Prime Minister Scott Morrison has mocked the opposition over Labor’s plan to send more refugees to the US.
Labor’s deputy Tanya Plibersek suggested on Thursday the party wanted to expand a US-Australia refugee deal to ensure that everyone in offshore detention could be resettled.
But Mr Morrison said the deal was good enough as it is and that there were “hundreds” of spots available in the US to rehome some of the 900 refugees who remain on Manus Island and Nauru.
The Coalition has reignited the battle on borders after Labor revealed it would work on deals with other countries to resettle refugees on Manus and Nauru. https://t.co/fYrCB8Kawp @MyleeHogan #auspol #ausvotes #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/e6UMous4Gv
— 7NEWS Sydney (@7NewsSydney) May 9, 2019
As of April, more than 500 people have been sent to the US under the deal, which caps the number of resettled at 1250.
When asked why more people had not been transferred since the deal was inked, Mr Morrison said it was complicated.
“The national security issues that are addressed in dealing with those transfers are not simple,” Mr Morrison said.
“We just work through the program and hundreds of people have been, and will continue to be able to be, relocated and resettled.”
He scoffed at the idea Labor would think they could renegotiate with the US, given Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s comments on President Donald Trump.
“It does strike me as strange that the Labor Party – in particular Tanya Plibersek and Bill Shorten who have been fairly colourful in their descriptions of the Trump administration – would think that they would be in a stronger position to achieve a better arrangement,” Mr Morrison said.
“I find that a little odd.”
Mr Shorten was questioned on the ABC program Q&A, about how his comments could affect Australia’s relationship with the US, should Mr Shorten become prime minister.
Mr Shorten said he would work “professionally” with the American leader and stressed that his interactions with Mr Trump will always put Australian interests first.
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) May 6, 2019
As well as shutting down the detention centres, the ALP is also pushing to take Australia’s annual humanitarian intake of refugees to 27,000 by 2025 to address what it says is a a “global humanitarian crisis”.
Since 2013, New Zealand’s government has publicly offered to settle at least 150 refugees being held on Nauru or Manus Island, but has been rebuffed by Labor and Liberal prime ministers.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the NZ offer was not currently in the government’s “best interests”.
The original resettlement deal was struck in 2017 between then PM Malcolm Turnbull and former US president Barack Obama.
The Obama administration, which was concerned about Australia’s policy on offshore detention, was reluctant to agree to the deal, but did so on humanitarian grounds.