“I have heard countless cases of individuals who on any common-sense test identify as Australians,” Ms Ardern said.
“Just a few weeks ago, I met a woman who moved to Australia not much older than one year old. She told me she had no connection to our country but had three children in Australia. She was in a crisis centre, having returned to a country she did not feel was her own.”
Ms Ardern said she was not asking Australia to stop the policy and conceded there were “genuine Kiwis” who needed to learn the consequences of their actions.
“We will own our people. We ask that Australia stops exporting theirs,” she said. “But among those 2000 are individuals who are too young to become criminals on our watch, they were too young to become patched gang members, too young to be organised criminals.”
Mr Morrison said the Australian government’s policy was “very clear” and it would not be changing.
He said it was in Australia’s national interest to deport non-citizens who had committed crimes. Under the law, anyone convicted of an offence that attracts more than 12 months in prison can have their visa cancelled on “character grounds”.
“This policy is applied not specific to one country, but to any country whose citizens are here,” Mr Morrison said. “And we would have no objection to any country – anywhere – who would apply the same rule in terms of Australian citizens who commit crimes in other places. We would think that was totally understandable and we wouldn’t take any offence.”
New Zealand has itself deported more than 1000 non-citizens, including on character grounds, in the past five years, mainly to other Pacific nations such as Samoa, Tonga and Fiji. However, a non-citizen who has lived in New Zealand for more than 10 years is not eligible to be deported.
New Zealand voters are set to go to the polls on September 19 and opinion polling has a centre-right coalition led by the Nationals neck and neck with Ardern’s Labour-led coalition.
The New Zealand government has previously raised concerns that Australian deportees had brought with them “Australian problems”, leading to more gang-affiliated crime and violence and a “criminally sophisticated” bikie gang culture.
The Comanchero motorcycle gang had a minimal presence in New Zealand until early 2016, when several senior members were deported. An official Comanchero MC was established in New Zealand in January 2018 and now has three chapters.
Despite their differences on visas and deportations, Ms Ardern said it was not her place to criticise the Morrison government’s climate policies, adding the two countries were working closely in the Pacific.
“Both PM Morrison and myself are very clear on the different domestic policies that we each have. We understand and have knowledge of each other’s policies,” she said. “Our discussion points often coalesce around climate change and how that is playing out in the Pacific and our dialogue in the Pacific.”
Rob Harris is the National Affairs Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra