12 Jun 2017

NZers living in Aus told to consider dual citizenship

6:58 am on 12 June 2017

Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee has issued a stark message to New Zealanders living in Australia: seek dual citizenship or realise you'll have fewer rights.

Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee has advised New Zealanders living in Australia to consider seeking dual citizenship to ensure their rights.

"If you're making a decision to live in Australia, it may be better that you seek dual citizenship," said Gerry Brownlee. Photo: 123RF / RNZ

The tough advice comes ahead of his meeting today with expat lobby group Oz Kiwi in Wellington.

In recent years, New Zealanders living across the ditch have been stung by policies that reduce their entitlements, including a massive hike in university fees.

Oz Kiwi wants New Zealand to do more to level the playing field.

Spokesperson Joanne Cox said they planned to tell Mr Brownlee he should stand up to Australia and be more proactive in support of Kiwi expats.

"We need the New Zealand government to go in to bat for New Zealanders and to really make the case that these changes are quite detrimental.

"New Zealand just seems to be scratching around the edges and trying to take the wins where they can, but they need to actually go in and be far more vocal about what they want."

But Mr Brownlee said expats should appreciate that "New Zealand and Australia are two separate countries".

"If they've made a choice to live in Australia, but remain New Zealand citizens ... Australian citizens will have some rights that will be different to others.

"If you're making a decision to live in Australia, it may be better that you seek dual citizenship."

New Zealand expatriates in Australia were "well-treated", he said.

"Firstly, we have visa-free access. New Zealanders can go and work there without too much restriction at all and ... we do get singled out for better treatment [than other foreigners] in many, many cases."

New Zealanders living in Australia cannot receive the unemployment or disability benefit and have no access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

They're also barred from voting, joining the Australian Defence Force or working long-term for the government.

Australia last year announced a special pathway to citizenship for New Zealanders who arrived in Australia between February 2001 and February 2016.

Those who have earned more than $AU53,000 for five consecutive years can apply for permanent residency and then apply for citizenship after another year.

Mr Brownlee said the government would "look to see what arrangements might be possible in the future" for those who moved to Australia after February 2016.

Ms Cox said Mr Brownlee's appointment as Foreign Minister this year was an opportunity to reset and strengthen the relationship with Australia.

"He can perhaps change the tune, so to speak."

But Mr Brownlee dismissed that notion.

"The person-to-person contact among ministers is important, but I don't think it's going to be particularly enhanced because we've got a new face.

"[Murray] McCully as Foreign Minister was very much a colleague of Julie Bishop."

Mr Brownlee said it would be "interesting" to meet with Oz Kiwi to discuss its network and ability to spread correct information to New Zealanders.

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