Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says the federal government wants people in offshore processing resettled in the US before looking at other countries.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says the federal government wants people in offshore processing resettled in the US before looking at other countries.

Dutton plays down NZ refugee resettlement

Peter Dutton has played down the prospect of a refugee resettlement deal with New Zealand, insisting the United States remains the best option.

The home affairs minister said Australia had been in talks with a range of countries to find other options for people still in offshore processing in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

"The United States is the most realistic offer for us that we've looked at," Mr Dutton told Sky News on Sunday.

The Morrison government repealed medical evacuation laws last week with the help of cross bench senator Jacqui Lambie.

There has been speculation her secret condition for supporting the coalition was related to New Zealand's long-standing offer to accept people for resettlement.

But Mr Dutton is adamant the government wants as many people as possible sent to the US before considering other options.

"The threat from Sri Lanka and elsewhere is still a very real one. People smugglers are marketing New Zealand as a destination," he said.

"We've got people who have gone from Nauru to the United States who are messaging back now saying don't come to the United States because the welfare systems not as good as you'll find in Australia and New Zealand."

He said the government's considerations would remain behind closed doors.

"We don't want to give ammunition to our enemies - the people smugglers."

Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said the opposition supported the NZ deal but conceded all resettlement options carried some risk.

"The biggest risk of all is leaving people on Nauru and Manus indefinitely," he told Sky.

He said leaving people in those countries undermined the concept of offshore processing and criticised the government for failing to find countries for the remaining cohort.

Government Senate leader Mathias Cormann said the government had not changed its border protection policies because of Senator Lambie.

"What we have done in response to issues that Jacqui raised with us is provide detailed classified briefings to ensure she was fully across what the government was doing and why," he told ABC's Insiders.