Ardern playing down expectations on 501 deportee progress

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is playing down expectations there will be major progress on the 501 deportation issue as she touched down in Melbourne.

Jacinda Ardern in Australia.

It’s her second trip across the ditch to meet with the new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

"None of those issues can be resolved in weeks. I understand that. What I’m looking for is a commitment to start working them through," Ardern said.

On her visit to Sydney last month, the Australian Prime Minister agreed to look at the issue where Australian criminals are sent to New Zealand, often despite little or no connection here.

Ardern says she’s realistic.

"What I’m looking for is signs we continue to be heard and that progress is being made."

During Ardern and Albanese's first formal meeting in June, Ardern said there was "a real awareness" of long-raised issues such as the 501 deportees.

Albanese said at the time the 501 policy would be maintained, but "we've heard the very clear message from the PM (Ardern), as I've heard before".

"There can be no argument the Prime Minister has been very forceful in her views and we have listened to those views. We will work through some of those issues between now and we will heave a Ministerial meeting next month."

Australia's 2014 law deports non-citizens who commit crimes and have been sentenced to more than 12 months. It sends people back after serving their sentence, even if the person has spent most of their lives in Australia.

The spat over Australia deporting people with tenuous links to New Zealand rose up again last year, after Australia's Channel 9 aired footage of a planeload of deportees in Australia destined for New Zealand. In the story, then-Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton referred to the deportations as "taking the trash out".

It spurred Cabinet Minister Chris Hipkins to call it a "deplorable move by the Australian Government" and Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said at the time said that Dutton’s comments "only serve to trash his own reputation".

Ardern brought up the issue of deportees during her last face-to-face overseas meeting prior to the pandemic, with former Australian PM Scott Morrison in February, 2020.

"Send back Kiwis, genuine Kiwis - do not deport your people, and your problems," she told him.