Hipkins, Albanese discuss 501s in first meeting in Canberra

By Tema Hemi

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins today held talks with his Australian counterpart, Anthony Albanese, with the controversial issue of 501 deportees on their agenda. 

Hipkins says New Zealand's relationship with Australia is an important one.

“New Zealand has no closer friend or partner than Australia and it is great to be here on my first international travel as prime minister of New Zealand.”

But it's the controversial issue of section 501 deportees that was a major talking point. The current law deports New Zealanders back from Australia for serious crimes, even if they have little or no connection here. But Albanese has said the policy will change by the end of the month and a person's ties to Australia will now be taken into account.

Hipkins & Albanese meet for the first time as leaders.

Albanese says: “We retain section 501 deportation to cancel visas and remove people who pose a risk to the community. What's changed is we will use a common sense approach and bear in mind what a person’s ties are to Australia when assessing these cases.”

Hipkins says New Zealand's position hasn’t changed from the one that was articulated by former prime minister Jacinda Ardern "but we absolutely acknowledge the changes Australia has recently made and we welcome those. They are common sense changes".

The Australian government says the length of time someone has lived in Australia will also be a primary factor. But if they pose a risk to the community, their visa will be cancelled and they will be removed. That means serious criminals will still end up in New Zealand.

Today marks 40 years since the start of an economic agreement between the two countries and 80 years since both high commissions were established.