Another twist in the farce over the stained treatment of refugees on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island has surfaced. New Zealand has been insisting for some time that it is more than willing to welcome some 150 to its shores. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, much to the irritation of Australia’s Turnbull government, has been particularly enthusiastic.
Australia has remained resolutely cold to the offer, insisting that such an arrangement would undermine its own blunt approach of discouraging boat arrivals and the industry behind it. For the perplexed on this issue, Australia keeps funding alternative camps on Manus, hoping for the remaining refugees to shut up and slide quietly to other destinations. A number are being encouraged to go to the United States in a deal US President Donald Trump deems “dumb”.
Now, New Zealand’s angle has shifted, largely prompted by the crisis following the closure of the Manus Island facility at the Lombrom Naval Base. The PNG government is being asked directly as to whether some arrangement might be reached, thereby avoiding Australian intransigence.
The response from the Australian Immigration Minister was characteristically sinister and appropriate for a former police officer. With barely veiled menace, Peter Dutton suggested that New Zealand “would have to think about their relationship with Australia and what impact it would have”. “They’d have to think that through, and we’d have to think that…