Getting tough on Kiwi convicts

HUNDREDS of Australian-based Kiwi criminals could soon be walking free in New Zealand, unhindered by normal parole restrictions, thanks to a hardline deportation drive by Australian immigration authorities .

The uncompromising tactics come during a wave of anti-Kiwi sentiment following the arrest of fraudster Joel Morehu-Barlow for embezzling A$16 million ($21m) from Queensland taxpayers. Australian authorities were not aware of his previous Kiwi fraud convictions.

Offenders who have served lengthy jail sentences in New Zealand are ticking a box on the Australian arrival card to say they have no criminal history and getting entry under the preferential arrangement that allows freer transtasman travel.

The two countries are in talks over better information-sharing, but in the meantime Australia is taking a hard line on those who haven't told the truth about their background.

Its Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, used his special powers to remove four New Zealand citizens last year after they had won appeals against deportation decisions. And dozens more are now in his sights.

Of the 1.36 million Kiwis who went to Australia last year, 175 were turned around at the border for failing the character test - up more than 50 per cent than 2009/10. In the three years to the end of 2011, more than 220 New Zealand citizens who had been allowed into Australia had their visas cancelled for failing the character test. But it is the 771 New Zealand prisoners in Australia who are now the focus. They could be deported on completion of their sentence and, once back home, they are not subject to the supervision or parole conditions they would be if they were staying in Australia.

New Zealand could also end up taking people with no family ties there. Criminals who have lived in Australia most of their lives, but never become a citizens, may be deported even if they have no links to New Zealand.

Read more on the NZ Herald

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