They may be close allies, but the latest outbreak in a long-running diplomatic showdown between Australia and New Zealand has sent relations between the two nations reaching an all-time low.
The source of the friction is a controversial deportation policy that Australia uses to deport hundreds of New Zealanders each year. As part of hard-line and frequently criticized immigration policies, the dispute resurfaced last week when Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton used a television interview to refer to the policy as “taking out the trash.”
It has sparked an angry reaction from its neighbor, with a prominent New Zealand politician calling Australia a “rogue state” and calling for its actions to be referred to the United Nations.
What is Australia doing?
The latest dispute between the two countries erupted last week, when Australian Home Secretary Peter Dutton referred to the transfer of deportees to New Zealand as “taking out the garbage” to “make Australia a safer place.”
Dutton appeared on an Australian television network, which was given access to film a plane loaded with deportees in handcuffs as they boarded a plane in Brisbane. The reporter asked questions such as: “How does it feel to be expelled from Australia?”
Among the deportees was a 15-year-old boy.
But the practice, and NZ’s objections to it, has been in place since 2014, when Australia introduced changes to its visa laws significantly expanding the so-called “test of character” that allows the minister to refuse or cancel a foreigner’s visa at a time. wide variety of motifs.
Those grounds may include a substantial criminal record, whether the minister believes that the person may “represent a danger to the Australian community” or if the minister is “convinced that the person is not of good character due to past criminal or general conduct. and present “. .
Most significantly, however, the changes introduced “mandatory cancellation” of visas for any non-citizen sentenced to 12 months or more in prison, even if the prison term had occurred years before.
In the past, the character test has seen several high-profile figures denied entry to Australia. In 2015, Dutton formally denied American singer Chris Brown’s visa application on grounds of character.
But the changes have overwhelmingly affected New Zealand citizens.
How many New Zealanders have been deported from Australia under the rules?
This week in the Australian parliament, Dutton boasted that since the new rules were introduced, the visas of some 6,300 “non-citizen offenders” had been canceled.
Although it noted the cancellation of 309 visas related to “rape and other sexual crimes,” the department’s own figures show that the most common reason for canceling a visa is a drug offense. Those crimes accounted for approximately 23% of all cancellations between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020.
There are around 650,000 New Zealanders living in Australia, many of whom have lived in the country for much of their lives. It means that the policy has had a disproportionate effect on kiwis.
Of the 2021 non-citizens deported in the same 12-month period between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020, 477 were from New Zealand. The second highest was the United Kingdom, with 99. In 2020 Reported things Internal government figures that indicated that some 2,000 people had been deported to New Zealand from Australia since 2014.
The policy has proven especially controversial in New Zealand because many of the people Australia has deported to New Zealand have not lived there for decades. In 2019 Reported things the case of Lee Barber, who had moved to Australia from New Zealand in 1978 when he was 10 years old.
After a series of drug-related crimes, Barber was deported to New Zealand despite not having set foot in the country for more than 40 years.
“I am an Australian through and through,” he told Stuff. “I feel like a refugee.”
In another case, the Australian government tried to deport an indigenous person to New Zealand despite the fact that he had no ties to the country. Instead, the man had been born there while his parents were on vacation more than 30 years earlier.
What has New Zealand said?
Politics has become a growing point of tension between two countries that have traditionally shared an extremely close friendship.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has had no qualms about voicing her disapproval of the policy. In 2019, during a visit to the country by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, he used a joint press conference between the two to point out the impact that politics was having on the bond between the two nations.
“In my opinion, this problem has become corrosive in a relationship over time,” Ardern said.
“I made it clear that New Zealand has no problem with Australia having a low opinion of newly arrived non-citizens who commit crimes … but equally, the people of New Zealand have a negative opinion of the deportation of people who commit crimes. They move to Australia when they were kids and I’ve grown up there. “
The following February, Ardern intensified his criticism. In another awkward joint press conference, this time in Australia with the country’s iconic Harbor Bridge in the background, New Zealand’s prime minister accused Morrison of deporting “his people and their problems” using “unjust” policies.
“He has deported more than 2,000 people, and among them there will be real Kiwis who need to know the consequences of their actions,” he said.
“But among those 2,000 there are individuals who are too young to become criminals under our command, they were too young to become members of patched gangs, too young to be organized criminals. We will own our people. We ask that Australia stop exporting theirs. “
Australia, however, has continued the practice, and Dutton’s provocative interview last week has sparked a bipartisan wave of condemnation in New Zealand.
The country’s Green Party foreign affairs spokesman, Golriz Ghahraman, accused Australia of behaving as an “atypical nation” and “rebellious”, and said the issue should be taken to the United Nations.
“It is time for all of us that we call like-minded nations to recognize that Australia is really behaving like a rogue nation, as we call countries that constantly violate human rights laws, and raise this in our international forums, that our allies please join us in condemning this and putting pressure on Australia to start behaving like a good citizen of the world, ”he said.
Similarly, the foreign affairs spokesman for the opposition National Party, Gerry Brownlee, said the deportation was “pretty gruesome,” while party leader Judith Collins suggested that New Zealand should retaliate with a deportation policy of its own. .
What happens next?
Despite the impact the policy has had on its relationship with its closest ally, Australia has offered no indication that it plans to change course.
Speaking in parliament this week, Dutton said Australia “did not apologize” for the policy.
Dutton said the government had a policy of “canceling visas for dangerous criminals, for people who have committed serious crimes against Australian citizens.”
He said Australia’s ruling party, the Coalition, had changed the law in 2014, “because we were quite surprised when we came to government and saw the fact that very few people, particularly those who had committed the most heinous crimes against children, women and men in this country were allowed to stay in our country and repeat these crimes against other victims.
“So we don’t apologize for stepping up that show and doing it dramatically,” Dutton said.
Ardern has yet to respond to calls to refer Australia to the UN, but New Zealand’s Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins called it a “deplorable move by the Australian government, with which we do not agree” .
“Having said that, they have the right to do so,” he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism