Refugees on Manus Island who are waiting to be sent to the United States under a transfer deal have apparently expressed a desire to move to New Zealand instead.

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says recent intelligence from inside detention centres on Manus indicates many want to move to New Zealand, but he won't allow it to become a back door to Australia. In a debate in Australia's House of Representatives yesterday, Dutton said he didn't put people on Manus Island and was working quickly to get them off, but not at the expense of starting the boats again.

He denied the Government had ruled out or not seriously considered accepting an offer from New Zealand to take 150 refugees from both Manus and Nauru, but said he'd first need assurance New Zealand would not be a back door.

"The latest [idea] is you can go to New Zealand, become a New Zealand citizen and come to Australia shortly thereafter. That is not going to happen."


Dutton again claimed four boats intercepted by Australian Border Force officials had been bound for New Zealand, a destination being marketed by people smugglers as having generous welfare, health, education and housing systems.

The debate was prompted by Green MP Adam Bandt's motion in support of a Senate resolution calling for the Government to accept New Zealand's offer.

The Government initially lost the vote when two of its MPs were out of the House. But in an unusual move the issue was submitted again.

Once the missing MPs returned to the chamber, the government was able to force a rerun and it eventually won the division, successfully seeing off the Greens motion. Bandt took to Twitter after the vote to declare supporters of the men on Manus would keep fighting to try to secure a transfer to New Zealand.