Anthony Albanese shouldn't 'capitulate to demands of Jacinda Ardern' on 501 deportations, top Australia MP says

A senior Australian politician has urged Anthony Albanese's government not to "capitulate to the demands of Jacinda Ardern" over 501 deportations, foreshadowing the domestic political battle Labor may face if it makes tweaks to the controversial policy.

Prime Minister Ardern is currently in Sydney on a trade mission and will hold formal talks with new Australian leader Albanese on Friday when the deportations are likely to be raised.

Section 501 of Australia's Migration Act allows Australia to send people without citizenship there back to their home country if they fail to meet a character test, such as by committing crimes. However, it's meant people with few ties to New Zealand have been sent back with little to no support on the receiving end.

Ardern said on Monday she doesn't expect significant changes this week, noting a key issue is around citizenship - but is looking for signs New Zealand is being heard. 

She consistently brought the issue up with former Aussie Prime Minister Scott Morrison but got nowhere. She famously said Australia shouldn't "deport your people and your problems" while standing beside him and called the policy "corrosive" to the two countries' relationship.

Last month, following his first meeting with Ardern, Albanese said Section 501 would be maintained but ministers would examine how it is currently implemented. That could include tweaking rules to better take into account the length of time someone has been in Australia.

But Karen Andrews, the former Home Affairs Minister responsible for national security and immigration under Morrison, has expressed concern about any changes. 

"I am concerned about the comment that it may well be tweaked. Quite frankly, if Labor is going to capitulate to the demands of Jacinda Ardern to keep foreign criminals in Australia it would be a very worrying sign," Andrews told Sky News Australia on Thursday.

"This is actually important. This isn't politics. This is about keeping Australians safe and secure and keeping foreign criminals off the street. 

"I would be very concerned if Labor did anything to water down the strong position that the Coalition took in government."

Asked if it was right to take into account time lived in Australia for the good of the New Zealand-Australia relationship, Andrews was very blunt. 

"No, a foreign criminal is a foreign criminal. It doesn't matter how long they have spent here if they are a citizen of another nation and they have committed a crime in Australia, I firmly believe they should be deported," she said.

"Anything that makes this a welcome place for criminals should just not be on their agenda."

Andrews, who is a senior member of the Liberal opposition led by Peter Dutton, told Sky News it was the Australian government's role to govern "in the best interests of Australia".

"Yes, a strong relationship with our nearest neighbours, including New Zealand, is important. But the policies that the Coalition put in place were clearly set up and designed to make sure that Australians were safe and secure. 

"That has to be the overriding policy priority of Labor."

Ardern has previously acknowledged that "domestic" political issues are in play but has said New Zealand isn't asking for the entire Section 501 to be repealed. 

"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.

"So anyone who claims that it is somehow going to make Australia less safe: that is not true and it is not fair," Ardern said last month.

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