Turnbull set to reject Ardern's Manus refugee offer

Malcolm Turnbull is set to reject a renewed offer from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to take 150 refugees from Manus Island.

Mr Turnbull and Ms Ardern will meet for the first time in Sydney on Sunday after the Kiwi leader stitched together a deal that saw her form a coalition government with New Zealand First and the Greens.

Ahead of the meeting, Ms Ardern flagged that she would raise the situation on Manus Island and restate the offer to take 150 refugees, which former prime minister John Key first extended to former prime minister Julia Gillard back in 2013.

"I am looking forward to having a conversation directly with the Prime Minister on Sunday about some of those issues, and New Zealand's role in and view on Manus Island in particular," she said on Thursday.

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's new PM, will meet Malcolm Turnbull for the first time on Sunday. Photo: Mark Coote

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's new PM, will meet Malcolm Turnbull for the first time on Sunday. Photo: Mark Coote

United Nations' human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein has described the situation on Manus Island as an "unfolding humanitarian emergency", criticising the Turnbull government and expressing "serious concerns" over the welfare, safety and wellbeing of asylum seekers on the island.

But government sources confirmed to Fairfax Media that while Mr Turnbull regarded the Kiwi offer as generous, there were still fears that sending some refugees to New Zealand could be a "pull" factor that would be used by people smugglers to tempt would-be asylum seekers into attempting to come to Australia by boat.

They characterised Australia's position as one of "no change", pointing out the Gillard, Rudd and Abbott governments had also declined to take up the NZ offer.

And they dismissed comparisons with the US refugee deal as that arrangement was strictly a one-off, because of President Donald Trump's opposition to it, whereas people smugglers could suggest the New Zealand offer could be repeated.

The deal with the US has seen 54 refugees approved for transfer thus far and potentially more in the future will be approved for transfer to America.

A total of 587 men are in a stand-off on Manus Island with Papua New Guinean authorities at the now-closed Australian processing centre on Manus Island. The men are refusing to leave the centre because of fears for their safety if they do so, and some attempts to bring them food have been blocked.

For its part, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection has said the men have been offered alternative accommodation options, with healthcare and security available at three new centres in the town of Lorengau; this applies both for the 447 men who have been confirmed as refugees and the 140 men who have been classified as non-refugees.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said the United Nations had a point and that "there is something going on at Manus which is deeply disturbing to the Australian people".

"I think the government should take very seriously the invitation on the table from New Zealand. Beyond that, you can discourage the people smugglers but it doesn't mean you treat hundreds of people in an inhumane fashion," he said.

"When [Mr] Turnbull is meeting with President Trump in coming weeks, in Asia, he should raise again the possibility of taking some people."

Mr Turnbull and Ms Ardern will discuss a number of other issues in their first meeting, which comes just days before the pair both fly out to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation leaders' meeting in Vietnam and the East Asia Summit in the Philippines.

Mr Turnbull will raise the importance of the 12-member Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, which has been put on ice because of Mr Trump's opposition to it, but which Australia and Japan have been championing.

Before Ms Ardern's election victory, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop warned Australia would "find it very difficult to build trust" with Ms Ardern following revelations that Australian Labor made contact with a NZ Labour MP over Barnaby Joyce's kiwi citizenship.

Both sides have since played down the matter and Ms Bishop will be in Perth attending other meetings over the weekend.

This story Turnbull set to reject Ardern's Manus refugee offer first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.