New Zealand refugee offer a future possibility - Malcolm Turnbull

  • 17/11/2017
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten believes the government shouldn't block NZ's offer.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten believes the government shouldn't block NZ's offer. Photo credit: Getty

Malcolm Turnbull has softened his language over New Zealand's offer to take 150 refugees from Manus Island.

"It's a possibility that could happen in the future but it is not ... a near-term prospect at all," the prime minister told Neil Mitchell on Melbourne radio 3AW on Friday.

Instead, Australia was focused on the US refugee resettlement deal that could take up to 1250 people.

So far 54 people have been sent to the US from the Nauru and the Papua New Guinea detention facilities.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten believes the government shouldn't block the NZ offer.

"If New Zealand in good faith wants to take these people from Manus Island, then Australia should not get in the way," he told reporters in Adelaide.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been a vocal critic of Australia's handling of the closure of the Manus Island detention centre.

Hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers have barricaded themselves in the mothballed facility, refusing demands they move to alternative accommodation.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has left the door ajar on a possible NZ deal directly with Papua New Guinea.

"That's an issue between those two countries. Any sovereign state can enter into bilateral arrangements," he told Sky News.

"They would have to think about other equities within the respective relationships - they would have to think about their relationship with Australia."

NZN