Dutton defends Cambodia refugee deal

The Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton insists Australia has a good working relationship with the Cambodian government despite concerns of democratic decline.

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton

Peter Dutton said there was frustration in the Coalition about Labor's "moral lectures". (AAP) Source: AAP

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has played down the decision to grant a family of Cambodians asylum while a deal to send refugees from Nauru and Manus Island to Cambodia remains in place.

The wife and five children of murdered political activist Kem Ley arrived in Melbourne on Saturday.

Ley was gunned down in 2016 in a suspected political assassination.

He had made comments critical of Prime Minister Hun Sen's business dealings.

Mr Dutton said Australia took its international obligations seriously.

"We also have a very good working relationship with the Cambodian government," the minister told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

Co-operation on tackling child exploitation was a priority for both countries, Mr Dutton said.

Last week, exiled former Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy pointed out the awkwardness of Australia's refugee resettlement deal with Phnom Penh.

"It would be very embarrassing to accept refugees from Cambodia when you want to send refugees to Cambodia," Mr Rainsy said.

Cambodia agreed in 2014 to resettle refugees from Nauru in exchange for a $40 million aid sweetener.

A further $15 million has been allocated for running costs.

Only seven people took up the offer and it's believed only three remain there.

Cambodia's democracy is under attack, with the country's Supreme Court dissolving Mr Rainsy's Cambodia National Rescue Party last year and jailing opposition leader Kem Sokha.

The opposition was poised to strongly challenge the 33-year rule of Hun Sen at the July election.

2 min read
Published 21 February 2018 at 2:48pm
Source: AAP