Government 'pretty peeved with Australia' over terrorist citizenship row

A senior Labour MP says they're still "pretty peeved" with Australia for washing its hands of an alleged terrorist who used to be a dual citizen of both our countries.

Suhayra Aden, 26, was captured after crossing the border from Syria into Turkey. Turkish authorities have alleged she's a member of terror group Islamic State.

Aden was a dual citizen of New Zealand and Australia, but Australia quickly revoked her citizenship - leaving her New Zealand's responsibility. Aden was born here but moved to Australia when she was six, reportedly growing up in Melbourne. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she's had "constructive" conversations with her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison, who's made no apologies for taking a hard line.

"We're pretty peeved with Australia - we've taken responsibility for the incarceration of the Australian terrorist who wreaked havoc on the population of New Zealand, and they do this to us by removing the citizenship of this person who had two citizenships," Labour minister David Parker told The AM Show on Friday, referring to the Australian white supremacist who gunned down 51 people in Christchurch nearly two years ago. 

"We feel that's a bit on the nose. Whatever happens here, this person - if they ever do come back to New Zealand - will face the full force of the law."

Parker noted the previous National-led Government made it illegal to "go and join these sorts of organisations".

"The quandary for the Prime Minister is Aussie got in first, right?" said National MP Simon Bridges, appearing on The AM Show with Parker. 

"I'd say it was a bit of an underarm bowl from the Aussies. Now, we can't cry about that - it is what it is, and Aussies are doing what they do, which is acting in their own interests. The salient points to me are actually now, this is still a Turkey issue - we don't know what they're going to do. So we wait and see what they do."

It's illegal under international law to revoke a person's citizenship if it would leave them stateless. 

Bridges and Parker.
Bridges and Parker. Photo credit: The AM Show

Complicating matters is the fact Aden has two young children. Both Parker and Bridges say they're in no rush to bring Aden 'home', regardless. 

"We shouldn't be in any rush here - people of this category who are coming back from an ISIS situation - are coming with huge problems and huge costs to our country," said Bridges. "They may, in some cases, require 24/7 surveillance and the like. We shouldn't be in any rush here."

"The costs arise mainly if the people did come back to New Zealand, what do you do to make sure they're not going to pose a risk to New Zealand?" added Parker. 

"The safety of the public will be our primary concern."

Earlier this week Bridges' boss, National Party leader Judith Collins, defended what Bridges called an "underarm bowl".

"The Australians are going to play for keeps, and perhaps New Zealand should too," she told The AM Show.

In a later interview she told RNZ Aden "really should be Australia's problem", but felt "very sorry for her two little children".

Otago University professor of international relations Robert Patman told RNZ previous Prime Ministers probably wouldn't have been so public with their anger as Ardern has been.

"The Prime Minister's global profile has increased with her handling of the Christchurch terror atrocity and also her handling of the COVID-19 crisis, so I think she may feel she's now in a position to speak out on an issue which quite frankly does need to be addressed," he told Morning Report. "It's no good tiptoeing around it."