Australia's prime minister says the country’s controversial 501 deportation policy will continue, despite vocal opposition by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as the two leaders met in Sydney this week.
Advocates for the 501 deportees had hopes set on the change of leadership in Canberra, which saw a swing left with the election of Labor leader Anthony Albanese last month.
Above: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meets with Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese to discuss the relationship between both countries, and Australia's controversial 501 deportation policy. / SBS
At today’s joint press conference however, Albanese reaffirmed Australia’s policy position that has seen many people born in Aotearoa but who have never lived or had familial connections in NZ, deported here.
"We'll be maintaining section 501 but we've heard the very clear message from the prime minister, as we've heard before," the new Australian prime minister said.
Albanese said Ardern argued "forcefully"’ for Aotearoa’s position and said he would have done similarly had he been in New Zealand’s position.
"You made strong representations last night, and we hear the message," Albanese said.
There had been hope Australia might have already adjusted its policy stance on 501s earlier this month, when reports emerged the tribunal which hears appeals to 501 orders, had begun to reverse some deportation judgments.
"We are a nation built on second chances," the tribunal said in a decision revoking the cancellation of a visa for a Kiwi who went on a drug-fuelled rampage, ram-raiding a Sydney car dealership, but who ultimately stole nothing, and had a clean record beyond the incident.
During the remainder of the press conference the respective leaders praised the close relationship between the two countries.
"We are great friends and I want to build on that. It is probably more important than it has ever been," Albanese said, calling Ardern a "‘very good friend".
New Zealand and Australia stood ‘side by side’ in the Pacific. ‘Our people-to-people relations are so strong,’ Albanese said.
"There are no two countries that I can think of that have a closer relationship than ours," Ardern added.
Albanese said he looked forward to engaging with the world, saying "It's like Australia has gone out of the naughty corner", apparently referring to controversial decisions on climate change, refugees and China made by the former Liberal/National coalition led by Scott Morrison.
"Our approach is based upon respect, transparency and engagement with Pacific institutions," he said.
Albanese conceded today’s bilateral meeting was unlikely to be the end of the 501 discussion given the pair will again discuss issues, pressing for each country at an official leadership dialogue next month.
Aotearoa and Australia will "work through" the 501 issue, in more detail, during the discussions Albanese said.