While global solidarity for things the like the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the US is important, it is always interesting to see it trending in Australia, when there is so little interest in analysing our own institutionalised racial policing. Is it just another by-product of US cultural imperialism that we care more about America’s racist criminal justice system than our own?
Could the Eurogroup meeting of July 12-13 represent the EU’s Prague Spring moment? The timelines of the two historical phenomena are uncanny: a government promising radical reforms comes to power at the beginning of the year, only to meet with continued opposition from the conservative old guard within, and dogged antipathy from its supposed international allies without.
In 1952, a returned serviceman, Bill Pearson, who had grown up on the West Coast of the South Island, raised what he saw as the indifference of New Zealanders, especially farmers, to the beauty of their country and their lack of stewardship over their land. With its riches in coal, gold and forestry and its deep but often problematic alluvial soils, the West Coast was to become a major battleground for the nation’s emerging conservation ethic. Today the worst fears of many Coasters – that the rain forests would be ‘locked up’ as parks, reserves and protected forest – have been realised. In the decade since 2004 jobs in the forestry industry have fallen – from over 500 to about six.
Let’s just return to, and dwell upon, the comparison of refugee acceptance figures for a moment: Australia accepts 3.2 times as many refugees per capita as New Zealand. What does it mean? Does it mean that every Australian is 3.2 times more hospitable than New Zealanders? Is the average Australian 3.2 times more caring? These are the kind of questions with which those of us working to push the New Zealand government to increase our refugee resettlement quota make hay.
Since 2013 I’ve been running the Doing Our Bit campaign, which aims to double New Zealand’s refugee resettlement quota and funding.
New Zealanders who moved to Australia to live before 26 February 2001, hold ‘protected’ special category visas with the same state entitlements as Australian citizens. But those who arrived after do not. They hold a non-protected special category visa (SCV), a temporary visa that is unique to New Zealanders and can be altered at any time. New Zealanders can live, work, get Medicare, and access some low-paid benefits such as carer payments, the pension and a few child payments. But not much more – no sickness or disability, unless they’re classed as ‘severely disabled’, no housing support or state housing, and certainly no unemployment benefit.