Greens' refugee quota bill blocked by Govt

  • 08/09/2015
Green Party co-leader James Shaw (Simon Wong)
Green Party co-leader James Shaw (Simon Wong)

By Peter Wilson

The Government has blocked a Green Party bill that would have increased the refugee quota from 750 to 1000, although it says it's committed to a review.

The Greens tried to introduce their bill today, asking Parliament for permission to have an immediate first reading debate.

Several government MPs objected, and under Parliament's rules one would have been enough to block an Opposition bill.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw says New Zealand could take in far more refugees on a permanent basis.

"We are absolutely not doing enough," he told reporters minutes before the bill was blocked.

"The reason we wanted our bill to be given a first reading was so it could be sent to a select committee for public submissions, and we could find out exactly what people think about this."

Earlier today Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said the Government would review the quota early next year.

He announced yesterday New Zealand would accept 750 Syrian refugees over the next two-and-a-half years - 600 on top of the quota and 150 within it.

The annual quota was set at 750 nearly 30 years ago, and hasn't changed despite a significant population increase.

Mr Woodhouse says he'll be talking to Foreign Minister Murray McCully about the quota review.

"We will consider it and we will make recommendations to cabinet," he said.

"One of the things we have with a set quota is [the ability] to move in emergency situations - the higher the quota, the less headroom we have to do that."

Labour leader Andrew Little says the 750 figure is well below the per capita quota set 30 years ago.

"There is a refugee crisis in the world and we have always been willing to help," he said.

"There are times when we have to look beyond our own pockets and say 'this is our role as humanitarians'."