PM fears disrespecting Nauru over refugees

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says his government has been working to remove children from Nauru. (AAP)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Australian's should be careful not to disrespect Nauru, by calling for asylum-seeker children to leave the island.

All asylum-seeker children Australia put on Nauru are living freely in the community just like the locals, the prime minister insists.

Scott Morrison says Australians should be careful not to disrespect the island nation by calling for the children to be removed.

"That is the home of Nauruans - their children live there, their families live there, they go to school there," he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

"We should be tempered in our discussion about the nation of Nauru and I think we should treat them with respect."

Mr Morrison says the number of children Australia has put there has halved in the past nine weeks, with fewer than 50 remaining on the Pacific island.

"We've been getting about this quietly, we haven't been showboating about it".

The government has lost its majority in the House of Representatives and is under immense pressure from crossbench MPs to get asylum seekers off Nauru.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton insists all asylum-seeker children will eventually be removed.

"We're down to 50 - our intention is to reduce it to zero - but to do it in a way that doesn't restart boats," he said.

Labor leader Bill Shorten wants to work with the government to send the asylum seekers to New Zealand.

"It's time for the new prime minister to put aside the point-scoring and to work with us," Mr Shorten said.

But Mr Dutton is not interested, painting the Labor opposition as a threat to border security.

"If Mr Shorten is elected prime minister, there is no doubt in my mind the boats will restart," he said.

"If you want to see kids drown at sea, if you want to see kids back in detention, vote Labor."

There are about 650 asylum seekers left on Nauru, including the 50 children.

Another 626 men remain on Manus Island.

Those on Nauru receive care from 65 medical professionals, including 33 mental health workers.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott said the tiny Pacific nation was no "hell hole".

"If you like living in the tropics it's a very, very pleasant island," Mr Abbott said.

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