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Key says no to refugee detention centre

BY ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 15:40 29/10/2010

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New Zealand will not pay for - or house - a regional processing centre for boat people, Prime Minister John Key has said.

Mr Key will have his first formal talks with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Vietnam tonight.

And tomorrow he will attend the East Asia Summit where he will raise the issue of human rights with Myanmar.

Ms Gillard is proposing a detention centre to deal with the mass arrival of "boat people" from impoverished Asian countries.

Mr Key said the idea was "very much in it's infancy."

"It is not something we are looking to put cash into. We can pretty much rule out paying for it. We have no interest in housing that." And he said New Zealand will not be upping its quota of taking 750 refugees a year.

But he was keen to discuss the matter with Ms Gillard, who was elected after deposing Kevin Rudd.

"There is a lot of work to go. We are interested in having the discussion because we ourselves are thinking about what our response would be."

Recently a boat-load of asylum seekers had arrived in Canada. "If they can get to Canada they can get to New Zealand so we are looking at our own legislation and our response to this issue."

He said a regional processing centre "could fit" with New Zealand's policy and denied it would be outsourcing immigration.

Mr Key and Ms Gillard will also discuss climate change and further economic integration . "It will be wide ranging."

The 45 minute meeting with Ms Gillard will take place at Hanoi's Hilton hotel. Foreign Minister Murray McCully will also attend.

After the bilateral meeting he will head to a 20 minute meeting with UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon. At a gala dinner he will chat to US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who is due in New Zealand next week.

At tomorrow's East Asia Summit New Zealand will sit next to Myanmar because of alphabetisation. Mr Key said he would raise next week's contentious elections with the ruling military junta.

"New Zealand has spelt out it's position quite clearly and we will continue to reiterate that."

It was "a small but very tiny step" to hold elections.

"But elections where the main opposition leader is under house arrest [are] not really a free and fair election. [It] fails the test of true elections and democracy as we know it. We would need to see an election where people truly can contest their right to be elected. and that's not the case."

ASEAN diplomats yesterday demanded Aung San Suu Kyi be freed before the elections next month. Her detention expires on November 13 but Prime Minister, General Thein Sein will not say if she will be released.

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Ms Suu Kyi's party is boycotting the elections as undemocratic. It won a landslide victory in the country's last elections in 1990 but the military government refused to accept those results.

Mr Ban has called for dissidents to be freed.

- Stuff

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