11 Nov 2015

PM stands by 'rapists' comments

9:42 am on 11 November 2015

Prime Minister John Key is not backing down from comments he made about Labour MPs "backing the rapists" in the Christmas Island detention centre.

Mr Key made the accusation in Parliament yesterday in response to a question about New Zealanders being held at the Australian facility.

Several Labour MPs walked out when the Speaker ruled Mr Key did not have to apologise for the comment.

Unrest flared at the detention centre on Sunday night following the death of an asylum seeker who escaped. The centre houses both asylum seekers and New Zealanders with criminal records awaiting deportation.

John key on the bridge at Parliament.

John Key Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

More on the trouble at the centre on Christmas Island

Mr Key told Morning Report he did not feel he had gone too far in his comments.

"Of the cohort of New Zealanders in any of these [Australian] detention centres or coming out of prison to go to a detention centre, a third of them are rapists, sex offenders, murderers or people that have been convicted of assault or serious assault."

"What [Australian Prime Minister] Malcolm Turnbull said to us is that people that were on Christmas Island were also those that they believed were responsible for either behavioural issues at other camps or alternatively were some very serious offenders."

Figures released by Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on people detained at Christmas Island showed of the 199 detainees, 113 had convictions, with 71 of those serious offenders.

Four had convictions for rape or sexual assault and five had convictions for child sex offences. There were also 11 convictions for armed robbery, 27 for assault and two for manslaughter.

Meanwhile, MP Kelvin Davis, Labour's spokesperson for police and corrections, said he stood by his own comments that Mr Key was gutless and weak and criticised the Prime Minister's behaviour in Parliament yesterday.

"I think he had a rush of blood to his head because he was annoyed I called him 'gutless', and his lips were just flapping off in the wind.

"No violence is acceptable, not the violence those guys committed, or crimes they committed to get into prison in the first place, not the violence that has happened to them, not the violence that has gone on with the riot. But the Prime Minister doesn't think that. He seems to think that not saying anything about violence is perfectly acceptable and it's going to make these people better citizens when they get out of these detention centres. The man is just dumb."

Mr Davis said welcoming back New Zealand criminals who were angry and violent after being abused at detention centres was not a good way to settle them back in this country.

Mr Key said New Zealand had made it clear it did not like the policy of detaining New Zealanders who are awaiting deportation under Australia's new immigration law.

"We haven't liked the policy from the get-go, we've made that clear to various Australian prime ministers and various Australian ministers now," Mr Key said.

"But people are free, if they don't want to be in detention on any one of these camps, of which Christmas Island is merely one, to come back to New Zealand.

"The advice that we have had from both the Australian ministers as late as yesterday is that they can come within a matter of days if they have no particular conditions around them, and it would be weeks if they did."

Mr Key said Australia would charter a plane tomorrow for those who wanted to come back to New Zealand while their appeal against deportation was considered.