Claims by Peter Dutton that Australia does a lot of heavy lifting for New Zealand’s security have not gone down well with New Zealand’s acting prime minister.
In an continuing trans-Tasman stoush over Australia’s deportation regime, Home Affairs Minister Mr Dutton last week said New Zealand needed to keep in mind that Australia was a buffer between it and boats and that Kiwis “don’t contribute really anything to the defence effort”.
“There’s a lot that we do for New Zealand,” he said.
He was responding to criticism by New Zealand Justice Minister Andrew Little who said Australia’s deportation laws lacked “humanitarian ideals” and came out of venal politics.
New Zealand acting Prime Minister Winston Peters – filling in for Jacinda Ardern who is on maternity leave – on Monday emphatically rejected Mr Dutton’s comments.
“The fact that [Australia] are geographically placed where they are is a fact of geography,” he told reporters in Wellington.
“To say they’re doing all the heavy lifting … I do not agree with him at all.”
Mr Peters pointed to a massive boost in spending on Pacific aid this year as an example of New Zealand’s efforts.
He also weighed into the debate about the deportation of New Zealanders on character grounds.
“When you’re in a foreign country you’re expected to obey their laws,” he said.
“But someone should be tried before they’re evicted from a country.”
Hundreds of New Zealanders have had their visas cancelled in Australia since stricter deportation laws came into place in 2014.
Some have spent the bulk of their lives in Australia and have no connection with New Zealand, raising questions about the rights being afforded to Kiwi ex-pats.
Mr Peters has in recent weeks also accused Australia of breaching UN conventions by holding a 17-year-old New Zealand boy with adults in a detention centre ahead of a deportation hearing.
The teen last week won a visa appeal and was released to family in Sydney.