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Give Kiwis a fair go, Goff urges ministers

The government isn't pushing Australia hard enough to give Kiwis living there the same rights as citizens and permanent residents, Labour's Phil Goff says.

The opposition foreign affairs spokesman has just returned from Canberra where he held talks with Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Trade Minister Craig Emerson.

It's a sore point that of the 500,000 New Zealanders living in Australia, about 100,000 who arrived after February 2001 don't get welfare benefits, student loans, emergency housing or access to a proposed national disability insurance scheme.

Australians living in New Zealand have the same rights as anyone else.

Prime Minister John Key raised the issue with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard when they met in Queenstown recently, but he didn't get anywhere.

Ms Gillard said free movement across the Tasman on special visas was a more generous deal than Australia gave to nationals from any other country.

Mr Goff hopes he has made some headway in his talks with Mr Carr and Dr Emerson.

"Both listened intently to the points I was making," he told NZ Newswire.

"Bob Carr said he understood what I was saying and he wanted to give it some further consideration."

Mr Goff says Dr Emerson has New Zealanders in his electorate who can't vote although they're part of the community.

"A lot of them are young Maori or Pacific Island men, they don't have access to student loans so they're locked out of further education - Craig acknowledged that was bad for Australia," he said.

Mr Goff says the impression he gained from his talks was that the issue wasn't being raised particularly strongly by the New Zealand government.

"I don't think things can change overnight but unless you put this issue on the Australian government's radar then it will never be addressed," he said.

"Kiwis who have been living there for years, paying taxes for years, but have no safety net to provide support - it isn't a fair go."

Mr Goff says however much it would cost the Australian government, it wouldn't be anywhere near the $3 billion a year New Zealanders living there pay in tax.