Advocate doesn't expect significant concessions from Australia over 501s, calls for greater support when they get to NZ

A long-time advocate for providing 501 deportees with more support doesn't expect any significant concessions from the new Australian government on its controversial immigration policy.

At a joint press conference with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday, Anthony Albanese, who became Australia's new Prime Minister in May, said Section 501 of the country's immigration legislation would stay under his government.

However, he said he was open to discussing with ministers how it was implemented. It was previously reported that Albanese's Labor was interested in tweaking the rules so decisions around deportation better take into account the length of time someone has been in Australia.

The Aussie leader said on Tuesday discussions would focus on whether the policy "operates in a sensible way". 

Section 501 of Australia's Migration Act has long been a point of contention between Australia and New Zealand. It allows Australia to send people back to their home country if they don't pass a character test - such as going to prison for more than 12 months.

It's a concern for New Zealand as people with few ties here or who have hardly spent time in the country are being sent back with little to no support.

Filipa Payne, an advocate for deportees, isn't taking any heart from Albanese's comments.

"I think the Australian Prime Minister had a long time as Opposition. He could have come to the table knowing the portfolios and knowing that if he made change now, it would impact hundreds of people's lives for the better."

Given that, Payne continues to call for a "wrap-around service" for deportees.

"We need a service that isn't just available from 9 to 5, but available at the time that is crucial, at night times with the time difference. We need to be able to support them to get their superannuation out of Australia and be self-sufficient with their own funds. We need to actually start caring."

She wants to see a reintegration programme similar to that set up for refugees entering New Zealand, which would include helping them to get a driver's licence and sorting out custody issues. Like refugees, Payne makes the point that deportees are coming to a country they don't know and is of a different culture.

The 501 population in New Zealand is often blamed for rising gang tensions in the country.  Newshub revealed earlier this year that the so-called 501 deportees have been convicted of more than 8000 offences in New Zealand since 2015. 

Payne says the Government can make a difference by providing support instead of "condemning them and placing them back in prison".

During her visit to Australia last week, Ardern said she wasn't calling on our closest partner to stop their deportation policy but to "stop deporting Australians".

"What we've simply asked is that there's greater reciprocity," she said. "New Zealand, of course, supports individuals who've been to New Zealand for a short time, and who have acted outside our expectations for anyone who chooses to stay as a resident.

"But there are some who are being deported from Australia who, for all intents and purposes, are Australian - often zero connection to New Zealand, sometimes not even having stepped foot there. That's the place that we're asking for that consideration to be given."

Ardern previously called the policy "corrosive" to the New Zealand-Australia relationship and said in 2020 called out then-Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison over it.