Labor to blame for NZ-bound boat: Minister

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has taken aim at Labor over its refugee resettlement policy.Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has blamed Labor talking up of a refugee resettlement deal with New Zealand for making it a “destination” for people smugglers.

The opposition has urged the government to reconsider an ongoing offer from across the Tasman to resettle 150 refugees stranded on Manus Island and Nauru.

After a people smuggling-boat possibly bound for New Zealand was intercepted off the coast of Malaysia, Mr Dutton took aim at Labor’s statements on the refugee proposal.

“People have heard Labor talking about New Zealand as a destination,” Mr Dutton told 2GB.

“That’s why the people smugglers are now putting out there that ‘if you pay your money, OK, you don’t believe you can get to , but we can get you to New Zealand’.

“People know that New Zealand is a backdoor entry to .”

The modified tanker was carrying 131 Sri Lankans when it was halted off the coast of southern Johor state on Tuesday last week.

It was the 32nd boat to be turned back under the coalition government’s hardline Operation Sovereign Borders policy, Mr Dutton said.

The minister also described as a “complete disaster” a proposal within Labor to impose a 90-day limit on holding asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru, saying it would be a green light for people to enter .

Labor immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann claimed Mr Dutton was playing into the hands of people smugglers and criminals with his comments on the opposition’s border protection policies.

“Labor believes in strong borders, offshore processing, regional resettlement and turn-backs when safe to do so because we know it saves lives at sea,” Mr Neumann said.