Australia takes New Zealand's concerns 'very seriously', recognises 'complexities' in accused terrorist's citizenship

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne says New Zealand's concerns are taken "very seriously", including outrage over the citizenship of an accused terrorist. 

In February, 26-year-old woman Suhayra Aden from Melbourne was arrested by Turkish authorities near the border with Syria over her alleged links to Islamic State. 

She held dual Australian-New Zealand citizenship, but hadn't lived in New Zealand since she was six. That didn't stop Australia from revoking her Australian citizenship, washing their hands of the problem and dumping it on New Zealand. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was furious. She accused Australia of "abdicating its responsibilities", because "any fair-minded person" would consider the woman Australian.  

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his priority was protecting his country. Australian law allows the Home Affairs Minister to strip anyone suspected of terrorism of their citizenship, as long as it wouldn't leave them stateless. 

The Australian Foreign Minister has acknowledged the citizenship issue is complex, particularly since it involves Suhayra Aden's two young children. 

Standing alongside Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta at the Beehive on Thursday, Payne said the pair will work together to resolve the issue. 

"I think it's fair to say that Minister Mahuta and I have had a very constructive discussion about this issue and related matters today," Payne said. 

"We have a very close working relationship with our international partners, and that absolutely includes New Zealand, on management of national security issues, of which this is one aspect."

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta and her counterpart Marise Payne at the Beehive in Wellington.
Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta and her counterpart Marise Payne at the Beehive in Wellington. Photo credit: Newshub

Payne said she wanted to be "very clear" that regardless of the steps taken by Australia to date, both countries now recognise the complexities. 

"We are working through those issues in the spirit of our bilateral relationship, particularly in relation to children, and they're matters upon which we'll continue to work together."

Payne was asked if Australia has New Zealand's best interests at heart, to which she replied: "Australia takes the concerns that New Zealand raises very seriously."  

"We both now acknowledge that the case now has a number of complexities and we will work through those issues in the spirit of this important and deep bilateral relationship - closest of bilateral relationships - particularly in relation to matters concerning children. That is something which we have undertaken to discuss from our consultations today."

Suhayra Aden.
Suhayra Aden. Photo credit: Yeni Safak newspaper screenshot

National leader Judith Collins told The AM Show in February the Government should have acted first and revoked the accused terrorist's citizenship. 

"Obviously New Zealand has to look after New Zealand's position, and unfortunately the Australians have moved faster by revoking the citizenship of this jihadi woman. The main thing to understand is that the Australians are going to play for keeps, and perhaps New Zealand should too."

Article 15 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlaws people being "arbitrarily deprived" of their nationality, meaning New Zealand's hands are now tied on the matter.

Payne arrived in New Zealand just days after the opening of quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel. Morrison is set to fly here next month, according to Australian media reports. 

Mahuta and Payne canvassed several hot topics, including the controversial deportation of Kiwis from Australia, and Mahuta's revelation this week that New Zealand isn't comfortable with expanding the scope of the Five Eyes intelligence network.