New Zealand refused to call out Australia at UN over deportees

The New Zealand government has been vocal in its condemnation of Australia's hardline deportation policy but it has refused to raise the issue with the United Nations.
Stuff revealed on Monday that Australia has deported a 15-year-old boy, a move that ratcheted up tensions between the two countries over the controversial policy.

But despite Prime Minister Ardern publicly challenging Australian counterpart Scott Morrison over the forced removals, her government declined to take concerns to the UN.

The opportunity came as the global organisation conducted a regular review of Australias human rights record.

* Australia notified NZ 'weeks ago' that 15-year-old boy was among criminal deportees
* Mates or mugs? The Australian relationship is now frosty on several fronts
* Kiwi teenager first minor to be deported to New Zealand from Australia

James D Morgan/Getty Images
Jacinda Ardern and Australian Prime Minster Scott Morrison walk to a press conference in Sydney in 2020. Ardern told media his policies were having a corrosive impact on the bilateral relationship.

Community Law Centres Aotearoa, led by former Labour MP Sue Moroney and Filipa Payne, an advocate for returnees, took a petition to Parliament last year urging the Government to raise the issue during the UNs Universal Periodic Review of Australia.

Parliaments Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee forwarded the petition to then-Foreign Minister Winston Peters.

In response, Peters said New Zealand preferred to raise concerns directly with the Australian Government.

In a letter to Payne, he said: each country ... retains the right to determine character requirements for non-citizens.

The Universal Periodic Review examines the human rights record of each UN anggota state every five years.

The country, along with local and international organisations, contribute reports.

Australia appeared before the UN Human Rights Council for its review in Geneva in January.

More than 40 countries, including Brazil, Germany, South Korea and the United States but not New Zealand criticised the Canberra government for its detention of asylum seekers and refugees, use of offshore processing centres and treatment of indigenous people.

And earlier this week, in a statement to the Council, China said it was deeply concerned about the offshore detention centres and asked they be closed. China has faced accusations that it too operates detention centres.

Sam Mooy/Getty Images
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is the architect of Australias tough deportation policy.

Community Law Centres Aotearoa made a submission to the Geneva review alongside penal reform advocates Howard League and the Salvation Army.

It said Australias visa cancellation policy is an egregious breach of [Australias] international human rights obligations.

We specifically are alarmed by the cancellation of large numbers of New Zealand citizens Australian visas ...and the proposed drastic expansion of Australias visa cancellation regime.

Former Labour MP Sue Moroney is campaigning to put pressure on the Australian Government over its deportee policy.

Moroney said it was unusual that Payne, who brought the petition to Parliament, was not invited to speak before the select committee.

It was really odd... they dont have to do it, but mostly a select committee will invite the petitioner to hear from them before they make a determination on the petition. They didnt even do that.

And she said Peters letter didn't actually address the petition at all.

It just said we raised the issues directly with Australia. So in other words, we're not going to take it to the international stage. We're just going to keep talking one-on-one with them.

Well, that's not working. In fact, it's not only not working, it's getting worse.

Moroney said it was time for Arderns Government to change tack.

There is an unspoken rule between Australia and New Zealand that, like family, you deal with it internally. You don't take your dirty laundry out around the world.

That only works if the dialogue, internally, sorts it.

Iain McGregor/Stuff
If New Zealanders choose to appeal their visa cancellation they are detained in detention centres like this one at Villawood, Sydney.

The Labour Party has been a vociferous opponent of the deportation policy, which was implemented by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton in 2014.

In 2015, Kelvin Davis travelled to Christmas Island, where Australia operates a detention centre, to raise the plight of incarcerated Kiwis. They are held in detention centres if they choose to appeal the cancellation of their visas, sometimes for more than a year.

On his return, Davis lambasted the then-National government for failing to raise the matter with international institutions. He said New Zealand should not support an Australian bid to join the United Nations' Human Rights Council until all detainees were released from detention centres.

The incarceration of these men is a blight on Australia. The lack of action from New Zealand's government is a blight on us, he said.

Davis is now the minister for Corrections, which is responsible for returning criminals, and Oranga Tamariki, the agency caring for the deported teenager.

Last year, Ardern made international headlines when she lashed Morrison for testing the friendship between the two nations by deporting your people and your problems.

And last week, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said Dutton trashes his own reputation after he insulted a group of Kiwis deported in February.

Mahutas office didnt respond to a question about whether the Government was considering further action, other than diplomatic representations.

Little is known about the circumstances of the teenager, who is now in managed isolation. The Australian Department of Home Affairs wont say on what grounds they deported him.

A spokeswoman would not discuss the case, but said in a statement on Monday night: A non-citizens visa must be cancelled if they are serving a full-time term of imprisonment for an offence committed in Australia and they have, at any time, been sentenced to a period of 12 months or more imprisonment, regardless of their age or nationality.

Dutton has refused a request for interview.

A spokesman for Oranga Tamariki said: In 2018 NZ Police and Oranga Tamariki finalised a process for supporting and managing young people facing visa cancellation or deportation, after being alerted by Australian authorities that these were likely.

The process has been put into place for the first time with the recent deportation of a 15-year-old boy.

It has worked well, allowing Oranga Tamariki to work closely with NZ Police and other agencies including Health and Immigration to ensure the young person is well supported and connected to his family.


Our Partner