Plight of Manus refugees stirs up Senate

November 14, 2017

Hundreds of refugees remain in the now-closed Manus Island detention centre in PNG.

Labor and Greens will use the Senate to call on the federal government to accept a New Zealand offer to resettle refugees now on Manus Island and Nauru.

"This is a foul and bloody stain on Australia's national conscience," Greens senator Nick McKim told reporters of offshore processing arrangements.

Senator McKim claims Papua New Guinean authorities on Monday entered the now-closed detention camp on Manus, where hundreds are men are barricaded and refusing to leave, and bored holes in the water containers.

Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani confirmed as much on Twitter: "Immigration is boring holes in the water tanks where we had been collecting rainwater," he tweeted.

Senator McKim said he did not expect the NZ offer would encourage people smugglers, as the government argues.

"The reason for that is very simple: These guys (on Manus) ... their torture is doing nothing at all to dissuade people from getting on boats," he said.

Labor senator Doug Cameron said the opposition supported acceptance of the Trans-Tasman offer, on the condition that measures to prevent NZ becoming a backdoor entrance to Australia were addressed.

"Whether we support the Greens on the floor of parliament trying to make themselves a name is one thing," Senator Cameron said.

"But we certainly do think Malcolm Turnbull should stand up against the extremists in his party and reach an arrangement with New Zealand."

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard first arranged for New Zealand to accept 150 refugees annually from Australia in 2013 - a deal undone by Tony Abbott.

Crossbench senator Derryn Hinch said Australia should find a way to accept the offer, but only with a mechanism in place to stop refugees then entering Australia via NZ.

"If there's some mechanism the government could bring in working with Prime Minister Ardern to guarantee these people will not use New Zealand as a backdoor to come here then I could support it," Senator Hinch said.

"In its current form, I can't."

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