Govt succumbs to Aussie pressure on citizenship rules

Green MP Keith Locke said today that the Government’s decision to cancel automatic citizenship for babies born in New Zealand is a capitulation to Australian pressure.

“Internal Affairs Minister George Hawkins is wrong when he says that other countries don’t grant citizenship to babies born on their soil,” said Mr Locke, the Green Party’s Human Rights Spokesperson.

“Canada and the USA are among those that do, and it accords with our international convention obligations to protect the best interests of children by giving them full citizenship rights at birth. The present provision is there for a very good reason, to make sure all babies have at least one secure citizenship, that of the country in which they are born.

“We shouldn’t tail Australia in citizenship matters, particularly when the Howard government is so driven by anti-immigrant, anti-refugee paranoia. We must challenge their charges that New Zealand is a soft-on-migrants ‘back door’ to Australia.

“It is disturbing that Mr Hawkins uses the recent Irish citizenship referendum to justify this move. That result was achieved via a distasteful anti-immigrant campaign that would be repugnant to decent New Zealanders.

“The underlying philosophy revealed by Mr Hawkins’ statements today is that new arrivals are a cost, not an opportunity, for New Zealand. In fact, migrants are among the most aspirational and contributory people in any society.

“There are no statistics to suggest that hordes of women are making short-term visits to New Zealand just to give birth to citizenship-claiming babies, so there is simply no good reason to take away such a well-established citizenship right. So what if a handful of people born in such circumstances return to New Zealand as adults and take up residency? We should be proud our country has such a good reputation.

“The Government has also given no adequate reason why the qualifying time for citizenship should be pushed out from three to five years, or why time spent here on a work permit shouldn’t count towards the qualifying time — except that this is the way things are done across the Tasman. Such provisions are not going to encourage skilled migrants to choose New Zealand over other countries, such as the UK, USA, Canada, and South Africa, which have shorter qualifying periods. Having to wait five years for a passport is also going to inconvenience the migrant spouses of New Zealanders, particularly when travelling together to countries where our citizens have visa-free entry,” said Mr Locke.