NZ asked to take asylum seekers
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Julia Gillard. Photo: Mal Fairclough
ASYLUM seekers could again be sent across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand under a deal to be presented to the New Zealand government.
Fairfax believes that New Zealand will agree to settle up to 130 boat arrivals bound for Australia when the countries' prime ministers meet in Queenstown on Saturday.
NZ Prime Minister John Key said: ''We're conscious of the view that a regional solution will be found.
''I see the issue as an Australasian issue and as a regional issue and from New Zealand's point of view, I stand by my publicly stated comments in the past that it's my view that a boat will at some point turn up in New Zealand.
''We work very closely with the Australians and they provide a lot of support for New Zealand, so in that regard we are looking to work with Australia.''
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a statement: ''Our partnership has been forged between shared values and history, strong people-to-people links, an close government, security and economic ties.''
If the deal proceeds, it would echo a similar one struck by former NZ prime minister Helen Clark with prime minister John Howard over the 2001 Tampa affair, when he refused to allow a container ship carrying more than 400 refugees to land.
Asylum seeker policy has also been a pressing political issue for Ms Gillard, who has revived controversial offshore processing centres in Nauru and Manus Island.
But any offer to help may also be controversial in NZ, especially after Ms Gillard insisted on Friday there was no need to change Australia's laws refusing Kiwis the same access to benefits and entitlements that Australians enjoy in NZ.
The issue has been a thorn in the relationship since the Howard government changed the rules in response to a surge of NZ immigrants, sparked by better pay and conditions. But it failed to stem the exodus and more than 400,000 Kiwis now live in Australia, many of them referred to in a recent Australian report as second class citizens because they lack welfare entitlements.
Documents obtained this week show Australia is working on a plan to give Kiwis full residency after living in the country for 10 years.