Key to question Turnbull on criminal deportations

Prime Minister John Key (Getty)
Prime Minister John Key (Getty)

Prime Minister John Key has revealed his first request of new Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

He says he wants changes to a policy that is seeing hundreds of New Zealand-born criminals deported.

AJ Graham is one such criminal. A member of the Rebels Motorcycle gang in Tasmania, Graham is extremely violent, with a judge once likening him to an assassin.

He's Kiwi born, but an Aussie criminal.

Now, his visa's been cancelled. He's one of hundreds of New Zealanders Australia is trying to ship back to New Zealand under a new hard line policy, and Prime Minister John Key isn't happy about it.

Mr Key says the issue is at the top of his list of things to talk to Mr Turnbull about.

Australia is cancelling visas for foreigners currently serving a prison sentence, those previously sentenced to 12 months or more in prison and foreigners who have been found guilty of sex crimes against children.

And it is catching out lots of Kiwis, such as Angela Russell, a convicted shoplifter who left New Zealand when she was three. She's been in detention for six months.

But Mr Key says the policy is too harsh.

"We would say someone that has committed a relatively low-level crime, with not much connection to New Zealand having left a long time ago - then actually deportation sounds pretty harsh to us. So we are interested in having those discussions with Malcolm Turnbull," says Mr Key.

Since the policy started in December, 406 Kiwis' visas have been cancelled, 95 have been deported and there are 184 waiting in detention centres.

And Australia is giving New Zealand limited details.

"One issue is the quality of information that we get about deportations," says Mr Key.

It's more than an issue, with our Minister of Justice Amy Adams admitting it is a risk.

"We know their names, we know their offence and we know when they arrived, but that's not enough to really undertake a full risk assessment - there is a level of risk," says Ms Adams.

The policy means New Zealand will be getting some Rebels - one Australian lawyer said he knew of four members awaiting deportation, including Perth's Joel Makaea.

"We don't have any choice," says Ms Adams. "We wouldn't want these people by choice, and that is something we have to discuss with Australia."

"We're certainly working on that," says Mr Key.

That's something for Mr Key and Mr Turnbull to get to work on as soon as possible.

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