'Racist' attitudes driving Australia's deporting of New Zealanders - former Immigration Minister Aussie Malcolm

Australia's "racist" attitude is driving its policy of deporting New Zealand-born residents who committed crimes back to a country many of them have no connection to, a former Immigration Minister says.

Former National Party MP Aussie Malcolm was Immigration Minister in the third term of Robert Muldoon's Government. He says Australia isn't being fair to its neighbour when it comes to deportations.

"The issue isn't about immigration, the issue is about recognition of New Zealand and New Zealanders as fellow ANZACs," he told The AM Show.

"Over in Australia they've got this, dare I say it, racist attitude that if you're not a gung-ho 'born in Footscray' Aussie, you're not a real person, and that's quite outrageous. It's the same mentality that sees them treat refugees so badly."

Australia has a policy of sending non-citizens sentenced to more than a year in prison back to their country of birth. Due to relaxed visa rules between Australia and New Zealand, as well as the migration between both countries, the policy disproportionately affects Kiwis.

Some of the deported have spent their entire lives away from New Zealand and have no connections here.

The issue is back in the news again after an Official Information Act request from The AM Show found a third of all criminals Australia sent back to New Zealand have reoffended once they got here.

Just under 600 of the 1806 people deported have gone on to re-offend in New Zealand, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has labelled the policy a "major irritant" to trans-Tasman relations.

"If you take it as a relationship that is like family, it is possible to have an irritant whilst actually continuing to maintain a relationship. It is a major irritant," she said.

But Malcolm says it's unfair and biased towards non-white migrants from New Zealand.

"Something changed, what changed... was the mobility of Māori and Pasifika people who increasingly joined the workforce in the cities of New Zealand and then started turning up in Australia," he says. 

"All of a sudden the typical Kiwi, from an Australian point of view, was no longer white."