CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s prime minister said Friday he was open to allowing an Australian who slaughtered 51 worshipers at two New Zealand mosques to serve his life sentence in his homeland, but the victims’ wishes were paramount in any decision.
Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 29, was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty to the Christchurch massacre in March last year.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said while no official request had been made by New Zealand authorities for Australia to take Tarrant back, the Australian government was open to such a proposal.
“I’m pleased that that terrorist will never be released anywhere ever again,” Morrison said. “We’ll have an open discussion and look at the issues around this.”
“Most of all, we’re concerned about what the views of the families would be for those affected, and we want to do the right thing by them,” he added.
New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters is among the most vocal proponents for Australia taking responsibility for imprisoning Tarrant and taking the cost off New Zealanders.
Tarrant is the first person to be denied a possibility of parole in New Zealand, and he has to be kept under enhanced security for his own safety.
Peters said lawmakers could only consider making a request to Australia since Tarrant was sentenced.
“Given this unprecedented circumstance and all the regard to the cost of looking after the victims in our country who survived and their families and also the 50 million New Zealand dollar plus ($33 million) downstream in real terms of providing safety for this terrorist, then the sound, reasonable, logical thing to do would be to ask Australia to step up,” Winston told Nine Network television.
Winston said sending Tarrant back could require the parliaments of both countries to pass special laws because the near-neighbors do not have a legal framework for prisoner transfers.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said he would take legal advice on whether Tarrant might become eligible for parole if he entered Australia’s prison system.
“We’d have to look at what happened in terms of parole or the way in which our legal system would work here,” Dutton said.
“First priority is to keep him in jail for the rest of his life, and we’ll work very closely with New Zealand on any request that they provide,” Dutton added.
New Zealand has criticized Dutton for deporting increasing numbers of New Zealander criminals once they have been released from Australian prisons, accusing the minister of exporting Australia's problems.
Some criminals have lived in Australia since childhood and have no family or social networks in their homeland. The New Zealand government argues that Australia should take responsibility for them turning to crime.