Labor behind reported US refugee deal

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US refugee deal similar to Malaysia: Labor

Tanya Plibersek says the Liberals should explain why they blocked a refugee settlement deal in 2011.

The federal government remains tight-lipped on the prospect of an joint asylum seeker arrangement with the US but Labor is keen to get behind the idea.

According to News Corp Australia, the deal to resettle Nauru and Manus Island detainees is imminent following months of negotiations.

However Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Defence Minister Marise Payne and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton all declined to comment on the report on Friday.

"We never comment on them and I won't begin today," Mr Turnbull told 3AW radio.

Immigration department chief Michael Pezzullo has told a parliamentary committee the government is working actively on a deal but has claimed a public interest immunity on how many and which countries are in negotiations.

Speaking from Darwin where he was on hand to farewell 400 soldiers preparing to deploy to the Middle East, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said on Friday evening Labor supported a deal with the United states "in principle".

"We obviously need to see the detail but I think that our strong bipartisan commitment to stop the scourge of people smuggling does not mean that people need to be kept in indefinite detention," Mr Shorten said.

"We need strong borders but fair treatment as well."

Senator Payne, who arrived in a tank to send off the soldiers preparing for a six-month deployment in Iraq, said Australia already had a number of third country resettlement options available including Cambodia and Papua New Guinea.

"I'm not going to comment any further," she said.

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said: "These are people who are refugees, who have been found to be refugees, who, if they are settled in a country like the United States, that will be a good thing."