Australia's deportation policies are not good public policy and are corroding the transtasman relationship, New Zealand's High Commissioner Chris Seed has told an Australian government committee today.
Seed, whose posting ends this year, presented a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration which is looking into the review processes around visa cancellations made on criminal grounds.
Seed told the committee New Zealanders were disproportionately represented in the number of people being deported under Australia's strict policies. In less than two decades, the rate had increased from around one a week to more than one a day.
The travel arrangements between the two countries was one of the most seamless in the world and benefited citizens of each country who moved to the other.
"The vast majority of New Zealanders who move here do very well. We're more employed, we pay more tax than any migrant group. We're arguably the easiest integrated. It's a great success story. Its the same of course for Australian who move east," Seed said.
"But New Zealanders in Australia are now treated differently to the way Australians in New Zealand are treated. This is of particularly acute concern in Australia's application of its deportation policy to the long-term New Zealand residents of Australia."
Seed said the number of Kiwis deported from Australia had "skyrocketed" as a result of 2014 changes to the Migration Act.
Those changes, as well as others made in 2001, had left New Zealanders more vulnerable to deportation than any other nationality in Australia.
"Many of those consequences don't look like good public policy outcomes to us and they're having a corrosive impact on the otherwise strong relationship between New Zealand and Australia," he said.
He raised the issue of New Zealanders who were long-term residents of Australia being deported.
"We don't have an issue with deportation. What we have a problem with is where they're deporting people who have effectively lived here for long periods of time, up to 20 years, 25 years, who have been here since they were 2, people who are essentially products of the Australian community or whose family are here," he said.
"It just seems to us that it is a fairness issue, it's a justice issue. There seems to be all kinds of downstream consequences, including for the families left here."
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters backed Seed's comments.
"I've said that myself. There's nothing new in that. Our job is to turn around and better our relations with Australia and I've never given up hope of us being able to do that, particularly if we appeal to the fairness of the Australian people.
"We can't gild the lily here, it's a fact," Peters told reporters.
Peters and Justice Minister Andrew Little have been vocal in their criticism of Australia's deportation policies, in particular the ability to deport on character grounds, without the subject being subject to any criminal conviction.
That led to a war of words between Little and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.
The Joint Standing Committee on Migration is looking at issues including the efficiency of review processes relating to decisions made under section 501 of the Migration Act, including the scope of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal's jurisdiction to review ministerial decisions.
At present Dutton has the power to deport people but his decisions can be taken to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The AAT has reportedly overturned 5276 decisions made by delegates of Dutton.