Below is the English dictionary definition of the word 'Bilateral':
bi·lat·er·al - adj.
- Having or formed of two sides; two-sided.
- Affecting or undertaken by two sides equally; binding on both parties: a bilateral agreement; bilateral negotiations.
- Relating to the right and left sides of the body or of a body structure.
- Having or marked by bilateral symmetry.
A new bilateral social security agreement between Australia and New Zealand (entered into in 2001 as the current agreement) came into force on 1 July 2002.
The effective end result was to require people that are applying for the aged or disability pension after this date to request and receive partial benefits directly from both countries in proportion to the time spent in each between the working ages of 20 and 65. Apart from this additional hassle, the agreement guarantees that no individual will be financially worse off as a result.
Mostly the agreement makes for fairly boring reading (effectively New Zealand agrees to contribute vast sums of money to compensate Australia for the disproportionate number of Kiwi retirees already collecting the aged pension from Australia). Thus I have extracted only those sections that Australia seems to have either used to its' own advantage or disregarded in implementing its' own Unilateral Agreement against New Zealand that denies most Kiwis their previous access to both Australian citizenship and all other social security payments.
If you want to you can click here to read the whole current bilateral agreement.
At this point I would like to point out that I am not a lawyer, and that any personal comments upon the bilateral agreement and resulting Australian legislation are exactly that, and should not be construed as legal gospel in any way, shape, or form.
That said, if I personally signed such an agreement with my neighbour, and he then did to me what the Australian Government appears to have done to New Zealand citizens residing here - then I would definitely be counting my remaining fingers after shaking hands upon any further agreements.
The timing of the announcement of a new bilateral social security agreement was also opportunistically used to announce pre-prepared unilateral legislation to cut off access to other social security benefits to New Zealand citizens residing in Australia. Uninviting Kiwis to be elligible for Australian citizenship simply closed the only remaining loophole to gain such benefits by any other means.
In the words of the Prime Minister of Australia :
"The changes to arrangements for accessing Australian benefits which Australia is announcing today are intended to address social security costs..."
The following excerpt is reproduced from the official Australian Government website announcing the changes:
"New bilateral social security arrangements were announced by the Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon John Howard, MP and the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Rt Hon Helen Clark, MP on 26 February 2001.
The new arrangements mean that access to some social security benefits is restricted for new arrivals to Australia. Most New Zealanders moving to Australia after 26 February 2001 need to apply for permanent residence status before they can access certain social security payments and obtain Australian citizenship. "
As none of these 'arrangements' appear in the text of the real Bilateral Agreement, and as New Zealand was not even consulted on these 'arrangements' (let alone agreed to them), then one can only assume that the Australian Government dictionary contains quite a different definition of the word 'bilateral' to that of a standard English dictionary.
ARTICLE 2: Legislative Scope
- Except as provided under paragraph 2, this Agreement shall apply to the following laws, as amended at the date of signature of this Agreement, and to any legislation that subsequently amends, supplements, consolidates or replaces them:
a. in relation to Australia: the Acts forming the social security law in so far as those Acts provide for, apply to or affect the following benefits:
i. age pension;
ii. disability support pension;
iii. carer payment in respect of the partner of a person who is in receipt of a disability support pension; and
b. in relation to New Zealand: the New Zealand Superannuation Act 2001, the Social Security Act 1964 and the Social Welfare (Transitional Provisions) Act 1990 in so far as they provide for, apply to or affect the following benefits:
i. New Zealand superannuation;
ii. veteran's pension; and
iii. invalid's benefit.
The legislative scope specifically limits the agreement to dealing with the aged, disability, and carers pensions. There is no mention of citizenship etc. in the agreement whatsoever.
Article 4: Equality of Treatment
Except as provided for in this Agreement, the persons to whom this Agreement applies shall be treated equally by each of the Parties in regards to rights and obligations that arise under the social security law of that Party or as a result of this Agreement.
Apparently some of us are now more equal than others...