Jacinda Ardern knocks 'naïve' Simon Bridges for mulling reciprocal deportations for Australians

The Prime Minister has described National leader Simon Bridges as "naïve" after he proposed a reciprocal retaliation to Australia's policy of deporting Kiwis. 

The Opposition leader said if National's elected he will explore a policy based on amendments to Australia's Migration Act in 2014, which allows for people to have their visas cancelled on character grounds.

Bridges told Magic Talk: "I simply say fair is fair; why wouldn't we do the same to them? Our laws are much more lenient than the Australian laws... When the Aussies are over here, we should reciprocate in New Zealanders' interests."

The Prime Minister has rejected Bridges' stance, telling reporters on Monday: "Personally, I think Mr Bridges' position is naïve."

Ardern has repeatedly labelled Australia's policy "corrosive" to the trans-Tasman relationship in the past, raising the issue with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in early 2019, but she later ruled out retaliation after meeting with him again in July.

The Prime Minister pointed out that New Zealand already deports criminals back to countries from which they hold citizenship, but that with Australia it's a "matter of principle and a matter of proportion".

"My view is, if we think this policy is wrong, why would we then repeat it?

"My position is that we must do and continue to do everything we can to make the point that what Australia is doing is wrong and the best way I can continue to make that is not by replicating something that I don't agree with.

In terms of proportion - Ardern said there are roughly 62,000 Australians living in New Zealand compared to around 650,000 New Zealanders living in Australia.

Bridges said he doesn't agree with Ardern that Australia's policy is "corrosive".

The Opposition leader said if it's right for Australia then it's "worth exploring whether it's also the right position for New Zealand and our interests".

The Prime Minister said she will raise the issue with her Australian counterpart again when she heads to Sydney later this week for the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders' Meeting.

Australia's 2014 policy has most recently returned to the spotlight in New Zealand as figures from the Police Minister showed gang numbers increasing across the country.

Chris Cahill, president of the New Zealand Police Association, said in October gangs have been increasing in size because of deportees from Australia and the influence of Asian organised crime groups.

The deportees from Australia are nicknamed '501s' because of the law change led by Australian politician Peter Dutton. It meant Kiwis deemed "not of good character" could be sent back, many with little connection to New Zealand.

Despite pushback from New Zealand, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in July last year that Australia had "no intention" of reviewing the legislation.

In March 2019, a recommendation was made at an Australian inquiry into the deportation of criminals to make a special consideration for New Zealanders - and while it was considered, no commitment was made. 

Australia has also refused to concede New Zealand's offer to take some of its detained asylum seekers from Australian offshore detention centres.