Australia 'quite right' to send people back to New Zealand - National's David Bennett

Morrison and Bennett.
Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison, left, and National MP David Bennett. Photo credit: Getty Images/File

National MP David Bennett has no issues with Australia's controversial 501 immigration policy, insisting Australia "can do what they like".

The 501 policy has been highlighted as one of many incidents causing friction between the two nations of recent times, with Australia's Home Affairs Minister earlier this year labelling those deported to New Zealand as "trash".

Deportees known as '501s' are named after the character section of the Australian Migration Act that allows the cancellation of their visas. The majority have lived in Australia for most of their lives and have criminal records. 

Speaking to Magic Talk's Sunday Cafe, Bennett and Labour MP Greg O'Connor were discussing the imminent arrival of Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison - who will meet Jacinda Ardern face-to-face for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded.

Asked if we're likely to see the New Zealand-Australia relationship heal during Morrison's visit, O'Connor dismissed recent tensions as typical sibling arguments.

But Bennett, speaking to Magic Talk alongside O'Connor, said New Zealand needed to be mindful of the Australian government and work with them.

"It feels like that relationship is at a low point and it's probably a point-of-difference between a left and a right government," Bennett told host Nats Levi.

But O'Connor hit back by raising the 501 policy.

"It's quite interesting we had right-wing governments in both countries and John Key was staying with their Prime Minister over there - that was when we got the biggest problem between us, which was the 501s."

Bennett had no issue with the 501 policy, however.

"The Australians are quite right to send people back here that are, as you say, 'our' people.

"They knew they were New Zealanders because they're not entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as the Australian citizens."

O'Connor then probed Bennett on whether he supported the 501 policy.

"I do," Bennett responded after being questioned several times. "The Australians can do what they like."

Prime Minister Ardern has previously hit out at the 501 policy. She said earlier this year the Government had a "specific objection" to people being deported from Australia who they considered Australians. 

National leader Judith Collins, meanwhile, has said she supports a reciprocal policy - something former leader Simon Bridges called for last year.