Australia

Liberal MP calls on government to accept New Zealand refugee offer

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Liberal MP Russell Broadbent wants to see the end of 'indefinite, long-term' offshore detention.

A federal Liberal MP has urged the government to take up New Zealand's offer to settle at least 150 refugees currently on Manus Island and Nauru.

Speaking to ABC News on Monday evening, Member for McMillan Russell Broadbent said he would like to "see us pursuing the offer" despite its rejection by successive Australian prime ministers. 

"If the New Zealand offer is there and on the table, I've been an advocate to take up the opportunity for a long time," he said.

Liberal MP Russell Broadbent has called on the government to accept New Zealand's refugee resettlement deal.
Liberal MP Russell Broadbent has called on the government to accept New Zealand's refugee resettlement deal.
AAP

"We have to take every opportunity that is there to remove these people from indefinite detention ... The generous, heartfelt approach by the New Zealanders is very welcome."

In February this year, a spokeswoman for New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that the deal - which was first publically offered in 2013 - was still on the table.

During her visit to Australia last week, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reportedly told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that the Australian government was aware that the option was there. 

“The Australian government knows that it’s there. We’ve always said that it’s a matter ultimately for them," she said, reiterating that the deal would only apply to people found to be legitimate refugees.

The East Lorengau Refugee Transit Center on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.
The East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre on Manus Island.
AAP

Mr Broadbent suggested that the reason the government had not yet accepted the deal was because Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton did not want to risk boats making their way to Australia. 

"I believe that Peter Dutton was very sincere when he said that he wants them off and I hope and pray that he is working through a plan right now that we will see an end to indefinite, long-term detention," Mr Broadbent said.

The statements come after Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister James Marape pushed Mr Morrison to set a timeline for closing the facility on Manus Island, where hundreds of asylum seekers remain, during a meeting in Canberra on Monday morning.

While no deadline was set for the closure, as Mr Marape has demanded, the two countries agreed to develop a timetable to achieve it.

Addressing the New Zealand deal, Mr Marape said it was a "matter between Australia and PNG" and he, therefore, would not contact New Zealand directly to facilitate an agreement. 

Governor of Manus Province Charlie Benjamin, who was also in Canberra for the meeting, was more supportive of the prospective deal, urging Australia to "step up and take this idea".

“My view is for them to go to a country as soon as possible. This journey has to come to an end," he said.

Approximately 450 asylum seekers remain in Papua New Guinea and another 350 on Nauru. 

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