Kiwis to pay for NDIS, but won't be covered by it

ASHLEY HALL: While the National Disability Insurance Scheme, or DisabilityCare, now looks set to become a reality, New Zealanders in Australia claim it discriminates against them.

Australian residents from across the ditch have a unique migration status which requires them to pay taxes, including the increased Medicare levy, which will be used to fund the insurance scheme.

But they won't be eligible for benefits under the scheme.

Simon Lauder reports.

SIMON LAUDER: David Faulkner has lived in Australia since 1970 when he was six years old. He pays taxes and the Medicare levy.

DAVID FAULKNER: Yes, since Medicare was introduced.

SIMON LAUDER: Would you be eligible for the NDIS?

DAVID FAULKNER: As a special category visa holder who doesn't meet the 2001 requirements, no I would not be eligible.

SIMON LAUDER: In 2001 the Federal Government was concerned migration from New Zealand was placing a burden on the welfare system, so it changed the rules, creating a special category visa for New Zealanders, cutting their access to social security.

David Faulkner wasn't in Australia at the time so he was not protected from the changes.

The laws the Government has passed to underpin the National Disability Insurance Scheme exclude unprotected special category visa holders.

Mr Faulkner is now an advocate for the rights of New Zealanders in Australia. He says the way the NDIS will be funded highlights the discrimination.

DAVID FAULKNER: We're entitled to Medicare and therefore we must pay the levy but in this case we'll have to pay the levy increase but we're not entitled to the NDIS so it's an example of direct taxation for a benefit that only New Zealanders are not entitled to.

SIMON LAUDER: Mr Faulkner says the status of New Zealanders means even children who are born here aren't entitled to government services.

DAVID FAULKNER: I was just speaking to a family in Melbourne. They've been here for 10 years now. They've had four children born in this country but of course the children of New Zealanders who arrived post-2001 are no longer born Australian citizens and one of their children acquired a disability that needed early intervention treatment and they were refused treatment for the child.

SIMON LAUDER: Mr Faulkner says that family found itself in a catch-22.

DAVID FAULKNER: They've actually been forced to temporarily return to New Zealand to get care for their child. This is now New Zealand paying for disability services for a child born in Australia now and that in itself, leaving the country for a considerable period to get treatment for their child, is jeopardising that child's prospects of getting citizenship.

SIMON LAUDER: Around a quarter of a million New Zealand citizens have arrived in Australia since 2001. Although they're entitled to live here permanently, they're not permanent visa holders.

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Disability Reform Jenny Macklin says New Zealand citizens who want to access the NDIS have the option of applying for permanent residency.

That doesn't allay David Faulkner's concerns. 

DAVID FAULKNER: All other non-citizens who don't have the right to remain permanently in Australia, who don't hold permanent visas, they don't have to pay the Medicare levy at all so you can see what's happening here is Australia is illegitimately using migration law as a social security filter.

SIMON LAUDER: The Minister's office also says the residence requirements for the NDIS are the same as those for similar Australian Government schemes.

That's exactly the problem the New Zealand government wants the Australian Government to address. 

Phil Goff is a former New Zealand foreign minister and now the opposition Labour Party spokesman on foreign affairs. 

PHIL GOFF: If you're paying the levy, then you should have access to the benefits of the scheme and what I understand is that will not be the case.

I think the Australian Government or any Australian Government would need to revisit that and acknowledge that that would be unfair.

But I guess what this scheme does is highlight the broader unfairness that people who are making their futures and their lives in Australia, they are paying all the tax they should be paying, but they're not entitled to the same sort of assistance that any other Australian or person living long term in Australia would be entitled to. 

That's not right and that's what I would urge the Australian Government to address.

SIMON LAUDER: David Faulkner says he'll ask the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee to scrutinise the Government's method for funding the NDIS and how it applies to New Zealanders.

ASHLEY HALL: Simon Lauder.