Little Little success in Australia

Andrew Little’s and Phil Goff’s trip to Australia to lobby for New Zealand ex-pats and detainees seems to have had little success. This isn’t surprising.

NZ Herald reports: Australia won’t budge on deportations

Australia won’t budge on deportations and shows little appetite to examine support for Kiwi expats – but Labour senses softer ground among politicians from both major parties.

Labour leader Andrew Little and MP Phil Goff have completed a day of lobbying in Canberra after meeting Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Opposition leader Bill Shorten.

They received little encouragement from Mr Dutton, except for a promise to look at any individual deportation cases raised by Labour.

“There wasn’t a eureka moment where he said, ‘Oh no, I’ve got it all wrong, but it was useful to have the opportunity to put the case and put the arguments,” said Mr Little, who will tomorrow visit Sydney’s Villawood Immigration Detention Centre.

The visit of New Zealand’s Opposition leader went largely under the Canberra radar. He entered Parliament in the early morning heat past a pack of local reporters with no question asked, and there was only minor interest from Australian media outlets.

However, Mr Little said that there was a broad acceptance from Liberal and Labor members of two committees he presented to that there was some unfairness in the way the rules were applied.

This may have been a reality check for Little in one of his first dabbles in international lobbying, and Australia will be relatively easy.

Leaders of opposition parties can do little at home so will achieve little abroad except perhaps build relationships and experience.

Why did Little take Goff with him? Goff is off next year if he wins the Auckland mayoralty.

Little may have felt he needed experience alongside him on his Australian foray, but surely Labour should be looking at building expertise for the future.

“Even prisoners have rights”

Detainees as well as prisoners have legal and moral rights. But New Zealand MPs seem to have made the detainee/Christmas Island issue all about themselves and their frustrations with how Parliament is being run by the Speaker.

It’s important that people deported from Australia back to New Zealand are given a fair go.

But New Zealanders also have a right to expect reasonable protection against ex criminals returning from Australia.

It’s also important that if any of those people present a risk New Zealanders then appropriate measures must be taken on their return. For example just as a pedophile released from prison in New Zealand may need to be restricted and monitored, so shoukld a pedophile released from prison in Australia and deported back to New Zealand.

TVNZ Australian correspondent Ruth Wynn Williams alludes to prisoner and ex-prisoner rights in Kiwi detainees deserve humanity, dignity and respect.

It’s time to turn back the clock because somewhere, most likely in the halls of New Zealand’s Parliament, the issue of what is happening to Kiwis being deported from Australia seems to be getting lost.

Around 200 New Zealanders are being held in immigration detention centres after the law change that saw their visas cancelled.

It’s no secret that most of the New Zealand citizens being detained in Australia have convictions.

Some details of those convictions have been released.

They’ve served sentences for their crimes; in fact, some of the ‘hardened criminals’ Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton claims are being held on high-security Christmas Island were so dangerous they were ordered to serve those sentences in their very own homes.

I’m not sure if Wynn Williamns is being sarcastic there.

I’ve spoken to detainees in centres all over Australia, they all acknowledge they have made mistakes. There is no excuse for breaking the law but let’s make one thing very clear, even prisoners have rights.

Whether our politicians support criminal behaviour or not, if what we are hearing from Christmas Island is true we should all be concerned.

The problem is that we don’t know if we are hearing full and accurate stories.

Some stories suggest some of the detainees may be being dealt with harshly.

Some stories suggest that some of the detainees may be dangerous trouble makers. There have been reports of some detainees being fearful for their safety due to the actions of and threats from other detainees, some of whome are New Zealand citizens.

Access to adequate legal support is difficult and it’s claimed Border Force officials provide little information.

There was scarce warning before the men were shifted to the remote island, often by heavily armed guards in the middle of the night, and there is no real timeline for how long they will stay.

On the island far away from their families, many detainees have developed mental health issues and are said to be suicidal.

We now know the centre can get violent; an investigation is underway into the latest refugee death.

We don’t know what was behind that death, and what was really behind the riot that followed it.

All the men want to get out and some have even followed John Key’s heartfelt advice and agreed to travel to New Zealand, but there is a delay in processing so they’ll remain stuck on Christmas Island for another few weeks or even months.
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In the rush to cancel so many visas, Australia itself hasn’t even bothered to keep up.

It appears that Australia has created a major logistiocal problem for itself and has struggled to deal with it adequately.

Referring to those being held only as ‘criminals’ is an emotive tactic from Australia’s immigration minister and one that has helped convince many Australians these ‘troublesome’ Kiwis should not be helped, but our own Prime Minister doing the same has created an ugly and damaging distraction.

So, let’s go back to where this all started and have a conversation about human rights.

The humanity, dignity and respect that everybody, New Zealanders or not, should reasonably expect.

To an extent I agree.

But we also should be cautious and careful about the potential dangers of ex-criminals who are deported back to New Zealand.

If just one of those ex-criminals deported to New Zealand was to commit a serious crime, especially if it was of a violent or sexual nature, then it’s probable that the same MPs blasting the Government for not doing everything it can for the detainees who are New Zealand citizens would be blasting the Government for not protecting New Zealanders from returning ex-criminals.

What more should New Zealand do about Australian detainees?

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.

@MatthewHootonNZ on The Huddle is getting this Christmas Island thing bang on right now. Key is being gutless.

What should he do about it? Fo to Canberra and…make them what?

Gee, fly to Canberra or do nothing? You can’t think of any other options Pete?

Send the SAS and a Hercules to Christmas Island?

Don’t be a twit

So Matthew, Grant, Marama, Andrew – what exactly do you think Key can and should be doing that hasn’t been done already?

“The prime minister is a coward ” – on right now.

Hooton must know the political reality of Key’s position oveer what is happening in another country. Does he really think more could and should be done? Or is he, and Labour, using this issue as an excuse to attack Key for their own political reasons.

The Herald in today’s editorial Hamstrung PM cynical on detainees:

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?