15 Nov 2017

National Party questions PM on Manus progress

6:19 pm on 15 November 2017

The opposition is sceptical of claims by the Prime Minister that progress has been made on New Zealand's offer to Australia to resettle 150 refugees from offshore detention centres.

Jacinda Ardern has wrapped up the East Asia Summit with a 20 minute conversation with her Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull, where they discussed further proposals to resolve the ongoing situation on Manus Island.

Refugees on Manus Island

Refugees on Manus Island Photo: Supplied

It has been a whirlwind of speeches and meetings with world leaders for Ms Ardern at APEC and the Summit in Manila, but Manus Island has continued to be a priority.

On the last day she talked to Mr Turnbull about New Zealand giving $3 million of aid money to support detainees on Manus Island.

Officials from Australia and New Zealand would also start laying the groundwork for a screening process that could be quickly put in place if and when Australia accepted the offer to take 150 refugees.

National Party leader Bill English said in the end it was still up to Australia.

"The issue is to what extent is our Prime Minister making a showpiece out of this, knowing full well that the Australians are very unlikely to take up the offer."

The offer of aid money, he said, was in line with New Zealand's general approach in the region.

"We always contribute to humanitarian efforts around the place and I'm sure this will be on some assistance within what is a very large Australian budget of close to $1 billion."

A refugee carries well water in the Manus Island detention centre.

A refugee carries well water in the Manus Island detention centre. Photo: Behrouz Boochani

The International Red Cross said it was aware of the offer of aid money and would welcome any support, but would not make any further comment until it had received a formal offer.

Meanwhile, speaking in Manila, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said he met with the United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the Summit for the second time in less than a week.

Mr Peters would not confirm they discussed security matters, saying only it had to do with an initiative in the Asia-Pacific region.

He said Mr Tillerson wanted New Zealand to be involved in something, and more details should be revealed in the next few days.

Tensions over North Korea dominated meetings this week, but RNZ has been told that was not the focus of the initiative.

Ms Ardern and Mr Peters are travelling back from Manila, and will arrive back in New Zealand tomorrow.

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