Wellington, Nov 13 NZPA - Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean says he is not surprised New Zealand rejected Australia's request to take stranded asylum seekers.
Mr Crean told the ABC he had spoken to New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully on the sidelines of the Apec summit in Singapore about the 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers refusing to leave an Australian customs ship, Oceanic Viking, moored off Indonesia.
"What they're looking for is the broader solution, not the case by case," the Australian minister said.
Australia was trying to get a broader solution by tackling the problem in Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
Earlier, two brothers sent back to Sri Lanka after being caught among a boatload of people sailing to New Zealand said they were expected to each pay $US2000 ($NZ2700) on arrival.
The brothers, Buddhi and Kumar, were among 50 young Sri Lankans who had already paid up to $US1500 in advance for the chance of a new life in New Zealand, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.
But their five-weeks on the open seas in the hold of a fishing boat ended in an Australian camp for illegal migrants.
The refugees nearly died when their boat ran aground at Horn Island off the northern tip of Queensland.
"I thought we would die when we ran out of food and water, but we got help from Indonesian fishermen," said Kumar, a 25-year-old mechanic. "I'd still like to try again."
The brothers, who declined to give their full names, started out in February from Mariwala on the western coast of Sri Lanka, and ended up being held by the Australians for five months on Christmas Island before being sent home.