20 Nov 2017

Ardern: 'I think there is a bit of judginess flying around'

10:14 am on 20 November 2017

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says officials have started talks with Australia over the Manus Island refugees.

Asylum seekers are going without food, clean water, power or medical care after refusing to leave a detention centre following its closure by the Australian government.

And Ms Ardern has followed through on her pre-election promise to lobby her Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull over the crisis.

She has committed $3 million to help care for refugees at Australia's pacific detention centres and restated New Zealand's offer to take 150 refugees.

But her approach has raised fears she is jeopardising our relationship with Australia.

She told Morning Report New Zealand and Australian officials have had conversations about establishing the screening processes to begin to take the 150 refugees.

"But to be clear we have not started that process. But I think that certainly we're a bit further along than we have been before - we haven't even had officials having those discussions in the past."

She said she had read media reports in Australia that four boats carrying 164 people bound for New Zealand had been turned around.

However, Ms Ardern said she had not had intelligence reports on this kind of issue in recent weeks.

"People taking to boats is not new, it's something that has been happening over ... a number of years.

"I've seen historic discussion over the fact that people have said in the past that they've been destined for New Zealand.

"No-one of course, obviously, has made it that far, and it's hard to know whether or not that was a realistic proposition."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the RNZ Auckland studio for Morning Report. 30 October 2017.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

She said New Zealand's relationship Australia was "robust".

"There have been a number of occasions where we've taken different positions on issues.

"If you've got a solid relationship you can take different positions and know that you're relationship will endure. And this is no different."

Bit of 'judginess' over Davis' performance

Asked about deputy Labour Party leader Kelvin Davis' performance in the House last week while she and deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters were overseas, she said he had done "absolutely everything [she] had asked him to do".

His performance had been labelled a "train wreck", and that he relied on help from other Labour MPs to answer questions.

Ms Ardern said it was "not uncommon" for an acting Prime Minister to get help answering questions.

"Three weeks in I think there is a bit of judginess flying around."

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