Larry Williams: Peter Dunne's flawed 'clean slate' proposal

Listen to Larry Williams now on Newstalk ZB, 4pm to 7pm. Today he looks at Peter Dunne's Clean Slate Act proposal and Australian immigration laws.
Prime Minister John Key and United Future leader Peter Dunne. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister John Key and United Future leader Peter Dunne. Photo / Mark Mitchell

United Future leader Peter Dunne wants a review of the Clean Slate Act.

He believes the current legislation, enacted 12 years ago, is too rigid and leaves too many people with old criminal records.

Mr Dunne doesn't support serious offences being wiped, but says he's aware of people being affected by minor offences from over 20 years ago.

He says they're now finding their long distant past catching up with them, which sends a pretty perverse signal about the benefits of turning one's life around after criminal offending.

I doubt this will get much traction. To be eligible for a clean slate, someone must have been conviction-free for the last seven years, never received a custodial sentence, and not convicted of a "specified offence". Specific crimes include sexual offending against children.

This all looks to be reasonably sensible - like if you've been in jail, it's not going to be wiped.

What we should be concerned about are the figures released by the Ministry of Justice under the Official Information Act in 2014, that show more than 115,000 criminals who have been allowed to hide convictions including fraud, bestiality, burglary, drink-driving causing death, tax fraud and indecent assault from prospective employers under the Clean Slate Act.

One Aucklander concealed 232 convictions from potential employers. This indicates that the law may not be rigid enough, and at the very least inconsistent.

Wiping petty offences is fine, but if a burglar applies for a job, I think the employer has a right to know. Hiding a burglary offence from a potential employer, I don't care how long ago, is patently stupid.

Closing the Aussie backdoor

Labour's Foreign Affairs spokesperson David Shearer wants the government to work to restore reciprocal rights to Kiwis moving to Australia.

This is rather optimistic.

The deal giving some New Zealanders an easier path to citizenship in Australia applies to those who arrived after 2001 and have earned an average $53,000 over a five year period. It covers 30 per cent of Kiwis living in Australia and doesn't apply to anyone moving to Australia today.

Yes, you could argue its inelegant, but the moaning and demands are misplaced. The reason for Australia's rule change in 2001 was that John Howard's Government was paying $1.1 billion in welfare to kiwis while New Zealand was paying $170 million to Australians. Now come on, is that a level playing field ?

But there's more - another not insignificant issue. Then Immigration Minister Philip Ruddoch wanted the two countries to harmonise their immigration rules. Of concern, in the year to March 2000, of the 30,000 New Zealand citizens who shifted permanently to Australia, 30 per cent were not born in New Zealand. This compared with just12 per cent 10 years earlier.

Ruddoch said the figures suggested that people who could not get in under Australian selection criteria were getting New Zealand citizenship and then crossing the Tasman.

The clear evidence was that our country was being used as a backdoor to Australia, so they closed that door by cancelling entitlements.

Can anyone really blame them ?

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Newstalk ZB radio host Larry Williams. Photo / Michael Craig
Newstalk ZB radio host Larry Williams. Photo / Michael Craig


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