Press Conference - Canberra

07 Feb 2023
Parliament House, Canberra
Prime Minister, Prime Minister of New Zealand
Humanitarian support for Türkiye and Syria; Prime Minister Hipkins' visit to Australia; Australia-New Zealand relationship; AUKUS; Voice to Parliament referendum; China relationships; Defence policy; Section 501.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: We’ll be making some comments firstly on the tragedy in Türkiye and Syria, before then going on to the press conference. Can I extend Australia's deepest sympathies and condolences to the families and communities that have lost loved ones. We have seen thousands of deaths, and tens of thousands of injuries through this tragedy. These multiple earthquakes that have hit the region are having a devastating impact, and today I can announce that the Australian Government will provide an initial $10 million in humanitarian assistance to those affected through our Red Cross and Red Crescent partners and through humanitarian agencies. Australia's assistance will target those in greatest need. Can I also say that for Australians who have family in the region, this will be a really difficult time. Australians in need of emergency consular assistance should contact the Australian Government 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on 1300 555 135. I’ll repeat, 1300 155 135 in Australia, or if they are outside of Australia, +61 2 6261 3305, that is +61 2 6261 3305. I think all of the world's thoughts and condolences are with the people in this region who are suffering at this time. Chris?

CHRIS HIPKINS, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: Thank you, can I just echo those sentiments and add to the condolences from the people of New Zealand to those in Türkiye and in Syria. We know a little bit about earthquakes in New Zealand, and the significant effect that that can have on people. So our hearts are with them. New Zealand will also be contributing to the international effort, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in New Zealand will release details of the $1.5 million that we’ll also be contributing, we should be releasing that very shortly. But in the meantime, can I just add as well the thoughts of the people of New Zealand.

PRIME MINISTER ALBANESE: Thanks very much Chris. Well it is fantastic to welcome you as Prime Minister here to our Parliament House. New Zealand and Australia are family. We had a very warm lunch today, renewing our acquaintance. I first met Chris, Prime Minister Hipkins, in the Parliament in Wellington some years ago. And it means a lot to us as Australians that your first destination as Prime Minister is here to Australia. This reflects the priority that Australia and New Zealand place on our relationship and the deep friendship between our countries. A friendship that has been reaffirmed during our meeting.

Our discussion was naturally wide-ranging, reflecting the breadth of our relationship, which is about our economy, climate, security issues, and how we will work together to continue the plan that was established at last year's leaders meeting with former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, including working through a range of issues relating to citizenship for Australians in New Zealand, which we intend to conclude before Anzac Day of this year. Prime Minister Hipkins and I also discussed the great value we place on our role as members of the Pacific family. The Pacific Islands Forum is an important institution. It’s one that brings together the countries in our region, and it’s one in which we had a very positive meeting in Suva last year, and there have been positive developments since then, with the announcement that Kiribati would be returning to participation in the Pacific Islands Forum. 2023 is a milestone year for the Trans-Tasman relationship. We’ll celebrate 40 years of our Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement, which is a gold standard free trade agreement which has led to less red tape and tariff-free trade across the Tasman, one of the most comprehensive agreements in the world. 50 years of the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement, which allows for Australians and New Zealanders to freely visit, live and work on both sides of the Tasman. 80 years of diplomatic relations, and of course, our co-hosting of the Women's World Cup this year, with the opening match on the 20th of July. I look forward to further developing our relationship with our friends in New Zealand, to ensure that the Trans-Tasman relationship continues to grow and adapt to the challenges of the future. I thank the Prime Minister very much for his visit here today, and I look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Hipkins on the floor of the House of Representatives this afternoon.

PRIME MINISTER HIPKINS: Thank you, Prime Minister. It is great to be here in Australia, New Zealand has no closer friend or partner than Australia, and it is great to be here on my first international travel as Prime Minister of New Zealand. As you have mentioned, our countries are more than friends, we are family. And in the great Trans-Tasman tradition, I’m looking forward to working with you across a broad spectrum of issues that are important to both of our countries. So I welcome your commitment to our bilateral relationship, which was very clear from our discussion, and in turn, I was happy to provide my government's commitment to continuing to work together and continuing to strengthen the very strong Trans-Tasman relationship. We had a wide-ranging discussion across economic, security and foreign policy issues. In particular, we discussed how global economic conditions post-COVID19 are affecting New Zealanders and Australians alike. High interest rates and cost-of-living pressures affect families here and in New Zealand, and we share a lot of issues in common in that regard. Many other countries don’t have the same closeness as New Zealand and Australia, and that’s something that we will never take for granted in New Zealand. We’re able to tackle issues together in ways that other countries can’t. So we’re able to talk about the opportunities to continue to strengthen our relationship. We did talk about the 40th anniversary of our Closer Economic Relationship Agreement that underpins Trans-Tasman trade that’s important to both countries. I echoed the words of my predecessor in matters around deportations, and we discussed the ongoing work that we have around addressing some of the issues regarding New Zealanders who live and work permanently here in Australia. They are complex issues, but I do want to acknowledge and applaud the positive progress that has been made in that regard over the past year, and we’ll look forward to continuing to work on those issues. So I’m looking forward to welcoming the Prime Minister to New Zealand later on in the year for the next annual leaders meeting, which we’re expecting to have in the middle of the year.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister Hipkins, just on AUKUS, your Defence Minister in New Zealand seemed to signal that he was open to potentially joining parts of AUKUS on advanced technology collaboration, obviously not the nuclear submarine aspect. What’s your view on that prospect, do you think it’s a likely one? And Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, would Australia welcome New Zealand taking that step?

