Australia Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has slammed Jacinda Ardern's "regrettable" comments to Scott Morrison over its hardline deportation policy.
Introduced in 2014, the policy has seen more than 1000 people deported back to New Zealand from Australia despite some not having lived here for decades.
Prime Minister Ardern met with Australian PM Morrison last week. At a joint press conference, she told him not to "deport your people and your problems".
Speaking to Sky News Australia on Monday, Dutton said it was "regrettable" she made those comments.
"New Zealand is obviously in an electoral cycle at the moment," he said.
"That would have played well domestically for her - I think for Australia we act in our national interest and her job is to act in the national interest of New Zealanders, so I don't think there is any surprise there."
As for Ardern, she said at a post-cabinet press conference on Monday, "I describe his policy as regrettable".
"I describe it as corrosive and I have for well over a year," she told reporters.
Ardern said she was defending New Zealand's position.
"I've been raising this consistently with every Australian Prime Minister that I have met with and I will continue to do so."
Australian lawmakers are currently mulling further changes, which experts have warned could see deportations increase five-fold.