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Aust PM faces criticism over boatpeople plan

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Julia Gillard
Julia Gillard

Wellington, July 9 NZPA - As Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard faces political criticism at home over her handing of a proposal for an offshore asylum seekers processing centre, Prime Minister John Key says it's an idea that needs more work.

Ms Gillard rang Mr Key this week to talk about the idea.

She had said in Australia said East Timor could be a site for a regional centre and President Jose Ramos-Horta indicated he was open to considering the plan.

But Mr Gusmao's deputy Jose Luis Guterres has said East Timor was "very unlikely" to agree to it.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said Ms Gillard had been premature in naming East Timor and he suggested giving Nauru a call -- that country has accommodated boatpeople before.

Ms Gillard is now facing criticism for what is seen as making a hasty announcement to win support before calling an election.

Mr Key today said he had no further discussion about the idea with Ms Gillard, he repeated that New Zealand would not host such a centre and that it would take no more than the 750 refugees accepted via the United Nations.

"I am happy to have a discussion about whether, as part of that 750, some people could come from a resettlement area, but the total wouldn't change."

He was not concerned over the political argy-bargy in Australia.

"I had a very clear conversation with her just to say 'look we accept the position Australia faces we also acknowledge that New Zealand could be a destination for boats and on that basis it makes sense to have a discussion on a regional basis'.

"In fact New Zealand's been engaged before on regional discussions about asylum seekers, so this isn't new territory."

He said Australia was clear about the role New Zealand could play. At the same time the country could not ignore it was also a target.

"I've got to take the issue seriously... In that regard having a discussion with the Australian prime minister is something that I should at least explore."

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