Trans-Tasman talks to kick-off


By Lydia Anderson

The word family has been repeatedly used to describe New Zealand's relationship with Australia by the countries' two leaders holding their first bilateral talks.

However, that relationship was not enough to prompt Australia to soften its laws regarding Kiwis with criminal convictions awaiting deportation.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met with Prime Minister John Key at Government House in Auckland this morning where the two leaders talked for about an hour and a half.

At a press conference afterwards, both leaders emphasised the importance of the trans-Tasman relationship, and complimented each other on their leadership.

"We are in every respect a family," Mr Turnbull said, going on to say he hoped to strengthen Australia's relationship with New Zealand.

But when talk quickly turned to Kiwi detainees, Mr Turnbull remained firm.

Under immigration rules which came into effect in December, anyone who isn't an Australian citizen and who has served a prison sentence of 12 months or more can be deported, potentially affecting about 1000 New Zealanders.

Concerns have been growing for the plight of about 200 Kiwis held in Australian detention centres - including 40 at the notorious Christmas Island facility - while they wait to be sent back to New Zealand.

Many have lived in Australia most of their lives.

Although Mr Turnbull was "empathetic" to the concerns raised by New Zealand, he would not make legal exemptions for New Zealanders.

"The policy applies to everybody," he said.

While it appeared a large number of Kiwis had visas revoked, it was simply due to a processing backlog since the policy was introduced and numbers would decline, he said.

However those Kiwis stuck in Australian detention centres could fly home to New Zealand while appealing their visa revocations, he announced.

"There is no need for any New Zealand whose visa has been revoked and who is in detention in Australia to stay there."

More resources were being devoted to help Kiwis fasttrack their appeals process and Australian and New Zealand immigration ministries would form a working group to review how well current processes were working.

Mr Key said he hoped in situations where an individual was not a high risk to Australia, and had strong ties to the country, the "spirit of mateship" would prevail on their visa appeal decision.

Other issues discussed included the economic outlook and New Zealand and Australia's respective contributions to the fight against Islamic State.

Labour leader Andrew Little also met with Mr Turnbull.

He said he was not seeking a law change on Kiwi visa revocations, but had asked that Australia exercise its discretion on a case by case process - particularly where an individual had lived in Australia since they were a child.

Prior to the talks, Mr Turnbull and his wife Lucy were greeted by a stirring powhiri and haka before the Australian flag was raised and the national anthem played by the New Zealand navy marching band.

Mr Turnbull returns to Australia this afternoon.

Earlier in the day Mr Key said he predicts Malcolm Turnbull will break the hoodoo of recent Australian PMs and stay in the job for some time.

"I personally am more than happy to put on the record, I think you'll not only be a fine prime minister of Australia, you will be a long-term leader of Australia," he told a joint press conference with Mr Turnbull in Auckland.

Mr Key has dealt with five different Australian prime ministers since he became New Zealand prime minister in 2008.

Today, Mr Turnbull received an official welcome in New Zealand ahead of the bilateral talks with Mr Key.


After being welcomed at Government House in Auckland, Mr Turnbull and his wife Lucy, were greeted by a stirring powhiri and haka before the Australian flag was raised and the national anthem was played by the New Zealand navy marching band.