Access to Australia could be limited

Credit: SonovaMin

John Roughan opines: quote.

This may be just paranoia on my part but I can’t shake a terrible foreboding that Australia is on the point of accepting our offer to take some of the boat people from Papua New Guinea and Nauru. It’s even possible the announcement could come from PNG this weekend where the prime ministers of both countries are at the Apec summit.

If it doesn’t, I’ll still wonder whether Australia’s latest PM gave Jacinda Ardern a heads-up when they met at the East Asia Summit in Singapore earlier in the week. Before the meeting she told reporters she was not expecting any advance on the offer, and at the press conference afterwards she was keener to engage him on the risk of slipping on onions from a sausage sizzle. end quote.

We all have to get our priorities right. Fried onions are a safety hazard. They should be banned forthwith. quote.

Last month the plight of the migrants at Manus Island and Nauru hurt the Liberal Party in a by-election for the Sydney seat vacated by Turnbull. Desperate to defuse the issue, Scott Morrison declared the Government might accept New Zealand’s offer to take 150 a year on condition they would be permanently banned from entering Australia. The Australian Labor Party has exactly the same policy.

The Liberals lost the seat and its governing majority. The Coalition is headed for certain defeat at the election due by May unless it does something drastic. end quote.

I’m no expert on Australian politics (Lushington Brady is our man for that) but the coalition may be in trouble anyway. However, nothing will stop them trying to get re-elected, and this might be one way of doing it. quote.

Right now the only thing preventing bipartisan agreement on accepting New Zealand’s offer is a Coalition bill that would put a lifetime ban on anyone who has attempted to enter Australia illegally wherever in the world they end up. The Labor Opposition wants the ban to apply only to those who go to New Zealand.

Our Labour Party appears to see no harm in this. When Ardern was asked about it last month she smiled and said a ban of that sort was up to Australia. end quote.

But any such ban would create a class of New Zealand citizens with fewer rights than others. Is our government really comfortable with that? quote.

The harm we would be doing ourselves would not be apparent for some time, possibly not in the life of this Government. It would not start until our new citizens began trying to cross the Tasman.

Imagine the response in Australia when it starts favouring some New Zealand citizens over others, and those discriminated against are mostly from the Indian subcontinent. end quote.

I think it is safe to assume that if this goes ahead, it will be the beginning of large numbers of ‘refugees’ coming to New Zealand from Australia over the next few years, and they will all be second class citizens. Most of us couldn’t care less, but it is never as simple as that. quote.

At that point, the simplest solution would be to close the door to all New Zealanders unless they could show Australia needed them. In other words, if they want to do more than visit Australia they would have to meet the same criteria as immigrants from anywhere else. end quote.

Precisely. Then all New Zealanders will have exactly the same rights. quote.

It constantly amazes me how much we in New Zealand take our privileged access to Australia for granted. We can go to live and work there whenever we like, for as long as we like, doing any job we can get. We don’t need to have skills in short supply there, or meet the usual immigration criteria. No other nation’s citizens can do this

We do the same for Australians, of course, which is why we think we have a right to take our access to Australia for granted. But let’s get real. We have 5 million people; Australia has just passed 25 million. Its economy measured by GDP is six times larger. An economy of that scale offers much more opportunity to us than we can offer Australians. end quote.

It shows in the numbers, of course, with far more New Zealanders living in Australia than the other way round and the numbers of New Zealanders heading across the Tasman have just started to increase again.? quote.

Professor Paul Spoonley wrote about a conference he had just attended in Sydney where he was dismayed to find New Zealand ignored in Australia’s immigration debates.

“There were literally no references made to New Zealand anywhere,” he wrote, “except by those of us actually from New Zealand.

Spoonley complains we have, “fewer settlement and access rights than immigrants from anywhere else in the world”. Those immigrants have qualified for citizenship which we don’t have to do. We’re able to live and work anywhere in an Australasian economy.

We are extremely lucky and we need to wake up to this quickly, before Australia accepts our generous offer on a condition we could live to regret. end quote.

It would make perfect sense for Australia to limit access rights to New Zealanders, because it would stop undesirable immigrants coming into Australia through the back door. Few Australians would care about this policy; in fact many may very well support it.

Now that the people of Australia are making it clear that something has to be done about the economic migrants on Manus Island, the Australian government is going to have to act soon. What happens next could be an outcome that New Zealand will regret for decades to come.