Key: Aust refugee deal not with NZ

  • 01/11/2016
Prime Minister John Key (Simon Wong)
Prime Minister John Key (Simon Wong)

Australia is reportedly close to signing a deal to resettle refugees from the Nauru and Manus Island detention centres in a third country, but Prime Minister John Key says it's not with New Zealand.

The nation has not been approached by Australia to be part of the agreement which Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Sunday was part of discussions supporting a new policy.

"We are keen to get people off to third countries if they can't return to their country of origin. We are working with a number of countries now," Mr Turnbull said.

The Australian policy also seeks to ban asylum seekers arriving by boat from ever entering Australia, including on business or as a tourist, regardless of if they're found to be a refugee.

"No, it's not New Zealand. There's been no discussion with us taking refugees," Mr Key said on Tuesday.

He earlier said it's increasingly unlikely that Australia would take up an existing offer from New Zealand to take 150 refugees from detention centres on Nauru or Manus Island.

That would create a backdoor for refugees who gain New Zealand citizenship to then enter Australia, and Mr Key said the government had no intention of creating separate classes of citizens that would prevent that from happening.

Labour leader Andrew Little said the ability to move freely around the world was an inherent human right and constraining that right was "not on the face of it at all acceptable".

Labour wants to see New Zealand's refugee quota doubled.

"We should be assisting Australia to do the right thing. If they are insisting on doing things that go against our humanitarian instincts of course we should call them out on it but the preference is, as we have done in the past, we work with Australia," Mr Little said.

Amnesty International has called on the government to take a stronger stance against the Australian policy.

"To date, John Key has flatly refused to publicly acknowledge or condemn Australia's actions, despite clear evidence of human rights abuses against refugees and asylum seekers at the offshore detention centre," New Zealand executive director Grant Bayldon said.

"The New Zealand public wants John Key to speak out against these abuses. Now is the time for him to do so."