Hundreds of Australian-based Kiwi criminals could soon be walking free on our streets, unhindered by normal parole restrictions, thanks to a hardline deportation drive by Australian immigration authorities .
The uncompromising tactics come during a wave of anti-Kiwi sentiment following the arrest of fraudster Joel Morehu-Barlow for embezzling A$16 million ($21m) from Queensland taxpayers. The Australians were not aware of his previous Kiwi fraud convictions.
Offenders who have served lengthy jail sentences here are ticking a box on the Australian arrival card to say they have no criminal history and getting entry under the preferential arrangement that allows freer transtasman travel.
The two countries are in talks over better information-sharing, but in the meantime Australia is taking a hard line on those who haven't told the truth about their background.
Its Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, used his special powers to remove four New Zealand citizens last year after they had won appeals against deportation decisions. And dozens more are now in his sights.
Of the 1.36 million Kiwis who went to Australia last year, 175 were turned around at the border for failing the character test - up more than 50 per cent than 2009/10. In the three years to the end of 2011, more than 220 New Zealand citizens who had been allowed into Australia had their visas cancelled for failing the character test. But it is the 771 New Zealand prisoners in Australia who are now the focus. They could be deported on completion of their sentence and, once back home, they are not subject to the supervision or parole conditions they would be if they were staying in Australia.
New Zealand could also end up taking people with no family ties here. Criminals who have lived in Australia most of their lives, but never become a citizens, may be deported even if they have no links to New Zealand.
The problem is illustrated by the case of Kiwi-born Patricia Carol Toia, who earned the nickname the "human crime wave" while she lived in Australia.
She moved to Australia as a 1-year-old and, from the age of 15, racked up a 30-page criminal record. She has been jailed 30 times, committed a further 56 offences behind bars and has been banned from driving in Australia until 2060.
She was deported to New Zealand two years ago, freeing her from any supervision or parole conditions. Since that time she has been back on the roads and was allegedly caught driving without a licence on July 20 last year. She will reappear in the Auckland District Court later this month.
Bowen said the Australian Government was working with New Zealand to improve sharing of criminal histories to prevent serious offenders moving between the countries at will.
Brisbane's Sunday Mail newspaper reports today that Kiwi criminals convicted of manslaughter, rape, kidnapping, fraud and armed robbery in their home country had slipped into Australia and waged a shocking crime spree because of the loopholes. The paper names more than 10 Kiwis who, it says, should not have got into their country.
Jonathan Rountree, a drug dealer jailed for 11 years here, spent his first four months in Australia working at the Prime Minister's Sydney residence, Kirribilli House. He said he did not divulge his NZ criminal history on arriving in Australia because he wanted to start "a more productive and beneficial life". But he went on to amass a lengthy Australian record for drug-dealing, trafficking and assault.
His case is detailed in Administrative Appeals Tribunal decisions and court cases from the past five years, but it is the tip of the iceberg because the tribunal only looks at cases where people appeal against their visa cancellations.
Australian Immigration department figures show 120 criminals were deported from Australia to New Zealand in those five years, and New Zealand police have said they are powerless to stop them re-offending here. Although police share information on deportees through Interpol, Australia will not release criminal records on those sent back because privacy laws block many states from doing so.
The lax entry controls also mean Aussie offenders are coming to New Zealand to continue their criminal careers. Child pornographers and criminally insane killers have been picked up by NZ authorities in the past 10 years.
Immigration New Zealand acting general manager Shaun Driscoll said 22 Australians were refused entry to New Zealand in the past two years. "In almost all cases these people were refused entry because they had been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of more than 12 months within the last 10 years, or had been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of five years or more."
Kiwi Justice Minister Judith Collins said in the wake of the Australian crackdown, she wanted to see greater transtasman co-operation between law enforcement agencies.
A Justice Ministry spokesman said there had been discussions with Australian officials on mutual recognition agreements with Australia over the past 10 years. But he said Australian privacy legislation was a major impediment.
"To put a regime in place would require both countries' governments to agree, and suitable legislation to be implemented in both countries.
"A further complexity is that because prisoners are held mostly at a state level, the legislation would have to be compatible with each Australian state," he said.
EXPORTING KIWI CRIME
Australia's Sunday Mail has gone through Administrative Appeals Tribunal decisions to identify Kiwis in their country with a criminal record the Aussies didn't know about. Here are some of the worst cases:
William Janardhan McIntosh
Convicted of aggravated robbery in NZ. Moved to Australia and was arrested for drug possession and deported. Returned to Australia on his late brother's passport. In 2006 went to NZ to see his ill mother and wasn't allowed back. Successfully appealed against his deportation in April 2008. Is now a Cairns yoga instructor.
Former Mongrel Mob member left NZ in 2005. Convicted of 14 offences in Australia. Immigration Minister used special powers to order his deportation.
Gregory James Stone
Criminal history in NZ includes 42 convictions. Went to Australia in 2007 and since convicted of assault, larceny and contravening court orders. Successfully appealed deportation in February 2011.
Dylan Murphy Kasupene
Criminal history in NZ included car theft, burglary and threatening behaviour with a weapon. Moved to Australia in 2000 and convicted of burglary. Deported in October 2008.
Ikenasio Joe Chan Boon
Professional boxer Boon was convicted of assaults on de facto partners in New Zealand. Convicted in Melbourne of indecent act on a 7-year-old child. Deported in October 2009.