New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern has delivered a blunt message to Scott Morrison about Australia’s “corrosive” criminal deportation policy.
Standing right beside the PM at a media conference in Sydney on Friday, Ms Ardern said the policy – under which 2000 people have been forcibly sent back to New Zealand – was causing unintended hardship.
“Australia is well within its rights to deport individuals who break your laws. New Zealand does the same. But we have a simple request – send back Kiwis, genuine Kiwis.”
“Do not deport your people and your problems.”
Ms Ardern said many of the deportees returned to New Zealand identified “on any common sense test” as Australian.
“Just a few weeks ago I met a woman who moved to Australia, not much older than one year old,” she said.
“She told me she had no connection to our country, but had three children in Australia.
“She was in a crisis centre, having returned to a country she did not feel was her own.”
The NZ leader also pleaded with the Morrison government to give more rights to New Zealanders working in Australia, including the ability to work as public servants or access the national disability insurance scheme.
“Evidence shows that the vast majority are providing a net benefit to Australia. They earn more, they are more likely to be employed, and they pay more tax than their Aussie-born counterparts,” she said.
“They are Australia’s best migrants.
“But rather than them being given security to keep contributing and return, their rights are being eroded.”
Mr Morrison said Australia’s deportation policy was clear.
“We deport non-citizens who have committed crimes in Australia against our community,” he said.
“This policy is applied not specific to one country, but to any country whose citizens are here.”
New Zealand has repeatedly complained about Australia’s policy of deporting non-citizens who have been convicted of serious crimes. In some instances, Kiwis have been returned home after living most of their lives in Australia, and have little connection to New Zealand.
Among them was the ex-bike boss father of AFL gun Dustin Martin. Shane Martin had lived in Australia for 30 years prior to his 2017 deportation, but had amassed serious criminal charges – including trafficking of ecstasy and being armed with intent.
He tried to return to Australia earlier in 2020 but was returned to New Zealand within a day.
At their meeting on Friday, Ms Ardern and Mr Morrison also discussed the coronavirus, greater cooperation on indigenous issues, trade and security.
Left out of the talks were their conflicting stances on climate change.
Australia has been widely condemned for worshipping fossil fuels, while New Zealand leads the way in climate action in the Pacific.
Despite the divide, the leaders were able to agree that the strong and supportive relationship between the nations was a source of great comfort in recent times.
“The last 12 months has, if nothing else, demonstrated just how close New Zealand and Australia are,” Ms Ardern said.
“Whether it’s the fires in Australia, and the hundreds of personnel that have gone from New Zealand to Australia to support them, or Whakaari White Island, or coronavirus, we’ve had plenty of examples … where we have been extraordinarily close.”
Ms Ardern also met NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Governor-General David Hurley while in Sydney. She returns to Auckland on Friday night.