Australian PM accused of ‘weasel words’ on Kiwi detentions

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Prime Minister Bill English after talks in Queenstown on Friday. (Photo: RNZ / Chris Bramwell)

Phil Pennington – Radio NZ

A civil liberties lawyer has accused the Australian Prime Minister of using “weasel words” over detaining and deporting New Zealanders.

Mr Turnbull said Australia was committed to make sure the detentions, appeals and removals were being conducted “as sensitively as possible”.

The head of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties, Terry O’Gorman, said that was a “weasel word”.

“Sounds nice; dig underneath the surface of the word sensitive and all the evidence is there’s no sensitivity at all.”

He said detention decisions should be made by the courts not the immigration minister.

Mr O’Gorman said he had heard that Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton had on occasion made 40 decisions in a single day to detain people under the laws which allow people’s visas to be cancelled on criminal or poor character grounds.

“I’m not saying the minister does 40 every day of the week, but if you make … 40 decisions in one day … you’ve got wonder how much thinking and effort go into it.”

Mr English said he made clear in the joint talks that New Zealand opposed the detentions policy.

He added that Australia was working hard to make the management of it easier at the New Zealand end, and suggested that about a half of all appeals by people to get their visa back were succeeding.

Mr O’Gorman said Mr English should have demanded that Australia stop detaining New Zealanders on Christmas Island.

“It’s an awful place. If people have to be detained under this quite unattractive regime where the [immigration] minister makes decisions behind closed doors rather than a court making it in the open, then keep people in Sydney in the Villawood immigration jail … where at least their family has the opportunity and a chance to visit them.”

Most of the 140 immigration detainees held indefinitely on Christmas Island are New Zealanders.

In total, at all detention centres, 184 New Zealand citizens are held indefinitely while they appeal their visa revocation or until they sign to be deported. 

[Read the Radio NZ article].

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