Jacinda Ardern has branded Australia’s deportation policy for foreign criminals “corrosive” in a strong message to Scott Morrison during their joint press conference in Aukland on Friday.
The New Zealand prime minister has insisted that while she agrees with Australia’s policy to “take a dim view of newly arrived non-citizens committing crimes”, she said New Zealanders who have spent most of their lives in the country and have little or no connection to New Zealand anymore shouldn’t be treated as harshly.
“As in any family it is inevitable that occasionally we will see things differently,” Ardern said in front of the reporters. “We had a frank discussion about New Zealanders who have made their homes in Australia and how they can be given opportunity to live and thrive.”
She added: “We talked about deportations of New Zealanders. In my view, this issue has become corrosive in a relationship over time.”
While she said that she understands the treatment of newly arrived non-citizens, she added: “The New Zealand people have a dim view of the deportation of people who move to Australia as children and have grown up there, with often, little or no lasting connection to here. It is a matter we will continue to discuss.”
.@jacindaardern on her meeting with @ScottMorrisonMP: Like with any family, we have our disagreements. We spoke about the deportation of New Zealanders, which I believe has become corrosive in our relationship over time.
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) February 22, 2019
Responding to her strong statements on the issue, Morrison told reporters that Australia had “very well-defined immigration and citizenship laws” and his government had “taken a very strong line” on it – insisting the policy is not restricted to New Zealanders.
“Visas are not citizenship,” he added, according to The Guardian. “Visas are provided on the basis of people being compliant with those visas, and that doesn’t include committing crimes.
“And so we take a very strong view about this. It is a view that is not restricted to New Zealand, I should stress… this is not targeted at New Zealand in any way, shape or form.”
Under Australia’s current laws, foreigners who are convicted of an offence that could attract more than 12 months in prison can have their visas automatically cancelled.
It comes after Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton expressed concerns that some judges may be going easy on foreign criminals over worries they will be deported if convicted.
Dutton appeared on A Current Affair in January 2018 and called for tougher sentencing on foreigners who brake the law.
“Some people are getting a soft touch because they are not citizens of this country,” he said. “The community expectation, particularly around sentencing, should be met. And there are a number of cases around where it’s not being met.”
“If magistrates are imposing softer sentences because they’re worried about somebody being eligible to be deported then that really undermines public confidence in the judiciary and it needs to stop,” Dutton added.
According to multiple reports, more than 1000 New Zealanders have been deported from Australia in recent years after committing crimes – with some having lived in Australia for years.