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Key's asylum seeker claims 'incredible' – Shearer

Tuesday 12 Feb 2013 4:58 p.m.

The Prime Minister has made a remarkable claim to explain his offer to take 150 asylum seekers from Australia each year.

John Key says he received intelligence that if we didn't let a boat in, Australia would shepherd it here regardless.

But Labour doesn't buy it, and is calling for proof.

Thousands of asylum seekers arrive in Australia by boat each year, and it didn't take much convincing for New Zealand to agree to accept 150 of them.

It's a preemptive strike according to Mr Key, because if we don't take them willingly, Australia would lead them here anyway.

“If a boat turns up in Australia, there's much chance they would shepherd it across the Tasman,” he says.

But he didn't hear that from Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Once again, his spies told him so.

“Well, another prime minister's not going to ring me about those issues,” he says. “It comes from my intelligence sources.”

That’s not good enough for Labour.

“Where is this intelligence? This is an incredible claim,” says Labour leader David Shearer.

But Mr Key says he can show Mr Shearer the paperwork.

“If he'd like to have a briefing at the next Select Committee and see the paperwork, I’d be more than happy to release that for him.”

Mr Key didn't hold back in 2011 either, when 85 Tamil asylum seekers were stopped in Malaysia – apparently destined for New Zealand.

Mr Key called the asylum seekers “criminals”.

“These are people that are trying to jump the queue,” he said.

So seven months ago people like that were criminal "queue jumpers". Now under this new deal if they land in Australia and are declared UN refugees, they're welcome.

“They're not queue jumpers – they have to be genuine refugees,” Mr Key says.

Labour's doing its best to get Mr Key on the ropes over this deal. But despite being completely against it, Mr Shearer admits that if in power, he wouldn't scrap it. Instead he says he’d call Australia to talk about it.

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