Kiwi Alcatraz detention fiasco
The Age story:
The growing number of Kiwis languishing in Australian detention centres and being deported for minor crimes will be a sore point in Malcolm Turnbull’s talks with his New Zealand counterpart during his first overseas trip as prime minister.
Mr Turnbull and his wife Lucy are due to touch down in Auckland on Friday night, heading straight to a private dinner at a downtown restaurant with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and his wife Bronagh.
Mr Turnbull and Mr Key are cut from the same political cloth – both are pragmatic, moderate conservatives with an economic focus and are expected to get along well. Indeed, on the night Mr Turnbull seized power from Tony Abbott he nominated Mr Key as a successful international leader he would seek to emulate.
But the trip won’t all be backslapping and bonhomie.
New Zealanders are furious over the detention and deportation issue and Mr Key has promised to be “extremely direct” with Mr Turnbull on the issue during their formal talks on Saturday.
Up to 240 New Zealanders are currently being held in Australian detention centres, including 40 on Christmas Island, which some in the media have now dubbed the “Kiwi Alcatraz”.
Mr Key said this week there were about 1000 Kiwis were “in the pipeline for deportation from Australia”.
The growing numbers come as a result of tough new immigration rules under which people can have their visas cancelled if they’ve been cumulatively sentenced to 12 months or more in prison. The change means some Kiwis who have lived in Australia for much of their lives are facing deportation for relatively minor crimes.
Mr Key hopes Mr Turnbull will find a way to make some special dispensations.
“When politicians on both sides of the Tasman talk about the fact that Australia and New Zealand are family, I think they actually mean that,” Mr Key said this week. “But one of the ways of demonstrating that would be a bit more flexibility about where the threshold is set for this particular policy.”
It is believed to be the first time an Australian prime minister has made New Zealand their first overseas destination.
Also high on the agenda will be the economy. Mr Turnbull is a vocal admirer of the way Mr Key has introduced major economic reforms with a minimum of fuss. Mr Key’s government has also just delivered its first budget surplus since coming to power amidst the global financial crisis in 2008.
The pair will also discuss developments in Pacific island nations, terrorism and the conflicts in Iraq and Syria and a slew of upcoming international summits. They will also discuss climate change, a vexed issue for Mr Turnbull.
Perhaps its time to looks at how Australia is treating New Zealand citizens.