Labour leader says detention issue will weigh on Govt address

Opposition leader Andrew Little is preparing to do what he says the Government has failed to by heading to Canberra in person and pleading expatriate New Zealanders' case at the heart of Australia's Government.

Amid high tension in Parliament yesterday over Labour's advocacy for deportees, Mr Little confirmed he would appear before an Australian select committee in two weeks' time to lobby for expats' rights.

In a rare move, Mr Little will urge Australian MPs in person to address discrimination against Kiwis who live and pay tax in Australia but receive little state support.

"Most of the Australian backbenchers are stunned to hear of New Zealanders' treatment," he told the Herald. "That's why we made the judgment to get in front of the select committee formally and lay it on the table."


The main focus of Labour's submission will be on unfair treatment of New Zealanders across the Tasman.

But Mr Little said his submission would also be coloured by recent events involving New Zealanders at Australian detention centres.

"It wasn't our intention to focus on the detention issue but it may well be that it's difficult to avoid that," he said.

The issue exploded in Parliament yesterday in an extraordinary showdown.

MP Kelvin Davis, Labour's corrections spokesman, confronted Prime Minister John Key on his way into the House, calling him "gutless" over his inaction on New Zealanders' treatment at the Christmas Island detention centre.

Mr Key, apparently rattled, launched a furious attack on Labour once inside the House. He accused Mr Davis and his party of supporting rapists, child molesters and murderers instead of New Zealanders who needed protecting.

The comment was met with uproar by the Opposition. One Labour MP was kicked out and others staged a walk-out at the "deeply offensive" outburst.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said Mr Key had "lost the plot".


The Prime Minister's office later released figures which showed that out of 585 New Zealanders facing deportation, 34 had been convicted of child sex offences, 22 convicted of murder, and 16 convicted for rape or sex offences.

However, Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox said there were other Kiwis facing deportation who had not been charged with a crime. They included former soldier Ko Rutene, who served in Afghanistan. He had not served jail time in Australia but had failed character tests because of a gang affiliation.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton had assured her yesterday that New Zealand detainees who elected to return home could do so within days or weeks, not months.

Mr Dutton also told her that their appeals against deportation would not be prejudiced if they returned to New Zealand, and that Australia would pay for their travel.

NZ detainees reportedly sparked uprising

Rioting at a controversial Australian detention centre on Christmas Island is over and control of the facility is back in the hands of authorities after a rebellion reportedly started by New Zealand detainees.

Riot police stormed the facility at dawn yesterday, apparently using tear gas and rubber bullets.

But a statement from Australia's Department of Immigration and Border Protection says "the majority of detainees co-operated with service providers in restoring good order and control to the centre".

All detainees were accounted for and five were awaiting assessment by medical professionals for injury or illness.

"None of the matters are life-threatening. It is not known whether those injuries were sustained during the disturbance itself or during the resolution of the operation," the statement says.

Earlier, there were reports of some detainees barricading themselves inside with petrol bombs, machetes and chainsaws after raiding a garden shed for weapons.

The unrest began in the early hours of Monday after upset detainees asked officials what happened to Kurdish refugee Fazel Chegeni, whose body was found on Sunday following his escape from the detention centre.

Media reports suggest New Zealanders were behind the uprising, which saw centre guards flee, fires lit and walls smashed.

The centre is run by controversial private prison operator Serco, which hit headlines this year after a series of scandals emerged at Auckland's Mt Eden prison.

Two bus-loads of guard reinforcementswere patrolling the perimeter of the centre as sirens sounded for hours on end.

One detainee described riot police smashing their way in live on Australian radio.

He said some detainees, including a couple of older ones in their 70s, were "freaking out" as officers arrived.

In the background fire alarms, commotion and shouting police were audible.

"The tear gas is coming into the room now. I have just got a wet rag around my head."

The detainee said those rioting were heavily armed and out of control. He worried about his safety as riot police kicked the door into the room he sheltered in.

"We are going to get hurt."

He then described police dragging detainees with their hands behind their backs, before the phone line dropped out.