Proposed changes to the Australian Migration Act could see New Zealanders deported for offences such as stealing, possession of small amounts of drugs, and drink driving offences.

The Australian Government is pushing forward with changes to the Migration Act 1958 that could see New Zealanders deported for offences such as stealing, possession of small amounts of drugs, and drink driving offences.

Proposed changes to the Migration Act’s character test would allow for visa cancellations or refusal of visas where New Zealanders have been convicted of crimes punishable by two years’ imprisonment or more, even if a jail term is not imposed and a person receives a fine or good behaviour bond.

Crimes punishable by a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment include:

  • High Range drink driving (second offence)
  • Driving under the influence (second offence)
  • Refusal to submit to breath analysis (second offence)
  • Possession of prohibited drugs
  • Larceny (stealing)
  • Common assault
  • Assault occasioning actual bodily harm
  • Contravening an Apprehended Violence Order

The new laws, if enacted, will apply retrospectively. This means anyone who has committed a crime covered by the laws in the past could be deported on character grounds.

The law as it currently stands allows for  migrants living in Australia to be forcibly deported where they serve a sentence of imprisonment of 12 months or more. Since 2014, when that law was introduced, 4,150 visas have been cancelled. More than 1,500 of those were New Zealanders. The deportations have resulted in New Zealanders being separated from their spouses, children, and parents.

Last month, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison that the deportation of people who have almost no connection to New Zealand was not “fair dinkum”.

I made it clear New Zealand has no issue with Australia taking a dim view of newly arrived non-citizens committing crimes, but equally the New Zealand people have a dim view of the deportation of people who moved to Australia as children and have grown up there.

Australian Immigration Minister David Coleman is unsympathetic to Prime Minister Ardern’s pleas or the plight of New Zealanders.

Like the Australian community, the government has no tolerance for non-citizens who are found to have committed these serious crimes,” he said, when the bill was introduced last month.

We make absolutely no apologies for protecting the Australian community from these harmful people, and we will act decisively whenever we are made aware of that.”


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