The Foreign Minister and Immigration Minister appear to be at odds about whether the US refugee resettlement deal was part of a people swap.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced last year that Australia would resettle refugees currently in Costa Rica as part of its annual humanitarian intake.
Two months later, Mr Turnbull confirmed a one-off agreement for the US to resettle refugees in Australia’s offshore immigration centres on Nauru and Manus Island.
Neither government had publicly linked the two deals until Tuesday, when Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told Sky News that Australia would not resettle refugees from Costa Rica until the US had reassured the Government over the second deal.
Mr Dutton said he had no problem with people describing the two deals between the US and Australia to resettle refugees as a people swap.
“We wouldn’t take anyone until we had assurances that people were going to go off Nauru and Manus,” he said.
“It wasn’t a people-swap deal, if that’s the language people want to use. I don’t have any problem with that characterisation.”
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, however, said she would not describe the two deals as a people swap.
Speaking to media in Washington, Ms Bishop would not be drawn on the comments made by Mr Dutton several hours earlier.
She instead stated that both the US and Australia were “generous nations” when it came to refugees.
“We will continue to take refugees from across the world, as we’ve always done,” she said.
“It’s always been subject to the consideration of the United States’ consideration of those they wish to resettle and they are likewise a generous nation when it comes to resettling refugees and I’m sure they’ll continue to do so.”
The Australian Government has previously dismissed the idea of two deals forming a people swap.
After the Prime Minister’s first announcement last year, Special Minister of State Scott Ryan ruled out the notion.
“There is no basis at all for this allegation of [a] people swap,” he told the ABC.
“There will not be a people swap.”
Mr Dutton said he expected refugee resettlement to the US to begin within “the next couple of months”, despite recent tensions over the deal regarding refugees on Manus Island and Nauru.
Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump labelled the deal reached with the Obama administration as “dumb”.
Mr Trump made the comments on Twitter, where he incorrectly labelled refugees “illegal immigrants” and cited “thousands” of people instead of 1250.