Clark compares her refugee offer with Ardern’s Manus proposal

Helen Clark
Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark. (Picture: Getty Images)

14 December 2017

Rachel Baxendale

Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark says she hopes politicians will keep talking across the Tasman regarding Jacinda Ardern’s offer to take 150 asylum seekers from Manus Island.

The current NZ Prime Minister yesterday accused Australia of being “overly sensitive” about the issue, after Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce warned New Zealand to “stay away” from Australia’s business.

Ms Clark compared the current situation with that of 150 predominantly Afghan refugees who New Zealand agreed to take following the Tampa crisis during John Howard’s prime ministership.

Former Prime Minister John Howard. (Picture: AAP)

She said that unlike the Turnbull government, the Howard government welcomed New Zealand’s offer.

“They did welcome the offer, and I personally discussed it with John Howard before it became public, and I had a very good working relationship with John Howard and I think he really appreciated that New Zealand was going to be part of finding a solution,” Ms Clark told ABC radio.

“You need partnerships. I think it will be terrific if the United States does take people from these centres, but New Zealand has offered to be part of the solution going back four years now, and let’s hope the politicians keep talking about it across the Tasman.”

Ms Clark said she was hopeful that there would be no lasting damage to the relationship between the two countries.

“I always think that whatever the issue of the day, and more often it’s rugby and cricket than something like this, New Zealand and Australia have been great friends for a long time,” Ms Clark said.

“So you do get hiccups, you sometimes get personalities that get in the way, but we’ve got to look at the greater good here.”

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark with current PM Jacinda Ardern. (Picture: Getty Images)

Ms Ardern last month blasted Australia’s handling of the refugee crisis on Manus Island as “unacceptable” offering to accept 150 refugees during her first meeting with Malcolm Turnbull as PM.

Mr Joyce was asked on New Zealand radio on Tuesday about Ms Ardern’s offer.

“I think it’s best if you stay away from another country’s business, I find that, because otherwise they will return the favour at a time they think is most opportune for them,’’ he said.

“So it’s just, let’s respect countries’ sovereignty and let them sort out their own issues, and if you’re going to talk to them at all, talk to them quietly and discreetly off the record, not via telephone and not via TV.”

Ms Ardern says the only reason she’d bought into the subject is because Australian politicians have spoken about it.

“I haven’t raised this as an issue for weeks. I’ve been asked questions because my Australian counterparts have spoken of it, that is the only reason,” she told reporters in Wellington yesterday.

[Read the The Australian article, it may be behind a pay wall].

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