Focus on disclosure

Moves to enable criminal histories to be checked at transtasman border posts will be discussed in talks in Melbourne this weekend between Justice Minister Judith Collins and Australian Attorney-general Nicola Roxon.

Barriers on the disclosure of convictions allow people with records to slip through immigration controls by lying on entry documents, and to avoid background checks in job applications.

The issue flared when expatriate New Zealander Joel Hohepa Morehu-Barlow was charged with stealing more than $A16 million ($19.77 million) from Queensland Health.

Morehu-Barlow (36), who also faces further charges of fraud, drug possession and falsification of documents, was hired by Queensland Health in 2005 despite a previous criminal record in New Zealand, including the theft of $55,000 from the Tax Office.

New Zealanders and Australians can enter the other's country so long as they have not been sentenced to a year or more in jail, but can elude this restriction by ticking entry cards declaring they have no record.

Employers can check only for criminal records with the consent of prospective employees.

The arrest of Morehu-Barlow has prompted investigations that have shown New Zealanders have slipped into Australia despite convictions for such serious offences as kidnapping, rape, manslaughter and robbery.

Officials are discussing means of exchanging criminal records to block the free transtasman travel of serious offenders, and the issue will be discussed by Ms Collins and Ms Roxon.

The ministers will also discuss the operation of the Transtasman Proceedings Acts passed by both Parliaments in 2010, which enable documents filed in one country to be served in the other, and allows courts to determine jurisdiction.

The Acts also allow the service and enforcement of subpoenas, the recognition and enforcement of judgements, enable corporate watchdogs to launch proceedings in each other's country, and clarifies rules of evidence and the admissibility of transtasman court documents.

Prime Minister John Key and six other senior ministers were also going to Melbourne for weekend talks with their Australian counterparts.

Mr Key is scheduled to meet Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Finance Minister Bill English will have talks with Treasurer Wayne Swan.

Other ministers to meet their Australian counterparts are Health Minister Tony Ryall, Commerce Minister Craig Foss, Economic Development, Science and Technology Minister Steven Joyce, Education Minister Hekia Parata, and Defence Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman. - The New Zealand Herald


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