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NZ, Aust should partner on rights: Little

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 14/02/2017

Australia and New Zealand should work together to be a beacon for decent human rights, but first Australia has to better manage its refugee situation, Labour leader Andrew Little says.

Ahead of talks between Prime Minister Bill English and his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull in Queenstown this weekend, Mr Little has called on the countries to stand together to call out human rights breaches.

"They can join with New Zealand and say 'we know what good human rights look like'," he said.

"It might require a few internal changes for Australia on some of their issues but they are otherwise a decent country and they stand with New Zealand on those things that actually are about good strong communities domestically and internationally and we need more of that."

He highlighted Australia's treatment of refugees as one area in need of internal change.

New Zealand's offer to take 150 refugees from Australia's offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island will be raised by Mr English, at least in passing, during his meeting with Mr Turnbull on Friday.

Mr English says the offer, made by his predecessor John Key to then prime minister Julia Gillard in Queenstown four years ago, still stands.

"New Zealand's made an offer and it's up to the Australian government to decide what it wants to do with that," he said.

A pathway to citizenship for Kiwis in Australia, the deportation of citizens with criminal convictions back to New Zealand and the future of trade beyond the Trans-Pacific Partnership are also likely to come up.

"We have, I think, quite a strong common interest in progressing trade in the Asia Pacific and if we build a common Australia-New Zealand point of view, that would be good," Mr English said.

As for what the pair will get up to in their small amount of free time, it's unlikely to be anything too adventurous.

Most likely they'll take a nice walk, according to Mr English, though it won't be on the golf course.

"I don't know what Mr Turnbull's golf game is like but it wouldn't have to be very good to be a lot better than mine ... Certainly I'd lack the confidence to take on anyone publicly on a golf course," he said.

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