NZ im­mi­grants dis­tress­ingly in­vis­i­ble to Oz

Rotorua Daily Post - - Nation - Paul Spoon­ley

Last week I at­tended the Me­trop­o­lis con­fer­ence on im­mi­gra­tion in Syd­ney along with NGOs, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from govern­ment de­part­ments, re­searchers, pol­icy an­a­lysts, politi­cians and com­mu­ni­ties from around the world. It was a great con­fer­ence and timely. Im­mi­gra­tion is a flash­point in many coun­tries.

A cou­ple of as­pects were in­trigu­ing. The first was how some of those pre­sent­ing char­ac­terised Aus­tralia. Aus­tralia’s Min­is­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion, Cit­i­zen­ship and Mul­ti­cul­tural Af­fairs, David Cole­man, in a case of Trumpian hy­per­bole de­scribed Aus­tralia as “the great­est na­tion on earth”.

This was fol­lowed by claims dur­ing the con­fer­ence that Aus­tralia of­fered the best ex­am­ple of mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, of­ten made by con­ser­va­tive politi­cians, al­though this was con­tested by other Aus­tralian com­men­ta­tors.

An­other as­pect was more trou­bling. New Zealand was in­vis­i­ble. There were no ref­er­ences made to New Zealand any­where, un­less by Ki­wis. This was puz­zling given we rep­re­sent one of the largest over­seas-born pop­u­la­tions, hence “im­mi­grants”, in Aus­tralia.

There was no ref­er­ence to the way in which Ki­wis were treated as im­mi­grants. In 1973, Aus­tralia and New Zealand be­gan a process to align and treat each other’s cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents with par­ity, no­tably the right to live and re­side in each other’s coun­try. This be­gan to un­ravel in 2001 when New Zealan­ders were char­ac­terised as “dole bludgers” and there was a move to re­duce their rights in Aus­tralia. This has been com­pounded by sub­se­quent changes so that Ki­wis now have fewer set­tle­ment and ac­cess rights than im­mi­grants from else­where.

To un­der­line this, there are the “501s”, the re­cent de­por­ta­tion of more than 1300 of­fend­ers to New Zealand in re­cent years.

And there are some new chal­lenges. Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian, NSW pre­mier, said last week there would be a pop­u­la­tion re­view — but made it clear the in­tent was to re­duce the num­ber of im­mi­grants ar­riv­ing there.

In the 2016-17 year, 104,000 of the net mi­grant ar­rivals to Aus­tralia ended up in NSW and she wants to drop it to “Howard-era rates” (about 45,000). The con­cern is the pres­sure on NSW in­fra­struc­ture, an is­sue Auck­lan­ders will be only too fa­mil­iar with. But how do you con­trol the ar­rival of New Zealan­ders head­ing to Syd­ney?

New Zealand politi­cians have been un­able to get Aus­tralian politi­cians to even dis­cuss the is­sues, much less to re­dress the in­equities.

When there was dis­cus­sion at the con­fer­ence of other coun­tries and who might pro­vide some guid­ance for Aus­tralia, it was most likely to be Canada. And there are rea­sons for this. Canada has a man­aged im­mi­gra­tion re­cruit­ment and se­lec­tion pol­icy, a sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment in post-ar­rival set­tle­ment, ac­tively man­ag­ing the re­gional dis­tri­bu­tion of im­mi­grants, a gen­er­ous refugee of­fer and a com­mit­ment to so­cial co­he­sion and di­ver­sity recog­ni­tion.

Don’t get me wrong, the con­fer­ence pro­vided some en­gag­ing and spir­ited dis­cus­sion. But New Zealand has a prob­lem. We sim­ply do not fea­ture on this side of the Tas­man in im­mi­gra­tion de­bates, at a time when the num­bers leav­ing New Zealand to set­tle in Aus­tralia are be­gin­ning to trend up­wards again.

■ Pro­fes­sor Paul Spoon­ley, of Massey Uni­ver­sity, was elected Me­trop­o­lis In­ter­na­tional co-di­rec­tor in Syd­ney.

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