When my team told me in our production meeting this morning of a report of former decorated war hero from New Zealand being detained without charge or conviction to be deported back to New Zealand from Australia I turned to them and said “this issue has gone too far”. Whether it be about New Zealanders in detention, and there are now more than 500 of them, or the inability of kiwis who pay their taxes to access the National Disability Insurance Schemes, of insurance policies being cancelled because special category visa holders would not qualify for a pay out, when two of our major banks specifically disqualify New Zealanders from applying for some credit cards because of their residency status and where even nurses and doctors from New Zealand, working to save lives in Australian hospitals, are having issues maintaining professional indemnity insurances then you have to say the issue is much deeper than just those being detained in detention.
There are also two parts to the debate where some New Zealanders (and admitiedly may Australians) believe that if you don’t like it you can always go back to where you came from and there are those who believe that a great many injustices have taken place.
For the record I arrived pre-2001 and enjoy the rights of permanent residency. In that time I have gone from arriving on an Air New Zealand flight with a back pack to leading one of the worlds largest employment companies, Drake International, being Australia’s Representative to the United Nations Global Compact, Chairing Deakin University CSaRO and today Chairing this countries National Coalition for Suicide Prevention and owning this publication, entrehub,.org, where our readership spans more than 128 countries on earth. In other words Australia has been good to me – which in my reckoning is not bad for a kiwi with no qualifications from Upper Hutt.
But, even I believe that the inbalance between our two countries has gone to far and as I have mentioned above there are many more examples where New Zealanders face discrimination other than what is happening to those in detention. To take the detention matter first. The truth is we do not know how many of those who have been detained have lived here since childhood but in those cases those who have committed offences are not products of a New Zealand upbringing – they are products of the communities and cities, towns, schools and workplaces in this country. They have lived their lives, rightly or wrongly, as Australians more so than New Zealanders and the transportation of those people back to New Zealand is nothing more than shifting the problem. But, for those who have arrived in adulthood and gone on to live a life of crime then rightly so, they should be returned and, under section 501 of the Migration Act they would fail the character test. But, the Minister has the right to step in when cases require compassion – such as established family ties and networks. The question remains if New Zealand itself is ready to take back 22 murderers and 34 child sex offenders who otherwise would face intense monitoring on release here in Australia. The answer is not certain.
Then there is the case of former Lance Corporal Ngati Kanohi Te Eke Haapu who has been detained without charge or conviction, his visa cancelled because of his association with a member of a motor cycle gang. While the Immigration Minister has the power to deport anyone with a 12 month sentence or longer the detention of the former decorated war hero raises questions as to whether or not there has been over reach and if the broader human rights issues are present where a blanket approach is being taken. Whatever the case, the detention without charge or conviction is enough to raise the concerns of any one of us.
Image: former Lance Corporal Ngati Kanohi Te Eke Haapu
Lets not escape the facts though that there is much more to the inbalance than just those in detention such as:
Even though New Zealanders who pay taxes for the National Disability Insurance Scheme they won’t be able to access it
New Zealanders who are special category visa holders are unable to apply to enter the Australian Defence Force
New Zealanders who are permanent residents or special category visa holders are not able to apply for executive level positions within the majority of State and Federal Government departments
New Zealand students are unable to access student travel subsidies in four States
New Zealanders who are SCV Holders are unable to apply for credit cards or personal finance at two of the nations five largest banks
New Zealanders who are SCV Holders may be excluded from being able to hold some forms of Life Insurance
Doctors and Nurses from New Zealander who travel to Australia to work in local hospitals and medical facilities may be operating on voided professional indemnity insurance policies
However, there are myths about what Kiwis can and cannot claim in terms of social security payments. According to the Department of Human Services a protected or non protected special category visa holder can still claim the following:
Family Tax Benefit
Newborn Upfront Payment and Newborn Supplement
Single Income Family Supplement
Child Care Benefit
Double Orphan Pension
Health Care Card
Low Income Health Care Card
Foster Child Health Care Card
Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
Parental Leave Pay
Dad and Partner Pay
Assistance for Isolated Children
At the end of the day there are real issues that need to be dealt with and where clearly equity needs to be present in the relationship between Australia and New Zealand. The only real solution is both Governments sitting down to renegotiate the Closer Economic Relations Agreement because after 30 years of it being in operation it is about time. All of these matters could be on the table so that the relationship can be bought into a new century.
In other words – there needs to be a longer term solution to what is obviously a festering problem.
About the author: Matthew Tukaki is the Editor of EntreHub.org, a member of New Zealands World Class Network, Chair of Australias National Coalition for Suicide Prevention and Social Investment firm the Sustain Group.
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