Tensions flare with New Zealand over immigration change

New Zealand’s leader has expressed “grave concerns” to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese over changes to a controversial Australian immigration direction.

May 31, 2024, updated May 31, 2024
New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon. Photo: AAP Image/Mark Coote

New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon. Photo: AAP Image/Mark Coote

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles announced he would update a ministerial directive, known as direction 99, after several tribunal decisions used it to allow foreign nationals who had been found guilty of serious crimes to avoid having their visa cancelled.

The directive, which prioritised a person’s connections to Australia among other factors, was created following concerns from New Zealand’s government of mass deportations of Kiwi citizens who had closer ties to Australia.

New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon told reporters he had spoken with Albanese on the issue on Thursday and indicated concerns with the changes.

“I have said to him that we regret that decision that they have taken to modify ministerial direction 99,” Luxon told reporters in Auckland.

“All I can do at this point is raise in very clear terms our grave concerns about the change to that policy.

“It’s not fair that we get deportees coming back to New Zealand that have got very little connection, or no connection, to this country, that’s not right.”

As part of the changes to direction 99, community safety would be given a higher priority in visa decisions.

Luxon said Australia’s prime minister assured him that a common sense approach would remain regarding the direction.

Albanese told parliament on Thursday that Australia had created the ministerial direction out of its own needs.

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He was accused in question time by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton of having a “close and sycophantic” relationship with former New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, which Albanese rejected.

“What we do is determine our own policy according with our own interests and that is what we have done,” he said.

It comes as the Administrative Appeals Tribunal will appear before Senate estimates on Friday, where officials will be questioned on the visa decisions and the ministerial directions.


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