John Key: NZ won't back 'different classes of citizens' to allow Australia refugee deal
Prime Minister John Key has downplayed suggestions that a refugee deal with Australia is close, saying the country has "no obvious appetite" to reach a compromise.
Key says the Government would not accept any move to create "different classes of New Zealand citizens" by barring refugees who settled here from ever returning to Australia.
His comments came after Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his Immigration Minister Peter Dutton unveiled plans to stop refugees held in offshore detention centres from ever coming to Australia.
In 2013, New Zealand offered to take up to 150 refugees from centres on Nauru and Manus Island, an offer which Australia initially rejected, due in part to fears that the country could provide a backdoor into Australia via citizenship.
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However, there has been speculation across the Tasman that a final deal is close following the policy announcement, and after secret talks with one or more foreign governments.
Key said suggestions that a deal to take the refugees was close were off the mark, as there had been no indications of a compromise from the Australian government.
"That offer hasn't really moved, it sits there. There's no obvious appetite from Australia to take up the offer [and] I think it's increasingly unlikely that they will."
Australia appeared determined to use "every sort of fibre that they've got" to stop refugees brought by people smugglers from settling there, Key said.
'NO SEPARATE CLASSES OF CITIZENS'
However, the Government would not support moves from Australia to "create different classes of New Zealand citizens" by barring refugees who moved here from entering their country.
"We'd have to see what they ultimately pass and what they try to impose, but fundamentally there's a free movement of people from one country to the other...we've got no intention of having separate classes of New Zealand citizens."
A spokeswoman for Woodhouse confirmed he had not had any recent discussions with Australia regarding a refugee deal.
The Australian government said the proposed ban had been designed to send the strongest possible message to the criminal people smuggling operations capitalising on vulnerable asylum seekers and "economic" unlawful entrants looking for a better life.
'YET ANOTHER LAYER OF CRUELTY'
The policy has attracted widespread criticism amid claims it breaches the country's international treaty obligations, with Australian Labor leader Bill Shorten accusing the Government of caving in to right-wing extremists.
"It seems ridiculous to me that a genuine refugee who settles in the US or Canada and becomes a US or Canadian citizen is banned from visiting Australia as a tourist, businessman or businesswoman 40 years down the track," Shorten said.
Amnesty International refugee campaigner Ming Yu Hah said the proposal was "yet another layer of cruelty in Australia's already deliberately abusive policy".
"Not only is the Government proposing to rush through such outrageous and unnecessary laws, they are discriminating against people seeking safety based on their mode of arrival, which is in clear breach of Australia's obligations under international law," Ming said.