close
MENU
Hot Topic Reporting season
Hot Topic Reporting season
9 mins to read

Kiwis deported from Australia after committing crimes 'a sore that will fester if it's not fixed' - Aussie Greens

Host Greg Boyed talks to the immigration spokeswoman for the Australian Greens party.

Sun, 04 Oct 2015

New Zealanders who are being deported from Australia after committing a crime is "a sore that will fester if it's not fixed between Australia and New Zealand," says Australian Greens Immigration spokeswoman Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

‘... and it seems as though it's a gross sense of overreach by the Australian government. Rather than considering the practical consequences of what they have done, the automated locking people up, throwing away the key isn't just a human rights issue, but it's going to continue to be a sore that will fester if it's not fixed between Australia and New Zealand.’

Senator Hanson-Young told TV One’s Q+A programme, these "are people who haven’t lived in New Zealand since they were sometimes very young children. They are, by all other means, Australian. They were educated here, they went to school here, they’ve got jobs here, they’ve paid taxes here. If they are able to stay; if they’ve done their time, then they should be able to."

Ms Hanson-Young says she will be raising the issue when the Australian Parliament reconvenes in a week: "As an Australian politician, we have got to start standing up for what is right."

RAW DATA: Q+A transcript: Australian Greens Immigration spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young

Watch the interview here

SARAH Well, I think it’s actually important, and because what we’ve seen is a whole group of people being treated exactly the same way because of this automated system, and it really misjudges that in these cases, individual assessment needs to be made so that we’re not unnecessarily harming people or sending people back to circumstances where perhaps they’ve got no opportunity to start putting their lives back together. You’ve got to remember that the number of the people – New Zealand nationals – that are being held in detention here in Australia, are people who haven’t lived in New Zealand since they were sometimes very young children. They are, by all other means, Australian. They were educated here, they went to school here, they’ve got jobs here, they’ve paid taxes here. If they are able to stay; if they’ve done their time, then they should be able to.

 

GREG The apparent suicide of Junior Togatuki was widely covered here. He was about to be deported back to New Zealand despite being, as you’ve just pointed out, somebody who lived much of his life in Australia. Hundreds of other New Zealanders are in the same situation. How worried are you there could be another case like that?

 

SARAH Look, I’ve been very concerned about the conditions inside these horrid detention camps for quite some time. Obviously my primary work has been that it is refugees and people seeking asylum who are also locked up in these places. I know the conditions are bad; I know of many cases of attempted self-harm and attempted suicide. It will… It is purely a matter of fact that this type of incident will happen again. And sadly, it will be sooner rather than later.

 

GREG As you said, you visited these detention centres. Give us an idea of the conditions that are in there. We hear ‘detention centre’ and think it’s got to be better than a prison – considerably better than prison. Is that the case?

 

SARAH Well, no. In fact, I would argue that it’s actually a whole lot worse than being in a regular prison, particularly if you’ve been sent to one of the camps, say, on Christmas Island, which is very isolated. It takes about six hours to fly from Perth to get there. It’s away from lawyers; it’s away from advocates. It’s very much built like a high-security prison, but you don’t have the access from the outside world that you would normally have in a prison on mainland Australia, or indeed, I would imagine, in New Zealand. The desperation of the indefinite nature of the detention as well is a problem. You’ve got to remember that people haven’t been given sentences. They’re there for as long as the Australian Government wants them to be there. It could be a matter of weeks, it could be a matter of months, it could, in fact, like it is for many, a matter of years. And of course the longer people are in these places, the worse their mental health gets. And that’s what we’ve started to see. There has been a huge spike recently of self-harm and attempted suicide because the level of desperation, the level of depression and the level of mental illness has just skyrocketed.

 

GREG I’m assuming you managed to speak with some of the New Zealand detainees while you were there. What picture are they painting for you?

 

SARAH Look, you know, there are very distinct groups within the detention centre. There are those who are there as refugees and people seeking asylum, and then there are those who have – they’re called ‘compliance cases’ – people who have effectively broken their visa conditions, and that is where the New Zealanders fit in – automated visa cancellation. I must say they’re very frustrated; they’ve very confused. They believe they’ve done their time that they were convicted for by a judge in a court. They were sent to prison. They’ve done that time, and they’re now meant to be free people. They’re very frustrated that they’re detained again, and as I say, without any sense of how long they will be in these places.

 

GREG Just quickly, one other specific –

 

SARAH It’s kind of almost – It –

 

GREG One other specific case I want to mention is that of Angela Russell. She’s been in Australia since she was 3. She’s 40 now. Two children. She was charged with shoplifting. It was her fifth offence, which is, you know, in the grand scheme of things, not exactly the crime of the century. She’s being held to be sent back to New Zealand as well. Is that a fairly typical scenario?

 

SARAH Sadly, because of the automated nature of the new rules that the Australian government has brought in, people like Angela are caught in this terrible situation. And this mother of two should be able to get on with her life. She should be able to get back to her children and start rebuilding their lives together. And it’s a waste of Australian taxpayer money, if anything else. Obviously there’s serious human rights concerns about the indefinite nature of locking people up and effectively throwing away the key. But of course there’s the huge expense. It costs Australian taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars to keep these people locked up in these camps, and it’s a waste. I’m very very interested to see how much traction and concern this has created in New Zealand, because I must say that here in Australia, politicians don’t want to talk about the issues because it’s seen to be best to keep it off the front pages of the paper – out of sight, out of mind – but it is clearly creating a schism between the relationships of the Australian government and the New Zealand government. And as an Australian politician, we have got to start standing up for what is right.

 

GREG John Key’s said he's had a very blunt conversation with Julie Bishop in New York over this matter. What more should he be doing?

 

SARAH I think obviously a formal conversation with our Australian Prime Minister is warranted. I will be raising this issue when I get back to the Parliament – the Australian Parliament reconvenes in a week. I'll be putting some questions to the Minister at that time as well. This is important. There is a terrible international reputation with these camps that Australia runs. No wonder the New Zealand government are upset that New Zealand nationals are caught up in the situation, and it seems as though it's a gross sense of overreach by the Australian Government. Rather than considering the practical consequences of what they have done, the automated locking people up, throwing away the key isn't just a human rights issue, but it's going to continue to be a sore that will fester if it's not fixed between Australia and New Zealand.

 

GREG Australia wants to be elected to the UN Human Rights Council in three years’ time. Internationally, this has not got to be a great look if that is your aspiration, does it?

 

SARAH No, it doesn't at all. Clearly, I would love to see Australia engage more positively with the international community, but our reputation, particularly on the immigration front, particularly with these notorious hellholes, these refugee and immigration detention camps – you’ve got to wonder why anyone would say that Australia should be on the UN Security Council. We've got a lot of cleaning up to do in our own backyard before we start telling the rest of the world how they should behave.

 

GREG Sarah, just finally, fair to say Malcolm Turnbull has had a fair bit on this plate these past few weeks. Is there a chance, though, he could change his mind on this?

 

SARAH Well, I think he only has one option, and that is to fix the situation. The automatic nature of cancelling people's visas, putting them in indefinite detention isn't workable in the long term. He is going to have to fix it. If he wants to rebuild relationships in the region, then he had better get on to it sooner rather than later.

© All content copyright NBR. Do not reproduce in any form without permission, even if you have a paid subscription.
Kiwis deported from Australia after committing crimes 'a sore that will fester if it's not fixed' - Aussie Greens
52136
false