Deportee Ko Haapu. The ABC was slammed by Home Affairs Minister Alex Hawke for the program failing to talk to victims. Picture: ABC
Deportee Ko Haapu. The ABC was slammed by Home Affairs Minister Alex Hawke for the program failing to talk to victims. Picture: ABC

ABC slammed over NZ deportation piece

THE ABC has been slammed by Australian politicians over its Foreign Correspondent program which investigated why the country is "detaining, cuffing and deporting more New Zealanders than any other group".

Journalist and former Wallaby Peter FitzSimons, who was the guest reporter on Tuesday's night's program, had gone to New Zealand to see how deportation had affected the relations between the two countries.

More than 1300 Kiwis have been deported from Australia - for committing crimes or being found to be of bad character - in the past three years, with another 15,000 set to be sent back over the next decade.

However it copped major backlash from Coalition ministers who say it failed to interview any victims.

"I watched the entire program, and I have to say I felt the ABC program did not consider the impact on victims," Assistant Home Affairs Minister Alex Hawke told Sky News.

"There wasn't a victim on the show, and what we're talking about is serious criminal offences.

"In the domestic violence cohort I can tell you, there are sexual offences against women in front of their children in many cohorts in different parts of the world in Australia, and they're serious, serious offences.

"The ABC program did argue, it kind of presented that we are doing something unfair, or that we are doing something wrong.

"The Australian Government makes no apology for deporting serious criminals who are not citizens of Australia."

 

Peter FitzSimons talks to deportee Ko Haapu. The ABC was slammed by Home Affairs Minister Alex Hawke for the program failing to talk to victims.
Peter FitzSimons talks to deportee Ko Haapu. The ABC was slammed by Home Affairs Minister Alex Hawke for the program failing to talk to victims.

 

Peter Fitzimmons reported on the story.
Peter Fitzimmons reported on the story.

New Zealand Justice Minister Andrew Little claims that Australia is breaching human rights with its hard-line deportation policy. But Mr Hawke dubbed this "irresponsible".

He took to Twitter during the night of the program to express his disappointment in Mr Little:

 

 

Since the Migration Act was amended in December 2014, it gave powers to Australia's Department of Home Affairs together with Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton the ability to cancel the visas of people who could pose a risk to the community or who they've deemed are not of "good character".

Mr Dutton also took to his Twitter account during the Foreign Correspondent piece to share the millions of dollars Australia has saved from cancelling visas of particular persons:

 

During his Sky News interview Mr Hawke had a direct message for Aussies living across the Ditch.

"We would as the Australian Government say to citizens in New Zealand, 'Well you must obey the law, and if you don't obey the law you may be deported back to Australia.'

"We'd like to hear the same message from the New Zealand Government."

Foreign Correspondent followed the case of former New Zealand soldier turned motorcycle gang member and deportee, Ko Haapu. He had also previously worked as security detail for former NZ prime minister John Key.

"I wasn't on criminal charges … but I was still treated as a prisoner who has committed a crime," Haapu told FitzSimons.

In the program titled "Don't Call Australia Home" FitzSimons found that under the changes to the Migrant Act, "just being a member of a bike gang, an organisation suspected of criminal behaviour, was enough to get Haapu deported on 'bad character' grounds, even though it's not illegal in Western Australia to belong to one".

Mr Hawke said he was unable to comment on any individual case, but that many deportees who spoke to the media were not telling the whole truth.

"If people want to go into the public domain about their case, they should reveal to the public of Australia and New Zealand the full details of all of their cases, including the wrongdoing they've been engaged in, and what you see in the media quite often in relation to criminal deportation cases is only part of the story," Mr Hawke said.

"The vast, vast, vast bulk of the crimes we see are shocking. They are repeat offenders, in many cases people have been warned several times over the past, when we had weaker laws, before this Government came to office, they received a warning that if they commit another crime they will be deported.

"It's not their first crime, not their first time, and so I'd ask people to look very carefully into the details of any case in the public domain, and there is always more to the case in many cases than you'll see in the public domain."

Asked repeatedly whether there was "more to" Haapu's case, Mr Hawke said he was unable to say.

 

Haapu and FitzSimons. Picture: ABC
Haapu and FitzSimons. Picture: ABC

 

"I'm unable to speak about any case, and you can ask me a hundred ways but I can't do it. But I can say, look, if you're involved in a criminal gang and you're well known as a criminal gang associate, then obviously issues will pertain to your character," Mr Hawke said.

"They are considerations. If you're not a citizen of Australia, we have a perfect right to consider your character if you're here on a temporary visa or another form of visa."

During the program, when confronting Mr Dutton about Haapu's case, FitzSimons put it straight to the Home Affairs Minister.

"He was held with no charge, no crime committed," he said.

"Peter, he was a member of the Rebels outlaw motorcycle gang, and we know that they are part of a syndicate which is the biggest distributor of drugs in our country," Mr Dutton told FitzSimons.

FitzSimons hit back saying, "You imply a raft of strong allegations, accusations against the fellow that we can't see."

"Well, Peter, that happens every day. I mean, there's intelligence that's gathered that's not released for a variety of reasons," Mr Dutton said.

Both politicians reiterated that the "Australian Government won't apologise for deporting people with a criminal background, with criminal offences or of bad character".

ABC ANSWERS CRITICISM

A spokeswoman for the ABC told news.com.au that Foreign Correspondent had interviewed three deportees and there was no attempt on behalf of the program to downplay the seriousness of any of the crimes.

"One received a 12 month prison sentence for domestic violence; his wife was approached but did not want to appear on camera," the spokeswoman said.

"The second was a convicted drug dealer, and interviewing victims of a drug dealer is not feasible in this context.

"The third was sent back on grounds of bad character and has not been convicted of a crime, so there were no victims to interview."

The spokeswoman said that is true that the deportees were convicted criminals or had been judged to be of bad character, and are hard to empathise with, "but their cases do raise some difficult questions of principle - for example, whether it is correct to keep someone in prison for a long period without charge or conviction, and whether it is fair to deport and separate from their family someone who has done their jail time and officially paid their dues to society."

She explained that the intent of the story was to reveal to the Australian audience the depth of feeling in New Zealand - as expressed by ordinary Kiwis and senior political leaders - about Australia's policy.

"We were surprised by the level of anger and felt it warranted reporting, given that it potentially impacts on our relations with such a close neighbour and ally.

"Given the strength of the critique from New Zealand politicians, we felt it deserved a response from the Australian Government, which we obtained by way of an interview with Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

"It was reasonable for the program to explore such questions. Ultimately, of course, it was left to the viewer to decide."

PETER FITZSIMONS

On the day the program aired (July 17), guest reporter FitzSimons posted a comment to his 67,000 Twitter followers to tune in: "My stint as Guest Correspondent on Foreign Correpspondent (sic), tonight, 8pm. See what you think!"

Many commented on his tweet, voicing their disappointment on how Australia is treating the New Zealanders in question, while others agreed with the Government's policy.

One person tweeted: "I'm a Kiwi living in Aus and I totally support what Aus is doing. It's a privilege living here, why should Aussies put up with someone tattooed with FTP on their neck?"

Another congratulated Fitzsimons, saying: "Excellent job. It is an embarrassing policy and not a good look for Australia. We have to do better by NZ."

Peter FitzSimons has been contacted for comment.



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