NZ immigrants distressingly invisible to Oz
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.