Nanaia Mahuta hits back at Peter Dutton in deportee row: His comments 'only serve to trash his own reputation'

"Taking the trash out" - those are the words of Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, referencing criminals deported back to New Zealand. 

Deportees were hounded by a reporter as they boarded an Australian chartered flight earlier on Thursday. The deportees were marched to the flight in Brisbane, bound for Auckland - an unfamiliar destination.

It's yet another crack in the increasingly fraught trans-Tasman relationship. 

A Channel 9 reporter was given government access to the tarmac to question the deportees at their most vulnerable. 

"How does it feel to be kicked out of Australia?" a reporter asked a deportee. 

"F**k off," the woman replied. 

One of them has spoken to Newshub, describing the experience as "horrible". 

Taryn O'Dowd was one of those on this flight. The 41-year-old has lived in Australia for 32 years. She was convicted of a drug possession and sentenced to 18 months in prison and then deported.

The woman who said "f**k off" is one of O'Dowd's friends. 

"I left behind two children so I was boarding that plane knowing that I was never ever coming back. And then to have those things yelled at you as you're boarding a plane in handcuffs..." O'Dowd told Newshub. 

"Our country doesn't want you, are you excited to go home?" the reporter asked the deportees. 

O'Dowd said it was "horrible". 

"The last thing I heard leaving Australia was 'we don't want you here'."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has previously labelled Australia's hard-line deportation policy as corrosive to the Anzac relationship.

"Do not deport your people and your problems," she said in February 2020. 

O'Dowd says she is an Australian. 

"I am not a product of New Zealand. New Zealand has nothing to do with my crimes." 

But Australia's Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has another label for her. 

"Well it's taking the trash out," he said. 

O'Dowd strongly disagrees. 

"Derogatory as anyone can get," she said of Dutton's comments. "Human beings, no matter their circumstances, are certainly not trash."

Ardern wouldn't be drawn on Dutton's language - only the policy.

"The Australian Government is within their rights to do what they're doing," she said. "It just so happens we strongly disagree."

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins was more than happy to pipe up - with a synonym for 'trash'

"This is Australia exporting its garbage to New Zealand," he said, before quickly backtracking. 

"I don't necessarily completely agree with that sentiment," he said. "I probably should have chosen a better frame of words."

Perhaps it's best to leave the sledging to Foreign Affairs Minister, Nanaia Mahuta. 

"Look, Dutton's comments only serve to trash his own reputation," she said. 

Rebekah Holt, a Kiwi journalist in Australia specialising in immigration and detention, says Dutton's comments were "racist dog-whistling". 

"I think it's important to name it for what it is," she told Newshub. "It's really harming the relationship with New Zealand."

She says the timing of the piece is interesting, because this week marked three years that two little girls have been locked up and treated like criminals in detention centres. 

"It's not surprising that this has been the response this week," she said. "It doesn't make that response any less embarrassing."

It's embarrassing and expensive: 300 deportees have touched down in New Zealand in the past year. That's 300 through our managed isolation facilities at a cost of $1.6 million - all paid for by taxpayers.