New Zealand prime minister Jacinta Ardern stood alongside Australian counterpart Scott Morrison in a televised media conference and criticised him for deporting foreign criminals.
At the conference, which followed the annual meeting between the prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand in Sydney, Ardern said that the Australian government had been deporting some New Zealand nationals who had committed crimes in Australia, but had been living there the majority of their lives having moved from New Zealand as children.
Ardern believes that those New Zealanders who have spent a greater length of time in Australia and, therefore, have less of a connection with their birth country, should not be among those sent back.
Ardern told Australian premier Morrison: “Australia is well within its rights to deport individuals who break your laws. New Zealand does the same.
"But we have a simple request: send back Kiwis, genuine Kiwis. Do not deport your people and your problems”.
The Telegraph reports that in the last five years, the Australian government has terminated the visas of 2,633 New Zealanders on grounds of character.
Ardern said: “You have deported more than 2,000 individuals, and among them will be genuine Kiwis who do need to learn the consequences of their actions.
"But among those 2,000 are individuals who are too young to become criminals on our watch, too young to become patched gang members, too young to be organised criminals. We will own our people. We ask that Australia stops exporting theirs.”
Morrison said in response that the Australian government's stance was firm but fair, and that Canberra expected the same treatment of Australia nationals who break the law in other countries.
Ardern will contest the New Zealand elections in September this year, with opposition parties adamant that they will retaliate to Australia's policy by deporting Australian nationals committing crimes in New Zealand should they be elected.
However, Ardern moved to reassure that her government would not look to compromise the rights of Australians living in New Zealand if re-elected, adding that New Zealand does "not wish to have a race to the bottom".