People-smuggling off the agenda at Pacific Islands Forum

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has confirmed she will not be raising the issue of people smuggling at this week's Pacific Islands Forum. Photo / Kenny Rodger
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has confirmed she will not be raising the issue of people smuggling at this week's Pacific Islands Forum. Photo / Kenny Rodger

Problems of people-smuggling into the Pacific are unlikely to be addressed in this week's Pacific Islands Forum, after Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said today she would not be raising the issue.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister John Key said he expected there to be general discussion with Ms Gillard about the refugee situation.

"We're happy to have a discussion with Australia in the wider context of the regional engagement," he said.

"New Zealand doesn't think it's immune from that issue but we're not looking to host a processing centre in New Zealand."

However, Ms Gillard appears to have stopped the discussion before it started, telling media this afternoon she was not planning to raise the refugee topic.

"I'm not intending to raise the issue of people smuggling," she said.

"Obviously if leaders want to raise the issue with me then I will discuss it, but it is premature for me to be pursuing that agenda here at this forum."

Ms Gillard said she expected a range of issues to be canvassed in the formal talks, and that she had particular interests to progress, including economy, development aid, climate change.

"As I say in Australia, when I'm back home, having a decent life starts with the opportunity to get a great education and to get a job, the same is true in our region, so I will be particuallrly focussed on education and skills, on labour mobility, on trade and the power of trade to improve job opportunities."

Ms Gillard said she was also looking forward to gaging the views of the smaller Pacific countries so she could act as a voice for them when she attended G20 and other international meetings.

This is Ms Gillard's third visit to New Zealand, and she said she saw that as a mark of the closeness of the two countries' relationship.

"This has been a year in which Australia and New Zealand have been breought and bonded incredibly closely together," she said.

"We are always family for each other, but that family relationship has clearly been shown this year as we have stood by each other in times of trouble - for us our summer of natural disatsters, for our friends in New Zealand the shock of Christchurch."

- APNZ

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