According to Australian immigration law, any non-citizen sentenced to 12 months or more imprisonment (even if the prison sentence had occurred years prior) must have their visa cancelled. This particular policy has a disproportionate effect on the estimated 650,000 New Zealanders living in Australia — one of the largest groups of migrants. Additionally, many of those New Zealanders have lived a large portion of their lives in Australia.
As such, Australia’s controversial deportation policy has been used to deport hundreds of New Zealanders every year.
In contrast to the Australian laws, New Zealand’s policy means non-citizens of NZ cannot be deported if they have lived in NZ for more than 10 years. The policy has put a strain on the Australia-New Zealand relationship, with New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern commenting, “in my view, this issue has become corrosive in a relationship over time”.
In some instances, New Zealanders who moved to Australia when they were children were not aware that they were not considered Australian citizens. Taryn O’Dowd, 41, who was one of the New Zealanders deported from Australia, spoke of her experience to SBS News, saying “I am remorseful and I went to prison, and I learnt my lesson. I think this is a bit harsh. This is a life sentence for me”. O’Dowd is now unable to see her two children who live in Australia.
This is a particularly important point for Ardern, who has also said “I’ve made it clear that New Zealand has no issue with Australia taking a dim view of newly arrived non-citizens committing crimes … but equally, the New Zealand people have a dim view of the deportation of people who move to Australia as children and have grown up there”.
Despite calls for change from across the ditch, the Coalition’s policy has remained firm. In March this year, then-Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said “because we were quite amazed when we came into government and saw the fact that very few people, particularly those who had committed the most heinous offences against children and women and men in this country, were allowed to stay in our country and to repeat those offences against further victims”.
In March this year, Minister Dutton made a comment on the deportation of New Zealanders as “taking the trash out” to “make Australia a safer place”. Additionally, around this time, reports came out that a 15-year-old was deported — further raising questions on the policy.
Why is this in the news again?
Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern have held talks this week in New Zealand where they’ve discussed a range of issues — including deportation. Although there have not been any reports on the conversations, it is expected that there will be little movement on the policy. Professor Robert Ayson from Victoria University of Wellington said, “but I think that in a sense the two countries are used to this exchange … I think that this is just another episode in a long-running story where there obviously is a difference”.