Pathway for New Zealanders to citizenship
PRIVATE MEMBERS MOTION - FEDERATION CHAMBER
That this House:
(a) the close trans-Tasman relationship between Australia and New Zealand; and
(b) the contribution New Zealanders living in Australia have made to our country;
(2) notes that changes under the former Howard Liberal Government made it more difficult for New Zealanders living, working, and paying taxes in Australia to become citizens
(3) further notes the announcement made on 22 April 2023 that will mean all Special Category Visa holders will be able to apply directly for citizenship without becoming permanent residents first, as long as they meet a four-year residence and other eligibility requirements; and
(4) commends the Government's commitment to build a fairer, better managed, and more inclusive migration system for New Zealanders living in Australia.
It is an absolute delight to stand in the chamber this evening to note the changes to the trans-Tasman relationship. There's been a close relationship between Australia and New Zealand dating back decades, obviously, but in my community our government's recent announcement that, from 1 July 2023, New Zealand citizens living in Australia will have a direct pathway to Australian citizenship is something we are all celebrating. Australia and New Zealand have a deep friendship, a special bond which has been forged through our history, shared values and common outlook, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the trans-Tasman travel arrangement, which brought Australia and New Zealand closer together by easing travel requirements between the two countries. It recognised the special bond we share.
New Zealanders in my community chose to come to Australia and raise their families. They're working and building their lives in Australia. Many have lived most of their lives in Australia. I know; I've taught their children. For over 30 years I have taught Kiwi kids in schools in my electorate, and I am absolutely celebrating this decision of our government—a government that has taken the steps to ensure that aspiration can exist inside Pacific Islander homes in my community, that children won't be locked out of higher education on the back of being unable to secure Australian citizenship, with families faced with the choice of sending children back to NZ for university, away from their siblings and families, their cousins and their community. This is an absolutely seminal moment of change for my community. They are absolutely thrilled at the prospect that they could do this.
I want to share this with the chamber. The member for Kennedy might be interested. Young Anina was a Julia Gillard Award recipient when she was in grade 6, and last year I met her at the end-of-school graduation ceremony at one of my local schools. She was school captain. I said to her, 'What are you planning next year?' She said, 'I'd love to go to Melbourne university, but I'm a Kiwi, so it might be really difficult.' I met with her parents a week later and said, 'Look; my office is going to look into any kind of scholarships we can find for Melbourne university that would allow your daughter to go.' The father looked at me and said to me: 'We knew that this was coming. We knew she was bright. She's our oldest. We knew she was headed somewhere special. We even looked at sending her home to NZ, but, Joanne, when push came to shove, I couldn't put her on a plane. I couldn't have her leave me. I couldn't have her leave her mother. I couldn't have her leave her siblings. And so we've stayed and we've taken the chance. We've saved and we've saved and we've saved, and we're hoping that she can go to university next year.' I met with her this week. No-one's more excited about the fact that, on 1 July, she can apply for Australian citizenship and she will be able to get HECS, which will ensure the fact that she can stay. She's going to make a great contribution to this country. Her parents have made a great contribution to this country.
Who can forget the reason we're celebrating so loudly? We go to the dawn service in my community locally and we sing both the Australian and the New Zealand national anthems, and our New Zealanders attend that dawn service every year because they know this shared history. During the pandemic, they were pretty much told by the previous government that they could return to New Zealand. No support was put on the ground. Families in my community were setting up pantries on the front lawn to feed one another—families whose only income during the pandemic was their 17-year-old or 16-year-old child working at McDonald's, because the adults didn't have work to go to. Those families did it tough in the pandemic. I can't think of a better way to celebrate than giving them the opportunity to become Australian citizens where they choose to take it up.
I look forward to what I know will be thousands of people in my community who will become great new Australian citizens given this opportunity by government. I can't imagine why it's taken 50 years. I will never understand why John Howard made it more difficult for New Zealanders to become Australian citizens. It never made sense. This government has undone it, and my community, for one, is celebrating.
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July 31, 2023