Bill to monitor deportees passes first reading
By Peter Wilson
An urgent Bill that would allow New Zealanders with criminal records to be monitored and supervised when they arrive from Australia has passed its first reading in Parliament.
The vote was 107 in favour and 14 abstentions - the Greens.
Justice Minister Amy Adams says about 20 New Zealanders are expected to return from Australia as early as Thursday, and there are serious offenders among them.
She wants her Bill passed into law tonight, or Wednesday morning at the latest.
"We cannot stop Australia exercising its sovereign right to deport any category of people their parliament decides is lawful," she told Parliament when she launched the first reading debate.
"It is critical we have in place a regime that can manage and supervise the offenders who do return, many of whom have been convicted of serious offences."
The Bill allows authorities to impose supervision and monitoring conditions on the returning Kiwis in the same way as if they had served their sentences in New Zealand.
Labour is reluctantly supporting the Bill.
"In principle we agree with the need for this," said Jacinda Ardern.
"But it need not have been rushed ... and there is nothing in it about reintegration.
"People will be walking out of an airport with nowhere to go."
The Greens are abstaining because the Bill is being rushed through.
"This is not a national emergency, so it is unacceptable that there is no public submission period," said co-leader Metiria Turei.
Ms Adams says she has a rough idea of the type of offences committed by those who are returning this week.
"They certainly include sexual violence, serious violence, robbery and drug offences.
"When they arrive they will be met by police, corrections staff and social agencies ... then served with notices making them aware of their supervision conditions."
Ms Adams says if they refuse to co-operate they can be locked up.
"They've served their time and punishment, offenders are released like that every day," she said.
"But they should have the same oversight that we have over New Zealanders who have served their sentences here."
She understands most of them will be coming from the Christmas Island detention centre, where there was a riot last week, and have chosen to return to New Zealand and appeal against their visa cancellations from here.
About 200 New Zealanders are reported to be in detention in Australia awaiting deportation.
According to Australian figures, there are 585 Kiwis with criminal records in the deportation pipeline.
Under new immigration laws, Australia can deport any non-citizen who has served a sentence of 12 months or more or fail a character test.