Australia needs 'flexibility' in Kiwi deportations - Key

Australia needs 'flexibility' in Kiwi deportations - Key

A way to prove the good relationship between New Zealand and Australia could be shown in "flexibility" in its deportation policy, the Prime Minister says.

The rights of Kiwis in Australia will be one of the major talking points between John Key and new Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who will be in Auckland on his first trip in the job.

Around 200 New Zealanders are being held in detention centres across Australia awaiting deportations, including 40 on Christmas Island.

They're there as a result of a policy under former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in which those sentenced to 12 months' prison or more will be deported back to their countries.

It's been criticised because many Kiwis who are in line to be deported have very few links to New Zealand because many have spent much of their lives in Australia.

Mr Key says the issue will be raised during a bilateral meeting with Mr Turnbull on Saturday, but he can't guarantee anything will change.

"When politicians on both sides of the Tasman talk about how New Zealand and Australia are family, I think they mean that but one of the ways of demonstrating that is a bit more flexibility about where the threshold is set for this policy."

Mr Key says the threshold for Kiwis is "set in the wrong place. It is too low". More consideration was also needed to be given to personal circumstances, he said.

While the deportation policy was aimed at those of every nationality aside from Australia, Mr Key says it seems to affect Kiwis more because their population in Australia is greater.

"We happen to be one of the bigger numbers because of sheer labour movement," he said at his post-Cabinet news conference yesterday.

He believed the there was room to try influence the policy, but New Zealand can't force Australia to do anything.

"It's important we don't box him into a corner, we can't badger him, we can't force him to change policy but we can ask him to consider the wider ramifications.

"There's a powerful argument there, maybe over time we can get change. Let's see," he said.

Mr Turnbull's predecessor Tony Abbot gave "positive signals" about changing the rights of Kiwis in Australia during private talks, Mr Key said.

Yesterday, Labour claimed the Government had known about a possible influx of around 1000 Kiwis set to return under the policy and departments were making preparations for it.

Foreign affairs spokesman David Shearer said at least six agencies – police, foreign affairs, health, justice, immigration and internal affairs, have known about it since the beginning of the year.

"The return of these people - many of whom have no jobs, accommodation, friends, family or support systems here - is likely to cost New Zealand millions."

His office asked where and how many Kiwis there were in detention centres.

"We were trying to get a sense of how big the issue is for New Zealand of course government departments have done some work."

Mr Key says the Government had become aware of the situation this year where a "top line" number of around 1000 people was used.

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