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PM vague on resettlement deal under Trump

AAP logoAAP 12/11/2016 Colin Brinsden and Katina Curtis

Malcolm Turnbull's "one-off" deal to resettle refugees detained on Manus and Nauru in the US has drawn widespread support, but his vagueness on one key issue suggests it's still at risk of being Trumped.

The prime minister - announcing the agreement struck with outgoing US President Barack Obama - was hesitant when asked how it will be impacted when Donald Trump is inaugurated in January, given he wants to ban Muslim immigration.

"We deal with one administration at a time," he told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.

The one-off resettlement agreement will only be available to those currently in the regional processing centres.

"It will not be available to any persons who seek to reach Australia in the future," he said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, while visiting New Zealand, confirmed the US has agreed to "consider referrals".

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, although not briefed on the deal, welcomed the opportunity for people to be resettled.

"Labor would be hypocritical if we didn't welcome this because this is the very thing we wanted with the Malaysia solution some years ago," he told reporters in Melbourne.

The man who led the High Court challenge that killed off Labor's Malaysian solution, refugee advocate and lawyer David Manne, said the US was clearly a suitable option.

"It's long overdue that the government have a plan which gives hope and safety to people who've been through this terrible ordeal on Nauru and Manus Island," he told Sky News.

But Greens senator Nick McKim said the only bit of compassion he saw through the whole announcement was from Mr Turnbull to Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton - the former and present immigration ministers.

Mr Turnbull anticipates people smugglers will seek to use the agreement as a marketing opportunity to tempt vulnerable people on to these perilous sea journeys, and Australia has ramped up naval patrols and surveillance to counter this.

"Any people smuggling boats that attempt to reach Australia will be intercepted and turned back," he said.

But Labor backbencher Anne Aly couldn't see why the government keeps saying it's sending a message to people smugglers.

"Guess what? The people smugglers aren't sitting there drinking tea and watching what we're doing," Dr Aly told Sky News, adding they use propaganda to get people to use their "supposed service".

Mr Dutton said the deal would prioritise women, children and families on Nauru.

The government is also in the final stages of negotiation with Nauru for a 20-year visa for people who are offered a settlement arrangement in the US but refuse to take it - an arrangement that will also extend to new arrivals.

"Let that be a very clear message to all people that 'you will not step foot on Australian soil'," Mr Dutton said.

Mr Turnbull declined to put a timeline on the transition to the US other than saying Homeland Security officials would be coming to Australia in the next few days to start the process of carefully assessing each refugee.

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