12 Sep 2017

NZ detainee calls for Labour's plan to resist Canberra

7:45 am on 12 September 2017

A New Zealand-born motorcycle gang member about to be deported from Australia is demanding New Zealand's Labour Party spell out how it would pressure Canberra if elected.

Mehaka Tepuia (detained) and grandson Kaige Ashby

Lee Tepuia with his grandson (file photo) Photo: Merepeka Matangi

Father-of-four Lee Tepuia, who lives in Perth, won a landmark case in Australia's highest court last week, quashing a law that allowed the government to keep secret its reasons for cancelling some visas, including his.

Mr Tepuia was re-arrested after the government cancelled his visa again, and on Friday he agreed to be deported.

"I'm not giving up, I'll fight it from New Zealand, I'll never give up.

"Why should I waste another six, 12 months in here ... what my family's gone through, they've suffered enough."

Mr Tepuia is expected to be deported within a fortnight, ending 22 months in an immigration lock-up. His family will join him later.

He said Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis has been outspoken in the past about the treatment of New Zealanders by Australia, and he should spell out Labour's response during the election campaign.

"He [Kelvin Davis] knows what's going on. He's talked to the people [in detention] I've talked to.

"It needs to be out there. It needs to brought up again. It's a big thing and it needs to be talked about. It needs to be sorted.

"I'm sure our Kiwi people wouldn't treat Australians like that, would they?"

A separate move by Australia to force New Zealanders to pay more to study across the Tasman has already prompted Labour leader Jacinda Ardern to threaten retaliation if elected, to charge Australians more to study here.

Mr Davis had previously accused Australia of brutally violating New Zealanders' human rights when mandatory visa cancellations and detentions for certain non-citizens were introduced in late 2014.

He was unavailable to speak last night, but he stood by a previous statement, first issued in 2015, that questioned whether Australia was qualified to be on the United Nations Human Rights Council. Australia is all but guaranteed to win one of the two free seats on the Council next year.

"New Zealand has a world class human rights record and we can't sit by while our people are being detained inhumanely. So, how in these circumstances can New Zealand support Australia's bid for the United Nations Human Rights Council," Mr Davis said.

Currently 170 New Zealand-born people are detained under Australia's Section 501 immigration laws, which cover character requirements, including an unknown number on the remote Christmas Island. That compares with 199 a year ago.

Mr Davis has repeatedly lambasted the current New Zealand government, saying it should stand up to Canberra over Australia's detention policies.

National has opposed Australia's stance, but argues it cannot prevent its government from introducing harsher rules.

Australian Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm has meanwhile heavily criticised his own government over an immigration law amendment last week that stopped Mr Tepuia's court victory from being applied to about 20 deportees.

Their visas were also cancelled based on secret information that neither they nor the courts were allowed to see.

"Deporting people and secret evidence has been a hallmark of repressive regimes through history. Hitler and Stalin were great at it," Mr Leyonhjelm, who voted against the change, said.

One of the 20 people blocked by the amendment was New Zealand-born Shane Martin, the father of AFL star Dustin Martin, who plays for the Richmond Tigers.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government was "proud" to change the law and prevent Mr Martin entering the country to watch his son play in the AFL finals series.

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