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Too close to home?

Australia [IMMIGRATION]

The relationship between Australia and New Zealand seems cosy given the bromance between prime ministers Malcolm Turnbull and John Key, successful businessmen who have publicly praised one another. Yet one issue is causing angst between the two countries: Kiwis are the second-largest group now in Australian immigration detention. Some 200 were held last year under new laws stating that any non-citizen sentenced to a cumulative 12 months in prison could have their visa revoked and be deported, even if they have served their time.

Many of these Kiwis whose visas have been cancelled on character grounds have spent most of their lives in Australia, which is home to more than 640,000 New Zealanders. Now they face deportation to a country they barely know.

Australia is encouraging Kiwi detainees to return to New Zealand and pursue any appeals from there. Though Turnbull promised to look into providing resources to help expedite appeals, riots broke out last November at an Australian immigration detention centre on remote Christmas Island.

New Zealand’s opposition Labour party has taken up the cause, pressuring Key to do more to help protect detainees’ rights. While some of the Kiwis facing deportation have been convicted of violent crimes, others are being penalised for lesser offences. “Some of them are charged with repeated shoplifting, repeated drink-driving offences, those sorts of things,” said New Zealand Labour leader Andrew Little, on visiting Sydney’s Villawood detention centre late last year.

An advocacy group for expatriate New Zealanders, Iwi n Aus, is launching a bus tour to raise awareness of the issue, which will end in Wellington on Anzac Day on 25 April, a shared holiday between the two countries commemorating those who served and died in war. Founder Erina Anderson-Morunga says, “The Anzac spirit is about looking after each other, not tearing each other down and destroying families.”

Sexual politics

Fiji [MARRIAGE]

Fiji may seem like the perfect honeymoon destination but prime minister Frank Bainimarama was not feeling the love when he declared that same-sex couples who want to marry should move to Iceland. “Fiji does not need that rubbish,” he was quoted as saying in the Fiji Sun earlier this year. 

Although the country decriminalised gay sex in 2010 and there are some protections against discrimination in Fijian law, there is still no legal recognition of same-sex couples. Legal experts have warned that Bainimarama’s statement may well be seen to violate constitutional bans on inciting communal antagonism.

Solid foundations

Vanuatu [INFRASTRUCTURE]

As Vanuatu picks up the pieces from the devastation caused by last year’s Cyclone Pam, the island nation is rediscovering the importance of its traditional building techniques. While its modern concrete-and-tin structures shattered during the storms and crushed people, the low-set thatched huts – refined over thousands of years to withstand wild tropical storms – proved to be the strongest form of infrastructure.

“Vanuatu’s provincial governments and tourism authorities are now trying to encourage this type of building by creating demonstration huts to show tourists,” says Mary O’Malley, who is working with the University of New South Wales on a project about unique vernacular. “They want to see more traditional architecture because it’s good for tourism, being much more aesthetically pleasing. It’s also safer.”

Election watch

Samoa

Foregone conclusion

Date: 4 March
Type: Parliamentary
Candidates: Prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, in office since 1998, will again lead the historically dominant Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP). The principal opposition is Tautua Samoa, led by Palusalue Fa’apo II.
Issues: The Tautua Samoa party hopes to focus attention on the HRPP’s alleged slowness in reforming Samoa’s education and medical systems. Also contentious is a government plan to sell citizenship to foreign investors.
Monocle comment: Though Samoans seem happy to keep electing the HRPP, some plausible opposition would be healthy; even PM Malielegaoi has spoken of his exasperation at the drift towards one-party statehood.

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