Prime Minister John Key says he did not go too far by accusing the Labour Party of supporting rapists, child molesters and murderers.

MPs in Opposition and in National's support parties took offence at Mr Key's outburst in the House yesterday, which came during questioning on Christmas Island detainees. Opposition MPs said many New Zealanders had been detained for petty crimes, and some had not been charged with any crimes at all.

Read more:
• John Key accuses Labour of 'backing rapists'

Mr Key told Radio New Zealand this morning he did not believe he had overstepped the mark.

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He also stood by his claim that many New Zealand detainees had committed serious crimes.

While he had been provided figures on the offences committed by the overall group of New Zealanders facing deportation from Australia, he was unsure how many rapists, child molesters and murderers were on Christmas Island.

Those figures, provided by the Australian Government in May, were released by his office yesterday.

Out of 585 Kiwis whose visas had been cancelled, 34 had committed child sex offences, 22 had committed murder or manslaughter, and 16 had committed rape. The most common offences were assault and theft.

Australia's Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told Australian media yesterday that out of the 200 detainees on Christmas Island, there were four rapists. Their nationality was not known.

Mr Key said Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull had told him that many of the detainees had been responsible for behavioural issues at other detention camps. He also reiterated that New Zealand detainees were able to return home as soon as this week, but only if they had a passport and their security risk was low enough for them to travel on a commercial airline.

Some detainees said they had already filled out paperwork to return home, but they had been told they faced a wait of up to 14 weeks.

Justice Minister Amy Adams spoke to Mr Dutton yesterday, and said he had reassured her that Kiwis who elected to return home would be able to do so quickly and without prejudicing any potential appeal against deportation.

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The figures:

Total number of New Zealanders facing deportation: 585

• By offence
Assault: 121
Theft, robbery, breaking and entering: 83
Drug offences: 64
Child sex offences: 34
Murder/manslaughter: 22
Rape, sex offences: 16
Other violence offences: 120 (approx.)
Other non-violent offences: 80 (approx.)

(Australian Government, May 2015)

New Zealand ex-criminals already deported to New Zealand: 167

(NZ Government, October 2015)