Distant riot causes unrest at home

Prime Minister John Key
Prime Minister John Key

It's happening 7500 kilometres away, but the riot at Australia's Christmas Island detention centre is causing unrest here at home.

Labour has accused the Prime Minister of being "gutless" for not helping New Zealand detainees, but John Key says the Opposition is supporting rapists.

Nearly 600 New Zealanders have been awaiting deportation from Australia, with at least 34 people convicted of child sex offences, 22 for murder and 16 rape or sexual assault.

There were 585 Kiwis waiting for their Australian visas to be cancelled as of May 31, 2015 according to Australian government figures, with the majority convicted for assault and other violent offences. 

There were extraordinary scenes in Parliament as the debate about Kiwi detainees became bitter and divisive.

It all started with Labour MP Kelvin Davis ambushing the Prime Minister on his way into Parliament.

"Prime Minister you've been gutless, you need to help the 501s," Mr Davis said, before being brushed aside by the Prime Minister's security.

Mr Key responded to the Labour MP in Parliament. "Mr Davis if you want to put yourself on the side of sex offenders, go ahead my son, but we'll defend New Zealanders."

There was aggression on both sides of the House; a fight over whether enough is being done to help the Kiwis in detention centres like Christmas Island.

"It's not actually easy because some of [the detainees] are rapists, some of them are child molesters, and some of them are murderers and these are the people the Labour Party are saying are more important to support than New Zealanders who deserve protecting when they come back here," Mr Key said.

The Kiwis are known as '501s' after section 501, the hard-line law forcing them out of Australia because of previous criminal convictions.

Now they are trapped while they are processed.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promised the detainees could get out and back to New Zealand "quickly", though Mr Key today revealed quickly could actually mean weeks.

"What the Labour Party is saying is 'to hell with the rest of New Zealanders – these people should be put on a commercial aircraft and dispatched to New Zealand'. Well you back the rapists and I'll back New Zealand," said Mr Key.

Labour took offence to the comments, and with the Speaker refusing to order Mr Key to apologise there was a mass walkout.

So as riots and chaos continue on Christmas Island, there is fury and rage in Parliament.

3 News / NZN