Australia an ‘open door’ to New Zealand concerns over deportees
Jacinda Ardern claims a breakthrough – but not yet a victory – as she tries to convince Australia to change its policy of sending deportees to New Zealand.
Ardern said Australia’s new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, offered “more of an open door than we’ve had in years” on Kiwis’ longstanding concerns.
The pair met in Sydney this week, when Ardern became the first guest at Kirribilli House during Albanese’s tenure.
Labor and Labor Prime Ministers have gone through diplomatic gestures: the smiling handshakes, the big smiles, the exchange of gifts and the formalities.
Ardern had not described Albanese as her friend before arriving in Australia, but she said she was comfortable being called a “great friend” by the new prime minister soon after her arrival.
“I’m happy to opt for the rapid elevation to friend status,” she said. “It was not a standing start. The Prime Minister and I have met and spoken before.”
Beyond the niceties – which included an exchange of vinyl records – Ardern wanted to advance the thorny issue of deportations.
New Zealand is protesting Australia’s practice of deporting criminals unconnected to Aotearoa, which leaves arrivals unconnected to society and without a community.
“We don’t expect Australia to stop deportations,” she told Kiwi reporters after their double press conference, “what we’re asking for is actually to stop deportations. deport Australians”.
After Ardern’s “strong” representation, Albanese pledged to review the policy, with no guarantees.
READ MORE: Lawyer hopes Ardern will ‘fully’ address 501 deportees
“We will work on some of these issues by then, and we will have a ministerial meeting, a leaders meeting, next month,” he said.
“And we will work with our department, work to implement how Section 501 has been handled. We have listened to the concerns and there is still work to be done.”
The comments were widely interpreted as laying the groundwork for a relaxation of its policy, and Ardern hailed it as a “significant step”.
“It’s a significant shift in language we’ve had from previous Australian governments,” she said.
“I’ve never seen someone willing to peek before.”
Ardern was also delighted to hear that the new Australian government was ready to talk about removing barriers to citizenship for Kiwis living in Australia.
These barriers prevent Kiwis from accessing benefits, concession rates or disability assistance, or from working in government or defense jobs.
“It has been a constant problem for New Zealand since [changes in 2001]”, said Ardern,
“We’ve maintained the same levels and access for Australians throughout…and have looked for Australia to come back.
“There has been recognition of this problem.
“You heard there was work to do…it was more of an open door than we’ve had in years.”