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PM sees plenty of scope in US refugee deal

PM sees plenty of scope in US refugee deal.jpg

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is confident there is scope to send hundreds more refugees being held offshore to the United States (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) 

Scott Morrison is confident there is scope to send hundreds more refugees being held offshore to the United States.

Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek wants to see the resettlement deal expanded to take more people off Manus Island and Nauru.

But the prime minister insists there is still plenty of room to move within the existing agreement.

"We've still got hundreds of positions that can be filled under that arrangement," he told reporters in Port Macquarie on Thursday.

More than 500 people have been sent to the US under the resettlement deal, with 1250 places on offer.

There are roughly 900 people left on Manus Island and Nauru.

"The national security issues that are addressed in dealing with those transfers are not simple," Mr Morrison said.

"We just work through the program and hundreds of people have been, and will continue to be able to be, relocated and resettled."

Mr Morrison said it was strange that Labor thought it could strike a better deal with Donald Trump, given its "fairly colourful" descriptions of him in the past.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has previously called the US president's views "barking mad".

Meanwhile, the Morrison government is not ruling out New Zealand's longstanding offer to take 150 refugees from offshore detention centres.

But Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says the offer isn't currently in the government's "best interests".

"People smugglers are marketing New Zealand at this point," he told reporters in Townsville.

"The Labor Party refuses to accept that."

Since 2013, New Zealand's government has publicly offered to settle at least 150 refugees being held on Nauru or Manus Island, but has been rebuffed by Labor and Liberal Australian prime ministers.

The government has indicated it will only accept New Zealand's offer on condition the refugees are banned from entering Australia.

Labor supports the lifetime ban.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor would use the US refugee deal, in which refugees are subject to extreme vetting, as a framework for a potential arrangement with New Zealand.

"The same system the government uses is the one we would use in our discussions with New Zealand," he told reporters in Redcliffe, north of Brisbane.

"We are committed to the view that anyone who comes by boat via people smugglers will not be processed and settled in Australia, full stop."

But Mr Shorten added he also opposes letting people languish in indefinite detention.

New Zealand took around 1000 refugees last year, compared to Australia's intake of more than 24,000.

© AAP 2019