Since Jacinda Ardern took power, she has consistently raised the issue of deportations with Australia, including with counterpart Scott Morrison. Photo: Supplied.

An Australian inquiry into the deportation of criminals – and those whose character is deemed unfit – recommends making special considerations for Kiwis who regard Australia as their home.

However, the committee’s Labor members produced a dissenting report, calling for a further independent review. Both Labor and the Liberals have agreed to discuss the issue, but there has been no commitment to changes by either side.

New Zealand has pushed back on Australia’s deportation of Kiwis living in Australia since former Prime Minister Tony Abbott changed the law in 2014.

Since Jacinda Ardern took power in New Zealand, the topic has been the source of rising trans-Tasman tensions.

Last week, Ardern said the policy’s impact on relations between the neighbouring countries had been “corrosive”, and Winston Peters said it was “a festering sore” in regards to justice and human rights.

Over half of all visa cancellation cases in Australia are New Zealanders, and Kiwis make up 13 percent of those in immigration detention.

Between January 2015 and February 22, 2019, 1664 people were deported to New Zealand from Australia.

Over half of the visa cancellations in 2017 were New Zealanders, despite Kiwis making up less than 10 percent of the country’s migrant population.

On Friday, a spokesperson for Ardern said the Government had consistently raised its concerns that people with little or no depth of connection with New Zealand were being deported here from Australia.

The New Zealand High Commission’s submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration was part of the effort to raise concerns with authorities, the spokesperson said.

“It’s pleasing to see the Australian Parliament has recognised some of the concerns New Zealand and the Prime Minister has been raising.

“We will follow with close interest the Federal Government’s response to the Parliamentary committee’s report, noting that Prime Minister [Scott] Morrison acknowledged at the recent trans-Tasman leadership meeting that Australia will work through individual cases sensitively.”

Kiwis disproportionately affected

Peter Dutton, Australia’s hardline home affairs minister, ordered the inquiry into the processes associated with visa cancellations made on criminal grounds. And this week the inquiry reported back with six recommendations, including two relating specifically to treatment of Kiwi citizens living in Australia.

The committee, led by Liberal MP Jason Wood, called for a specific provision allowing the historic special immigration status of New Zealand citizens, and its impact on take up of citizenship in Australia, to be a secondary consideration in reviewing character cancellations.

The essence of the recommendation was to mitigate the disproportionate effect on Kiwis living in Australia.

Over half of the visa cancellations in 2017 were New Zealanders, despite Kiwis making up less than 10 percent of the country’s migrant population.

Last week, Ardern met with Morrison where she echoed the words of former High Commissioner Chris Seed, who said the deportation issue was “corrosive” to the trans-Tasman relationship. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealanders were particularly vulnerable to deportation because historically they did not have a need to become citizens. Before 2001, New Zealanders in Australia could access most forms of social security without becoming citizens, and could obtain Australian citizenship without having to become permanent residents first.

But law changes mean Kiwis can no longer automatically access many forms of social security and it has became harder to obtain citizenship.

The recommendations came about in part because of strong submissions by former New Zealand High Commissioner to Australia Chris Seed, and advocacy group Oz Kiwi.

The committee said the consideration should not be taken into account if the applicant had ever been convicted of a serious violent or sexual crime, such as rape, murder, sexual offences involving children, aggravated assault or armed robbery.

Given this provision, even if the recommendation was enacted, there would still be an issue with serious offenders being deported to New Zealand, including some with no real connections to the country.

Dissenting report from Labor

The Labor members of the committee, Maria Vamvakinou, Shayne Neumann, Steve Georganas and Kristina Keneally, said they agreed the immigration situation of Kiwis in Australia had left the cohort vulnerable, which resulted in them being over-represented in cancellation statistics.

And while the Labor MPs supported the intent of the recommendation, they believed the issue required a more thorough examination. So they produced a dissenting report.

The MPs recommended the Australian government commission an independent review into the impacts of these deportations, by someone with expertise in both criminal and administrative law.

Access to education

The inquiry also recommended all young people from New Zealand who are living permanently in Australia, and who have completed at least four years of their higher education in Australia, should be eligible to access student loans through the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP).

In its submission to the inquiry, Oz Kiwi said offending may be more likely when people did not have access to higher education.

This recommendation was supported by all committee members.

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