New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has attacked the Australian government's policy of deporting convicted criminals who were born overseas, saying the policy is "testing" the friendship between the two nations.
Standing alongside Prime Minister Scott Morrison at Sydney's Kirribilli House on Friday, Ms Ardern criticised the Coalition's policy, under which about 2000 criminals have been sent back to New Zealand in the past six years.
"Australia is well within its rights to deport individuals who break your laws. New Zealand does the same. But we have a simple request - send back Kiwis, genuine Kiwis," she said.
"Do not deport your people and your problems."
She said many of the Kiwi deportees had lived most of their lives in Australia and had no connection to New Zealand.
"They have grown up in Australia, that is their home and that is where they should stay," she said.
"The New Zealand and Australia relationship is being tested."
But Mr Morrison didn't budge on Australia's rules which he said were very clear.
"We deport non-citizens who have committed crimes in Australia against our community," he said.
The awkward exchange happened as the duo met for their annual leaders' meeting in Sydney on Friday.
The two leaders also discussed the coronavirus, as well as climate change, greater cooperation on indigenous issues, trade and security.
Earlier, Ms Ardern met with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian at parliament house where the NZ leader said her country felt "very deeply" for the state during the bushfires.
Australian Associated Press