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Tensions across the ditch flare in PMs’ phone call

Anthony Albanese says ties across the Tasman are still strong despite a difference of opinion.

Anthony Albanese says ties across the Tasman are still strong despite a difference of opinion. Photo: AAP

Anthony Albanese insists Australia’s relationship with New Zealand remains strong, despite the country’s prime minister expressing “grave concerns” over changes to a controversial immigration direction.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles announced he would update a ministerial directive, known as direction 99, after several tribunal decisions used it to allow foreign nationals who had been found guilty of serious crimes to avoid having their visa cancelled.

The directive, which prioritised a person’s connections to Australia among other factors, was created following concerns from New Zealand’s government of mass deportations of Kiwi citizens who had closer ties to Australia.

New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon told reporters he had spoken with Albanese on the issue on Thursday and indicated his concerns about the changes.

“I have said to him that we regret that decision that they have taken to modify ministerial direction 99,” Luxon told reporters in Auckland.

“All I can do at this point is raise in very clear terms our grave concerns about the change to that policy.

“It’s not fair that we get deportees coming back to New Zealand that have got very little connection, or no connection to this country – that’s not right.”

As part of the changes to direction 99, community safety would be given a higher priority in visa decisions.

Albanese says ties across the Tasman are still strong despite a difference of opinion on the direction.

“I’ve got a good relationship with Prime Minister Luxon, I’ll be hosting him (in Australia) in a short period of time,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“We have a good relationship. We had a good chat yesterday. Australia makes our decisions in our national interest.”

Luxon said Australia’s prime minister assured him that a common sense approach would remain regarding the direction.

During question time on Thursday Albanese was accused by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton of having a “close and sycophantic” relationship with former New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, which he rejected.

Albanese defended the under pressure immigration minister, saying he would not be stood down.

If immigration ministers were sacked when their or their department’s decisions were overturned by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal “then there wouldn’t have been an immigration minister in office for any time more than a fortnight”, he said.

“If Peter Dutton held himself to the same account that he wishes other ministers to be held, then he wouldn’t have lasted in that portfolio for a week.”

It comes as the Administrative Appeals Tribunal will appear before Senate estimates on Friday, where officials will be questioned on the visa decisions and the ministerial directions.

– AAP

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