The Australian government hasn’t stopped at cancelling the visas of hardened criminals such as rapists and murderers; they have also been cancelling the visas of people convicted of minor offences such as shoplifting and traffic offences! Even more shocking is the recent case where they cancelled the visa of a decorated New Zealand soldier, former Lance Corporal Ngati Kanohi Haapu, who has no criminal record!
The decorated soldier’s visa was cancelled merely due to his association with the Rebels motorcycle club. Under the Migration Act, the Minister can cancel someone’s visa if he ‘reasonably suspects that the person does not pass the character test’ and ‘the person does not satisfy the Minister that the person satisfies the character test’. One way a person can fail the character test is if ‘the Minister reasonably suspects’ that ‘the person has been or is a member of a group or organisation or has had an association with a group, organisation or person’ and that ‘the group, organisation or person has been or is involved in criminal conduct’. This is what has happened in Happu’s case – his association with the Rebels motorcycle club, which supposedly is or has been involved in criminal conduct, was the reason used to cancel his visa. It is not a requirement that Happu was involved in the criminal conduct himself or had any knowledge of the group’s criminal conduct in order for him to fail the character test. In Happu’s defence, his lawyer has clearly stated that the Rebels motorcycle club is not a criminal organisation in Western Australia. It has also been claimed that Haapu is barely a member of the club.
Happu was reportable forcibly detained by police and thrown into solitary confinement for four days and is now being kept in a high-security Australian prison. For those who have had their visas cancelled because of their criminal record, being thrown into detention after they have already served their time is bad enough, however, Haapu is being detained with no criminal record! Maori Party MP Marama Fox has stated that this is a clear breach of human rights.
Haapu served in the New Zealand Army between 2008 and 2012 and has been awarded three service medals for tours in Afghanistan and his service in New Zealand and abroad. In one of his tours in Afghanistan he reportedly even worked as one of the bodyguards to New Zealand Prime Minister John Key. When Happu served in Afghanistan in 2010 his job involved protecting units under attack and rescuing the injured.
Prime Minister Key is urging New Zealand citizens in Australian detention centres to return to New Zealand while appealing their deportation. Australia’s policy on this issue is clearly damaging our long held good relationship with New Zealand, the question is, how far will the government let it go?