New Zealand’s opposition leader has walked back a suggestion his National party could strip the rights of Australians if Anthony Albanese’s government doesn’t give ground on deportations.
Australian deportations across the Tasman is a crunch issue in NZ, which is experiencing a rise in gang-related and violent crime, particularly in Auckland.
Opposition Leader Chris Luxon is campaigning strongly on the issue, citing figures from a police report which show 2429 people were deported from Australia between 2015 and 2020.
The report also states 49 per cent of deportees reoffend after landing in New Zealand, and about one third of deportees didn’t set foot there for a decade prior to deportation.
Kiwis judge Australia harshly for for the practice, and the issue is regularly raised by NZ governments to their counterparts in Canberra.
In 2020, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern publicly excoriated Scott Morrison for the practice, and she lobbied Mr Albanese for changes last week during a bilateral meeting in Sydney.
However, NZ has not taken retaliatory action over the deportations.
Unlike New Zealanders living in Australia, Australians living in NZ receive a wide range of welfare benefits, vote in elections and have a clear pathway to citizenship.
Asked by Today FM host Tova O’Brien whether it was time “we started stripping Australians of the rights (they) have here”, Mr Luxon appeared to agree.
“Reciprocal rights? I’m up for that conversation. No problem with that conversation,” he said.
Queried further by AAP, a spokesman said Mr Luxon misheard the question as a reference to a previous conversation.
“National is not considering stripping rights of Australians in New Zealand,” the spokesman said.
National’s campaigning, which has included calls for the police minister to stand down, appears to have influenced the government.
This week, Ms Ardern moved on Poto Williams in a cabinet reshuffle – installing veteran Chris Hipkins in her place – citing a lost “narrative” on crime.
Recent public polling puts Mr Luxon’s National slightly ahead of Labour, with an election due in the last half of 2023.