Labour leader David Cunliffe has told an Australian audience that it was time that expatriate New Zealanders were treated the same as Australians who had moved to New Zealand.
In a speech this evening at the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum in Sydney, he said it was Government's job to lobby for New Zealand citizens who lived overseas.
"The fact is, for all sorts of historical reasons, New Zealanders living in Australia are not treated equivalently to Australians living in New Zealand."
A law change prevented New Zealanders who arrived in Australia after 2001 from accessing most government support and welfare programmes.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said that his Government was unlikely to remove discrimination against expatriate Kiwis after Prime Minister John Key raised the issue during talks in Canberra last month.
Unfortunately for Mr Cunliffe the "all sorts of historical reasons" he refers to are not flattering to his very own party; check out this Beehive media release from February 2001:
Here's some of the detail from that media release:
"Both the New Zealand and Australian governments have been dissatisfied with social security arrangements for some time," Helen Clark said.
"The new arrangements preserve the right of New Zealanders to move to and live and work in Australia. New Zealanders presently living in Australia will see no change in their eligibility for social security.
"The revised Social Security Agreement will see New Zealand and Australia cost-sharing for superannuation and for payments for people with severe disabilities.
"Instead of wrangling over the level of reimbursements paid by New Zealand to Australia, our two governments will pay their share of superannuation and disability benefits to eligible New Zealanders and Australians living in each other's countries directly, based on the years of working life spent in each country.
"From today New Zealanders will have to be granted permanent residency, as well as have lived in Australia for two years, before they can access social security payments other than for superannuation and severe disability, as provided for in the new agreement.
"If New Zealand were to demand that every New Zealander crossing the Tasman should get full social security entitlements, then Australia would be fully justified in asking for hundreds of millions of dollars more in reimbursement, given the disproportionate migration flows between our two countries.
"It should be noted that under the existing Social Security Agreement New Zealand has not reimbursed Australia at all for unemployment and sickness benefits, and nor will it under the new agreement.
"The cost of those benefits for New Zealanders in Australia has fallen on the Australian taxpayer.
"In making this announcement John Howard and I are reaffirming the fundamental freedom of New Zealanders and Australians under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangements (TTTA) to freely travel, work, and live in each other's country.
"This free flow of people is a central factor in the Closer Economic Relations agreement which is a key plank in our close links with Australia and reflects the fact we have so much in common.
"The agreement being announced today, and the manner in which it has been forged, underscores our ability to work together on issues of common concern," Helen Clark said.
What David Cunliffe is asking of Australia is that a policy agreement between the Howard Government of Australia and the Clark Government of New Zealand be rolled back. Interestingly, his speech (you can read the full text here) makes no mention whatsoever of this having been an agreement concluded by a New Zealand Labour government.
Mr Cunliffe hasn't directly blamed National for the status quo, but he has been very silent as to which political party agreed to the two year residence requirement. But his grandstanding yesterday and today makes it clear that he sees himself as some great hero of the people, setting out to right a wrong. Patently, that is an absudity.
If this is going to be David Cunliffe's modus operandi, he should expect to be called out on it. He has already shown a propensity for giving different versions of the same message to different audiences, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to know just what a Cunliffe-led Labour Party stands for. This is his first foray overseas as Leader of the Opposition, and he has got off to an inauspicious start.
There is no shame over righting a political wrong. But trying to distance yourself from a past political decision is another matter altogether. David Cunliffe was part of a Labour government that signed away the rights of New Zealanders in Australia in 2001, and no amount of rewriting history can change that.