Nanaia Mahuta raises tense issue of deportees with Australian counterpart

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has reiterated that New Zealand will not back down over the issue of deportees, raising the matter during her meeting today with her Australian counterpart Marise Payne.

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New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister said the issue will continue to be raised.

Mahuta said the issue "will continue to be raised and we will continue to have discussions".

The spat over Australia deporting people with tenuous links to New Zealand rose up again last month, after Australia's Channel 9 aired footage of a planeload of deportees in Australia destined for New Zealand. In the story, Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton referred to the deportations as "taking the trash out".

It spurred Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins to call it a "deplorable move by the Australian Government" and Mahuta at the time said that Dutton’s comments "only serve to trash his own reputation". Australia also deported a 15-year-old to New Zealand. 

Trans-Tasman war of words around Kiwi deportees continues with ‘taking the trash out’ comment
'Taking the trash out' — Planeload of Australian deportees sent to New Zealand

When asked about the spat around deportations, known as 501s, Mahuta said today they had "certainly moved on beyond those particular comments". 

"The things that needed to be said were said at the time the statements were made," she said.  

"We continue to raise our concerns around the issue of deportation and the impact that it has on New Zealand and we've reflected time and again through the Prime Minister and as recently as in our conversation today the level of that concern. 

"These are matters that have been raised, they will continue to be raised and we will continue to have discussions about how we might address that."

Australia's 2014 law deports people who commit crimes back to New Zealand - even if they have spent most of their lives living overseas. 

Mahuta and Payne also spoke about New Zealand's and Australia's close relationship, with Payne saying the opening of the bubble had been "heart warming to see some of the families reunited for such a long time apart".

"It has been very special."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern brought up the issue of deportees during her last face-to-face meeting with Australian PM Scott Morrison in February, 2020.

"Send back Kiwis, genuine Kiwis - do not deport your people, and your problems.

"We will own our people. We ask that Australia stop exporting theirs," Ardern said at the time. 

When asked if the deportation policy was corrosive to the relationship, Morrison said, "you commit a crime here, you’re convicted, once you’ve done your time we send you home".

On if he would change the policy, he answered "no".