2 Oct 2013

Abbott not planning to send refugees to NZ

9:36 pm on 2 October 2013

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has signalled he is not interested in sending asylum seekers to New Zealand as part of his Government's policy of stopping boat people.

After meeting New Zealand Prime Minister John Key in Canberra on Wednesday night, Mr Abbott indicated he was unlikely to take advantage of the deal the previous Australian government had reached with New Zealand on the matter.

Under the agreement, which Mr Key reached with former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in February, New Zealand would take 150 refugees a year from Australia.

But Mr Abbott has a different approach.

"If you come to Australia illegally by boat, you go not to New Zealand but to Nauru or Manus and you never, ever come to Australia," he said.

"People ought not think that New Zealand is some kind of a consolation prize if they can't come to Australia."

Mr Abbott does, however, share Ms Gillard's view of the relationship between the two countries.

"We go back a hell of a long way together. New Zealand is family in a way that probably no other country on earth is, so I'm really thrilled that John has chosen to come to Australia to touch base with me so early in the life of the new government," he said.

But Mr Abbott is not prepared to give New Zealanders who are not permanent residents of Australia access to welfare assistance.

Mr Key said he would continue to raise the matter but it was up to Australia how it treated New Zealanders living there.

Balance right

Earlier on Wednesday, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia had the balance right with its treatment of New Zealanders living across the Tasman.

Ms Bishop's comments followed her first six-monthly meeting in Auckland with New Zealand counterpart, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully.

Mr McCully raised the plight of the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders living in Australia, who do not have any of the protections of citizenship.

Ms Bishop said there were budget constraints in giving those New Zealanders access to entitlements, such as Australia's aged pension.

"The idea behind it in the first place was to give New Zealanders the opportunity to work and study in Australia, and that's where most of the benefits are associated with working or studying in Australia," she said.

"We believe that we have the balance right but we're always prepared to listen to our friends from New Zealand."

Ms Bishop said she wanted to enhance co-operation between the two countries to make it easier to do business.