Foreign Affairs Minister and Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters has rejected a claim by Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton that Australia does all the "heavy lifting" when it comes to policing the region for illegal immigrants.
Dutton made the comments last week during an interview on Australian radio while discussing Justice Minister Andrew Little's criticism of Australia's deportation policies, in particular the good character test.
"The fact that they are geographically placed where they are is a fact of geography. But to say that they're are doing all the heavy lifting given the reset and the amount of money and investment we're putting into helping our neighbourhood become a safer and more secure place, no, I do not agree with him it all," Peters said today.
But Peters told reporters he was not upset about Dutton's comments because foreign affairs was between peoples of different countries, not "temporarily empowered political personalities".
New Zealand set aside $714.2 million in the Budget for foreign aid that will be heavily prioritised towards the Pacific.
It also recently announced it would spend $2.39 billion on four Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to replace its ageing Orion fleet.
Little made his remarks last week when he and Peters featured on the ABC's Foreign Correspondent programme, saying there appeared to be a "venal, political strain" to Australia's deportation policies and "certainly not consistent with any humanitarian ideals that I thought both countries once shared".
Following that programme, Dutton said Little might want to "reflect a little more" on the trans-Tasman relationship.
"There's a lot that we do for New Zealand ... . We're a big land mass between them and boats coming from Indonesia and Southeast Asia.
"New Zealand don't contribute really anything to the defence effort that we've got where we're trying to surveil boats that might be on their way to New Zealand. So I hope that
Andrew Little reflects a little more on the relationship between Australia and New Zealand where we do a lot of the heavy lifting. We intercept boats which stop them from making their way to New Zealand."
Little was particularly concerned about Australia's good character test, under which people could be removed from Australia without being convicted of a crime. Peters also expressed his concern about the policy today.
"It should be a habeas corpus matter and it's not being followed properly. Somebody should be tried before they're evicted from a country. At least they should be given a hearing as to whether or not what's about to happen is fair and within the law of that host country."