New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English has taken aim at Australia’s “disappointing” citizenship changes, flagging concerns the crackdown could affect Kiwis living abroad.
Mr English said there had been no formal contact between the Turnbull government and himself or his ministers before Australia unveiled its immigration crackdown last week.
“The officials are going through a process of understanding exactly what the decision is. It was one that appeared on pretty short notice with very rapid application so we want to make sure that all the implications are understood,” he said in New Zealand on Monday.
“But on the face of it, it’s disappointing that New Zealanders would have to wait longer.”
The changes require New Zealanders and others aspiring for Australian citizenship to be permanent residents for four years before being eligible, up from one year.
It follows the announcement of a pathway to citizenship announced by Malcolm Turnbull last year, which allowed Kiwis who arrived in Australia between February 2001 and 2016 earning more than $53,000 a year for five years to apply for permanent residence from July this year.
Mr English said New Zealand officials were working to ensure Australia’s new citizenship policy wouldn’t affect those taking up the pathway.
One of NZ Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee’s first discussions will be to plead the case for Kiwis seeking a simple pathway to Australian citizenship, Mr English said.
An exemption for Kiwis is one proposal his government may consider putting forward.
However, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton confirmed there was no such exemption for New Zealanders tied to the citizenship changes.
“The citizenship changes announced last week come into effect immediately, and will apply to all applications for citizenship received from that date onwards,” a spokesperson for the minister said.
But Mr Dutton said Australian visa arrangements for New Zealand citizens were more generous than those for citizens of any other country.
“Australia and New Zealand have a strong relationship, and will continue working together to enhance bilateral arrangements,” his spokesperson said.
“Last year Australia introduced a pathway to permanent residency for thousands of New Zealanders living in Australia.
“For the past five years, New Zealand nationals have been in the top 10 nationalities of persons who have acquired Australian citizenship.”