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Kerre Woodham: 501 deportees halved under the common-sense approach

Publish Date
Tue, 14 Nov 2023, 1:24pm
Photo / Getty | File
Photo / Getty | File

Kerre Woodham: 501 deportees halved under the common-sense approach

Publish Date
Tue, 14 Nov 2023, 1:24pm

A couple of good news stories in the news cycle today - a rare and marvellous and wonderful thing!  

In light of the traffic and roading conversation we were having yesterday, great news that State Highway 25A between Kopu and Hikuai will reopen to traffic in time for Christmas, three months earlier than anticipated and under budget. I mean, it shocked me.  

The decking is complete on the new 124 metre viaduct bridge, which spans the abyss that severed the highway in late January. So fantastic news there. Well done to all involved and it must be a huge relief for the people of Coromandel, knowing that you are going to have hopefully your Christmas visitors, your Christmas trade, which will make the difference I imagine for many between surviving and not surviving. So great news there.  

Another good news story really and that is that 501 deportations from Australia to New Zealand have halved under a common-sense approach adopted by the Australian Government. That basically means that for those people who have lived most of their lives in Australia, who came as children, or who were born to New Zealand parents in Australia, if they have been ordinarily resident in Australia during and since their formative years, then considerable weight will be given to that fact. In the past, they didn't give a fat rat's bum. You know, if you had arrived in Australia as a child, as a baby, you had no connections back in New Zealand, you had done all of your living, all of your schooling in Australia, and then you offended, you were packed off back to New Zealand.

Now under the common-sense approach, considerable weight must be given to where the offender spent their formative years, and that is a good thing. The current 12-month rate is the lowest since the policy came into force in 2015. Nearly half that of before the pandemic. The name 501, incidentally, in case you've ever asked on a Stuff trivia quiz, came about because of section 501 of Australia's Migration Act, under which a minister can cancel a visa or refuse one on character grounds if someone has an extensive criminal record or has been sentenced to 12 months imprisonment or longer.  

Now, countries are perfectly entitled to deport non-citizens that they see as undesirable. We do it ourselves. From 2013 to 2018, New Zealand deported more than 1000 people to Pacific nations. 400 of those were criminals. And that in turn, has led to major problems in those Pacific nations. Criminal deportees, as they are here, are a significant contributor to the growth of transnational crime in the region.  

But to deport people who have lived much of their lives in Australia and with no personal connections or links in New Zealand, means that many of these people arrive in this country with little more than the clothes on their back and to all intents and purposes are abandoned. Gangs have picked up the slack here. There are reports of gang members waiting at airports and recruiting 501’s as they walk off the plane. With nowhere to go, no one to help them. You can understand why taking up the gang's offer of hospitality might be an option.  

There's no doubt that 501s have been a major headache for police. More than 2570 people were deported from Australia to New Zealand between 2015 and 2022, more than double the number expected when Australia began the policy in 2015. I think they upped the ante in Australia because it was very popular. It was seen as a gutsy, no nonsense move on the part of governments and was famously called ‘taking out the trash’ when 501’s were deported.  

Almost half, 49%, of the 501’s have reoffended since arriving in this country, with crimes ranging from very violent offences to drug and traffic violations. So good news that the number of people being deported has come down from 44 a month to 18. But that's still 18 people a month arriving who will need support and help to integrate into this society into this country. Surely the law-abiding community here can offer better support than the local gang chapter. 

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