both sides of the Tasman are calling for improved conditions for New Zealanders living in Australia.

The suggestions come in a joint report on trans-Tasman relations as the 30th anniversary of the Closer Economic Relationship (CER) nears. The pact, New Zealand's first free trade agreement, entered into force on 1 January 1983.

The commissions praise the accord but say several issues remain including limited access to public services for New Zealanders in Australia.

Even though many have paid tax there for years, the report says, they have limited pathways to permanent residence and citizenship, no access to student loans for their children and restricted access to some social security payments and other supports.

New Zealand's commission chairman Murray Sherwin told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme the lack of access is an anomaly that leave people in a difficult situation.

"It's likely to become politically contentious, and you'd be better off to try and sort it out and find a way for these people to be able to access residency and citizenship, even though they may not pass the normal points tests."

The report says fixing the problems requires policy changes by the Australian government and pragmatic changes by both countries.