‘I’m here to help’: PM rejects Nauru deal
SCOTT Morrison says he understands the community concern over asylum seeker children, but has today rejected "horse trading" over the issue.
The Prime Minister is dealing with a Labor offer to back legislation allowing asylum seekers on Nauru to go to New Zealand, but be barred from ever coming to Australia.
Mr Morrison said he was concerned about creating "a perverse incentive" to load children on asylum seeker boats because people smugglers think "you're more likely at the other end to get the particular outcome you're looking for".
"I understand the grief. I understand the great level of community passion and anxiety on this. I do," he told reporters in Canberra.
"But I also understand that I must take decisions that don't put more children at risk, which is the great folly of how the Labor Party have always engaged on this issue."
Mr Morrison said sending children to New Zealand had never been his preferred option and warned: "I'm not here to horse trade on children. I'm here to help them."
Labor's immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann today said the opposition would support amendments to existing government legislation, adding conditions for children on Nauru to be transferred to New Zealand.
Under Labor's plan, Mr Morrison would have to guarantee the minors went to New Zealand after "appropriate conditions" had been negotiated with the New Zealand government.
"Secondly, that the lifetime ban would only apply to that cohort of people who go to New Zealand from Nauru - the children and their families," Mr Neumann told ABC TV.
Thirdly, the Morrison Government could "limit the opportunity for people to come to Australia by amendments to the subclass 444 - which is the Special Category Visa which allows New Zealanders to come to Australia as a right".
He said the existing, unamended legislation was "a ridiculous overreach".
"It means someone who might be resettling in the United States or New Zealand who might be living there for decades, couldn't come to Australia for a tourist visa situation or indeed for business arrangements, when it could be in Australia's best economic interests for that to take place," Mr Neumann said.
"The US refugee resettlement arrangement - which has seen over 400 people relocated to the United States - is not dependent on this, and the legislation hasn't been a priority for the Government, it's sat there in the Senate for two years. "
Mr Morrison said it was up to Labor to make the first move, but suggested no significant change would happen this year.
But he said Labor had not gone through the ramifications of their policy.
"The Senate doesn't meet now for several weeks and if the Labor Party wants to move their amendments and they have the support of Greens and crossbenchers, that's a matter for them," the Prime Minister said.
"They could have done that at any time in the last two years. They haven't chosen to do that.
"What we're seeing is the usual sort of panic you see from the Labor Party on these issues in response to domestic politics.
"Rather than considering carefully the ramifications.
"Now, that matter wouldn't come back to the house until it meets later this year."