Jacinda Ardern to talk human rights during Sydney trip

  • 04/11/2017
Jacinda Ardern to talk human rights during Sydney trip
Photo credit: Getty

Sunday will be Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's first meeting with her Australian counterpart but she won't be keeping the conversation light.

Ms Ardern is set to address human rights concerns about Australia's treatment of refugees and asylum seekers when she has brunch with Malcolm Turnbull at Kirribilli House in Sydney.

The pair will likely cross paths at the upcoming APEC Summit in Vietnam and the East Asia Summit in the Philippines but Ms Ardern wanted the opportunity to meet formally first.

She is unimpressed with Australia's handling of the humanitarian crisis on Manus Island, where 600 refugees have barricaded themselves in a closed detention centre without food, water or electricity, too scared to leave.

She says anyone would look at that situation and see the human face.

Four years ago New Zealand offered to take 150 refugees from Australian offshore detention centres and Ms Ardern says that offer not only remains on the table but will be part of discussions on Sunday.

This time the offer has the support of Australian opposition leader Bill Shorten, whose Labor Party was the first to reject it.

"(The prime minister) should have the conversation and see if we can make this proposal work," Mr Shorten said this week.

"If it's not a viable option, then Turnbull should explain why. Doing nothing is not an option."

Mr Turnbull has repeatedly rejected the offer in the last year, saying it would provide a back door for entry to Australia and become a marketing opportunity for people smugglers.

But Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani said Manus blockaders were pinning their hopes on New Zealand.

"NZ is our best chance, standing by offer to take refugees. Australia's blocking but has no right to say no. You can't keep political hostages," he told NZ Newswire.

He said the refugees had no desire to live in Australia after the way they had been treated.

Also likely to come up is the Australian government's treatment of New Zealanders living in the country.

Proposed changes to university fee structures, currently stalled in the upper house, could result in Kiwi students being made to pay full fee international student rates to study at Australian universities.

During the election campaign Ms Ardern threatened retaliation if those changes were to be approved.

With plans to progress the new 11 member Trans-Pacific Partnership at APEC next week, Ms Ardern will also likely be looking for support to dump the controversial investor-state dispute resolution clauses that allow foreign investors to sue governments.

That would require renegotiation which is not supported by Japan.