The uproar in and outside Parliament yesterday over Chirstmas Island detainees seems to be based on demands from opposition MPs that more be done by John Key and the New Zealand Government about how Australia is dealing with and treating New Zealand born people being detained on Christmas Island.
In Parliamentary conduct described as “despicable” (Newstalk ZB):
The House descended in chaos and acrimony yesterday after the prime Minister said the Labour Party was defending rapists and sex offenders with its stance over Kiwi detainees on Christmas Island.
Labour is ‘furious’ about Key’s Question Time accusations, with Labour MP Grant Robertson saying his party’s simply asking that more be done for the Kiwis being detained.
“We are saying the Prime Minster needs to show some leadership on that. That is not backing the crimes that people in there have committed by any means.”
There seems to be more too it than “simply asking that more be done for the Kiwis”. There coukld be a bit of political posturing as well.
There’s also conflicting information about just how dangerous the New Zealanders imprisoned on Christmas Island are.
Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox said Key’s accusations are rubbish, as she knows of a man currently detained who has no convictions, and even won medals during his army service in Afghanistan.
“He belonged to a gang called the ‘Rebels Biker Gang’ and now he’s been picked up, he’s been targeted and put into a detention centre for deportation based on what? Questionable character.”
I presume Fox and Labour’s Kelvin Davis are basing their comments on what detainees have told them, which may not be the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Some may be detained without good legal reason but I expect that most have either criminal or immigration issues.
In Question Time yesterday:
1. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What action, if any, has he taken to follow up on his statement to Malcolm Turnbull regarding New Zealand – born Australian detainees on Christmas Island, “I think, in the spirit of mateship, there should be some compassion shown”?
Andrew Little: Why is he so weak that he spends his time with Malcolm Turnbull talking about what ties to wear rather than having the moral courage to demand that Australia do what is right for the detainees?
Andrew Little: Why has it taken an inmate to die, a 2-day fire, and a full-blown riot for him and his Ministers to finally lift a finger to do something about it?
Andrew Little: Why does he not stop being so gutless and failing New Zealanders and stand up for New Zealanders on Christmas Island and the 151,000 who are now out of work under his Government?
I think Key’s reaction was unhelpful and inflammatory, and an apology would be appropriate, but he is obviously frustrated by being pushed to do more about something he has little say in, Australia’s dealing of criminal and immigration matters.
And iot’s not just the Opposition demanding more be done.
So Matthew, Grant, Marama, Andrew – what exactly do you think Key can and should be doing that hasn’t been done already?
Mr Key continues to put his hopes in gentle persuasion rather than public criticism of Australian policy. His response to the riot has been almost sympathetic to Canberra, arguing that if Australian prisoners were rioting at Paremoremo he would not expect a protest from the Australian Government. Opposition parties think he should at least be asking questions of Australia at the United Nations, where it is under investigation by the Human Rights Council, and seeks a seat on that body.
But the fact remains New Zealand has more to lose than to gain by pressing too hard. Citizens of no other country have the right to live and work in Australia as freely as New Zealanders do, without becoming citizens or officially permanent residents. This privilege has been enjoyed by citizens of both countries since time immemorial, but never formalised, it seems.
We have no treaty to invoke against deportation of Kiwis who have been there a long time. We can only hope Kiwis who go there take note, and do not let us down.
Many of the New Zealand detainees have abused a privilege given to just us by Australia. Getting loud and angry like Davis and Little may achieve more – but it may not be the sort of more they are presumably aiming at.
More restrictions on New Zealanders going to Australia and living in Australia would affect many more Kiwis and ex-Kiwis than are detained on Christmas Island.
I wonder if Labour here would be so demanding that more be done if there was a Labor government in Australia?
Regardless, what more could or should New Zealand do over the Australian detainee issue?