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PM fires up on Rudd legacy on UN sidelines

AAP logoAAP 21/09/2016 Jennifer Rajca

A fired-up Malcolm Turnbull has declared Kevin Rudd's decision to overturn the Howard government's asylum policies as the biggest failure in the history of the commonwealth.

The prime minister drew upon Mr Rudd's legacy while talking about his government's policies on the sidelines of the United Nations general assembly, which is focused on the refugee crisis.

"I said again and again, as leader of the opposition, 'no you're wrong it is Australia's domestic policy which will decide how many people come to Australia'," he said, claiming Mr Rudd believed in push factors.

Mr Turnbull said Mr Rudd's government - of which Bill Shorten was a member - overturned the Howard government policies.

"It defied reality, it defied common sense," he told reporters on Wednesday (local time).

"They pressed ahead with it and 50,000 people arrived, 1200 at least drowned at sea, $11 billion of expense.

"It was the biggest policy failure in the history of the commonwealth," he said.

"You ask about the people on Manus and Nauru, Kevin Rudd put them there. The Labor Party put them there."

The coalition has been dealing with the opposition's "legacy of shame on refugees and border protection", he said, citing the closure of 17 detention centres and the fact there are no more children in detention.

"(Kevin Rudd) let Australia down by abandoning a policy that worked in defiance of common sense and the results were tragic."

Mr Turnbull again heralded his party's policies as principled and right and said the message to people smugglers has to be very clear.

"The only message that works with these criminals is a very blunt one: the product you want to sell is no longer available to you."

His impassioned remarks follow his announcement to President Barack Obama's summit on refugees that Australia will maintain its 18,750 humanitarian intake past 2018.

It will also provide $130 million in assistance and participate in the US-led program to resettle Central American refugees in a resettlement centre in Costa Rica.

Mr Turnbull said the latter announcement is not linked any other resettlement discussions.

Asked whether America will be taking people from Manus Island and Nauru, he replied: "the announcement today is not connected to any other arrangements".

Mr Rudd also happens to be in New York for side meetings at the UN.

Earlier this year Mr Turnbull dashed his hope of becoming the next secretary-general after failing to endorse his nomination.

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