PRIME MINISTER HIPKINS: Look, our foreign policy position hasn’t changed just because there’s a change of Prime Minister, the government’s foreign policy is the same as it was under Prime Minister Ardern. Australia, the US and the UK are incredibly important security partners for New Zealand, but our nuclear-free policy hasn’t changed either.

PRIME MINISTER ALBANESE: It’s important to remember what AUKUS is and what AUKUS isn't. Our defence relationships are a part of, AUKUS is a part of that, but it’s not all it is. And our relationship with New Zealand, including defence cooperation, is very strong, and will continue to be strong. Just as our relationship with the United Kingdom, as our historic relationship, should be no surprise that we are cooperating with them, and of course the US has been our most important defence alliance through the arrangements that are in place. I’m very confident with our AUKUS proceeding. It’s a positive move, and the discussions are reaching the point whereby announcements, as the Defence Minister has said, further announcements will be made soon. But it’s not just about nuclear submarines, it is about a whole range of issues, including the interoperability of our forces and also cooperation on technology and other issues.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister Albanese, on the issue of Voice to Parliament, you are going through a journey with that at the moment. What can you learn about what New Zealand did right and what we didn’t do right?

PRIME MINISTER ALBANESE: Well this is a very separate issue, and it didn’t come up in our discussions. What a Voice to Parliament is about, firstly, is about recognition. We don’t currently recognise in a positive way Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our Constitution. Now many nations that have histories of colonisation do do that, recognise their Indigenous people. And so the referendum, that the draft questions are out there on, later this year that Australians will get to vote on, the draft wording is, it begins, in recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander as Australia's first peoples. That’s something that I spoke about at Garma last February, and then it goes through the points of the Voice, to make it clear that the Voice is about consultation. So it’s about two things, recognition, firstly, and consultation, secondly, on matters that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples. Our history is very different. So the New Zealand system, I know it has seats reserved and has a range of things in place that aren’t contemplated by what will be before the Australian people later this year.

JOURNALIST: PM Hipkins, Jacinda Ardern was reluctant to take a firm stand on bad behaviour by China. Are you concerned about Chinese coercion in the South Pacific and undue influence over the region's leaders? And secondly, New Zealand’s defence budget is just over one per cent of GDP, is New Zealand relying too much on Australia for its defence? If I could have Anthony Albanese to address that too?

PRIME MINISTER HIPKINS: China is an incredibly important partner for New Zealand, a very important trading partner, and a partner in other areas as well. That doesn't mean there aren’t going to be areas where we disagree from time to time, and we’ll continue to voice our disagreements with China when that happens, and we’ll always continue to strive to strengthen that ongoing relationship. In terms of defence, the New Zealand Government’s currently going through quite a significant transformation in the defence area, some very significant investments in the defence portfolio.

PRIME MINISTER ALBANESE: Our position on China is clear, that we’ll cooperate where we can, we’ll disagree where we must, and we’ll engage in our national interest. And I’m very pleased that yesterday, the Trade Minister, Don Farrell, had a very productive meeting with his counterpart from China. China’s an important trading partner for Australia. The trade to China is more than the trade figures value than the next three highest trading partners combined. So it’s in Australia's national interest to have good economic relations and to trade with China, and it’s also in China's interest to receive the goods that we have. Our wine, our meat, our barley, our other products which are, in my view, at least equal first as the best in the world, I say that diplomatically.

PRIME MINISTER HIPKINS: I thought maybe our first wager was about to emerge.

PRIME MINISTER ALBANESE: I don’t comment on New Zealand's defence policy, that’s a matter for New Zealand. I’ll comment on Australia's defence policy.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister Albanese, you’ve recently made some concessions around the treatment of 501 deportees. Do you acknowledge that policy, how unfair that policy has been, and would you consider any policy to retrospectively undo the hurt that’s been caused by those already deported to New Zealand with little to no connection?

PRIME MINISTER ALBANESE: No on the latter is the answer. We put in place our policy, which is, I believe, a common-sense policy. We retain section 501 deportations, the capacity to cancel visas and remove people who pose a risk to the community. What’s changed is we will have a common-sense approach, bear in mind what a person's ties are to Australia when assessing these cases. That is common-sense. There’s a big distinction between someone who comes to Australia, either as a teen or an adult and commits offences, and someone who has zero connection back in New Zealand, who might have come here as an infant. And friends, as Australia and New Zealand are, should have common-sense approaches to these. I outlined with Prime Minister Ardern after our first meeting our position. Our position hasn’t changed, and I confirmed that with Prime Minister Hipkins today. We had a discussion of these issues, and I believe that we’ve got the response right.

PRIME MINISTER HIPKINS: Can I echo the Prime Minister’s comment, the New Zealand position hasn’t changed from the one that was articulated by Prime Minister Ardern, but we absolutely acknowledge the changes that Australia has recently made, and we welcome those. They are common-sense changes, and I think encouraging developments. Thanks everyone.

PRIME MINISTER ALBANESE: Thank you very much. Thanks, everyone.