Why Jacinda Ardern wants changes to Australia’s deportation policy and easier routes to citizenship

Jacinda Ardern is the first foreign leader to meet Anthony Albanese on Australian soil since he was sworn in as prime minister last month.
But despite their friendly relationship, the New Zealand Prime Minister has not held back from campaigning for the rights of Kiwis living in Australia.

She used a bilateral meeting with Mr Albanese in Sydney on Friday to urge the federal government to make changes to a policy allowing the deportation of New Zealanders with criminal records who have lived most of their lives in Australia.

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Ms Ardern also called for an improved route to permanent residence and citizenship for Kiwis living in Australia.

What’s So Bad About Australia Deporting Kiwi Criminals?

The issue of Australia deporting New Zealand criminals who have no family or community ties across the Tasman has been a point of tension between the two nations for some time.
An amendment made to Section 501 of the Migration Act in December 2014 means New Zealand citizens sentenced to 12 months in prison can be deported, regardless of how long they have lived in the country.
The penalties can be cumulative, meaning someone who is sentenced to four three-month prison terms meets the criteria.

Ms Ardern has repeatedly criticized the previous government over the policy, including during her visit to Australia in early 2020 when she accused Scott Morrison of deporting “your people, your problems”.

After meeting Mr Albanese on Friday, Ms Ardern said the issue had been widely misrepresented in Australia.
She said New Zealand has never asked Australia to scrap its deportation policy entirely, she just wants “more reciprocity”.
“New Zealand naturally deports people who have been in New Zealand for a short time and have acted outside of our expectations,” she told reporters in Sydney.
“There are some who are deported from Australia who are Australians in every sense (with) often no connection to New Zealand, sometimes not even having set foot there.

“That’s where we ask for that consideration.”

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The deportation of people without a family or support network in New Zealand is “a recipe for disaster,” according to Joanne Cox, chair of the Oz Kiwi advocacy group.
“You can’t expect people to be successful themselves, they don’t have support, they’ve been in prison, they probably don’t have as good life skills as you or I do,” she told SBS News.
“The New Zealand government cannot continue to serve this and support them.”
Ms Cox said she would like to see the 24-month guideline for single-sentence deportation, which applied prior to the December 2014 changes, being reinstated “for now”.

“Certainly children who have arrived under the age of 10 (in Australia) should not be deported,” she said.

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Why do New Zealanders need an easier route to citizenship?

Ms Ardern also called on the new federal government to “provide a realistic and safe path to permanent residence and citizenship for those who need it in Australia”.
Most New Zealand citizens are issued a Special Category Visa (SCV) upon arrival in Australia, which allows them to live and work in the country indefinitely.
But SCVs don’t give them access to a range of services, including unemployment and disability benefits, or the right to work in public service or defense roles.
The only way to achieve this is through Australian citizenship, to which Ms Cox says SCVs offer no direct path.

“Over the years there has been an increasing number of disenfranchised New Zealanders who have no viable option,” she said.

“We estimate that around 200,000 to 250,000 New Zealanders of the approximately 650,000 living in Australia are in this situation and are actively seeking citizenship but are unable to obtain it.”
Among them are Chris Kempton and his wife Sarah.
They arrived in Australia from New Zealand a decade ago, eventually settling in the Northern Territory where their three daughters were born.
Complications caused by the untimely arrival of her three-year-old twins left one of them – Audrey – with multiple medical problems, including mild cerebral palsy.

Mr Kempton said because he and his wife are not citizens, Audrey does not have access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

A photo of a husband and wife family with three young daughters

New Zealand nationals Sarah and Chris Kempton’s three daughters, Constance, Claudia and Audrey, were all born in Australia. Source: delivered

“We fund all of our private physical therapy because we don’t have access to the NDIS, we spent $4,000 on a walker because we don’t have access to the NDIS, we pay for all our pediatric stuff because we don’t have access to that NDIS,” he said.

Mr Kempton said Audrey’s disability also means he and Sarah are now ineligible to apply for permanent residency or citizenship.
“We contribute to society, we don’t complain, we pay a significant chunk of the change when it comes to taxes and we’re very involved in our community and this is our home,” he said.
Mr Kempton said given the rights and services Australians are afforded when they move to New Zealand “it’s very one-sided”.

He said it shouldn’t be “more difficult” for New Zealanders to become Australian citizens “than anyone else in the world”.

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“You can come to Australia, you can pay taxes, you can buy a house, you can do all those things, but you have a special category visa, which basically means you have the sword of Damocles over your head,” he said.

“And if you step out of line, you lose everything.”

How likely is it that the changes will be made?

Ms Ardern said she was “encouraged” by the response she received from Mr Albanese regarding deportation and citizenship issues during their bilateral meeting.
While “Section 501 should be retained”, Mr Albanese said the matter was being “worked through in an orderly manner”, signaling a possible softening of Australia’s approach to the matter.
“What’s clear is that it’s not surprising that if the Prime Minister looks at some of the cases she’s had, she would advocate so strongly,” he told reporters.

“I would be if I was in the same position.”

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But Nationals leader David Littleproud said Australia should still be able to dictate how it deals with people committing crimes in the country.
“If you do the wrong thing in this country, you should pay the fine,” he told reporters in Canberra on Friday.
Ms Cox said she was “quite hopeful” that “positive reforms” will be implemented “in the near future” to residence and citizenship routes now that there has been a change of government in Australia.
“I used to say that Auspol was a trash can, but Auspol has a brighter future now because we have caring, compassionate people in power again,” she said.
Both deportation and citizenship issues will be discussed at a meeting of ministers and heads of state between Australia and New Zealand next month.

With AAP

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