Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat that they should not expect to get New Zealand as a “consolation prize”.
Mr Abbott hosted NZ Prime Minister John Key on Wednesday, the first foreign leader to visit Australia since the change of government last month.
The pair discussed NZ’s previous commitment to annually settle 150 refugees that Australia has processed, under a deal struck with former prime minister Julia Gillard in February.
AAP understands NZ has left the offer on the table but the Abbott government has indicated it won’t take it up because it wants to focus on sending asylum seekers to Nauru and Manus Island.
The intake had been slated to start in 2014 and was to make up part of New Zealand’s annual quota of 750 refugees.
Mr Abbott cast doubt over the arrangement during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday.
“We’re grateful for New Zealand’s help,” Mr Abbott said.
“If and when it becomes necessary obviously we’ll call on it.”
He reiterated his determination to stop the boats.
“One of the ways we stop the boats is by making it absolutely crystal clear that if you come to Australia illegally by boat you go, not to New Zealand, but to Nauru or Manus and you never ever come to Australia,” Mr Abbott said.
“People ought not think that New Zealand is some kind of a consolation prize if they can’t come to Australia.”
There’s strong support from NZ to take refugees from Australia with 60.8 per cent of people surveyed in a Herald-DigiPoll backing the arrangement.