Key defends outcome of detention talks

  • 19/10/2015
Prime Minister John Key (Simon Wong)
Prime Minister John Key (Simon Wong)

By Sarah Robson

Prime Minister John Key would prefer it if Australia ditched the controversial immigration policy that's led to around 200 Kiwis being held in detention centres.

But he acknowledges that's unlikely to happen and insists he's managed to secure a few concessions from his Australian counterpart over the treatment of New Zealanders facing deportation.

Mr Key met with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Auckland on Saturday and the detention and deportation of Kiwis under Australia's new rules was high on the agenda.

The rules, which came into effect in December, mean anyone who isn't an Australian citizen and who has served a prison sentence of 12 months or more can be deported.

It could potentially affect around 1000 New Zealanders and concerns have been growing for the plight of those being held in detention centres - including 40 at the notorious Christmas Island facility - while they wait to be sent back to New Zealand.

There won't be any exemptions for Kiwis caught out by immigration policy change, but Mr Turnbull has promised a speedier appeal process.

Kiwis stuck in detention centres are also able to fly back to New Zealand while they undertake those appeals.

That should eliminate the need for people to be held in those facilities, Mr Key says.

"They may not want to come home, they may argue their family's over there and they might have a variety of other reasons, but they are free to come home and have all of their appeal processed," he told reporters today.

"[Mr Turnbull] did give us a commitment for a lot more resources to speed up that process and I accept him at his word that he's doing that."

Mr Key said a third of the people who have made appeals since the new rules came into effect have had their visas reinstated.

That showed that authorities were taking into account an individual's particular circumstances, he said.

Mr Key admits he'd prefer Australia to "go back to the old law", but he said the fact the policy had cross-party support makes that an unlikely prospect.

He also ruled out lowering New Zealand's threshold for deporting Australians.

"I don't think we should go down the retaliation route, I just don't think that takes us anywhere, I don't think it's who we are as a country."