PM Morrison with PM Ardern with a lawn backdrop

Press Conference with the Prime Minister of New Zealand

Media release
22 Feb 2019
Auckland, New Zealand
Prime Minister, Prime Minister of New Zealand
E&OE

RT HON JACINDA ARDERN MP, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: It’s my pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Morrison to Auckland today, it is great to have you back on Kiwi soil Prime Minister. I’d like to open by acknowledging that today is the eighth anniversary of the second Canterbury Earthquake. 185 lives were lost and one of those was an Australian. We remember that people today are and are reminded of the ongoing grief for their families. When natural disaster strikes, we get by with help from our friends and after the Canterbury Earthquake, Australian support was fast and hugely important to us. 600 Australian emergency service workers assisted with recovery efforts. People in Christchurch will recall the Australian police officers sworn in with New Zealand policing powers, who worked alongside their Kiwi colleagues to reassure locals and support order.

New Zealand has no better friend and no greater ally that Australia. Our economies are amongst the most integrated in the world with significant trade and investment flows. We are stronger together on the international stage. But our relationship transcends the normal dealings of government and like most of our international relationships, Australia is family in every sense of the word. We’ve always had a special bond that continues to benefit both countries and that I believe will only expand given the intertwined nature of our societies.

Today, PM Morrison and I enjoyed a friendly and very useful discussion during our annual leaders meeting. We covered a whole range of issues including the dynamic opportunities from running an ambitious trans-Tasman single economic market agenda, our shared interests in the region and our shared neighborhood in the Pacific. As in any family, it’s inevitable that occasionally we’ll see things differently. Prime Minister Morrison and I discussed some of the areas where we do not have the same starting point and I feel we have a pretty good understanding of each other's perspectives. We did have a very frank discussion about New Zealanders who have made their homes in Australia and how they can be given every opportunity to thrive while living there. We also talked about deportations of New Zealanders. In my view, this issue has become corrosive in our relationship over time. I made it clear that New Zealand has no issue with Australia taking a dim view of newly-arrived noncitizens committing crimes. But equally, the New Zealand people have a dim view of the deportation of people who move to Australia as children and have grown up there, with often little or no lasting connection to here. I’m sure it is a matter that we will continue to discuss. At last year’s meeting, we said we’d look for innovative ways to create a more seamless economic environment and we’ve done a lot since that time. We said New Zealand would match Australia's removal of departure cards and we have done that, making trans-Tasman travel faster and easier. We commissioned work on how to advance the digital economy and maximise opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses. Our Productivity Commissions have delivered a report and we are now looking at how to implement some of those key findings. We announced a city symposium and our respective ministers are hosting this next week in Sydney. We said we would work together to make e-invoicing possible to both our countries. And today we’re announcing the creation of the Australian-New Zealand Invoicing Board and the interoperability framework we will jointly adopt. Implementing e-invoicing across business and government will drive savings of over $30 billion over 10 years across two countries.

I’m sure we’re both looking forward to meeting this afternoon with business leaders to talk about what more we can do and we’ve talked about some of those already. Ideas such as improving SME’s cash flow - we know cash is king when you're a small business – and work towards mutual recognition of digital identity and so on.

I’d like to finish though by saying again how much I've enjoyed the time that we have spent together today Prime Minister Morrison. I'm sure Clarke and Jenny have enjoyed their time together as well, in fact Clarke has already sent me an image of the wonderful gift you have given Neve. Can I say he is a very lucky and a very spoilt child.

[Laughter]

So I thank you for that and I look forward to the next prime ministerial meetings in due course and of course, any opportunity we have to engage in dialogue in the meantime.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much Prime Minister, kia ora it's wonderful to be here back in New Zealand for both Jenny and I and I want to thank the Prime Minister and Clarke for the very warm welcome and I’m getting similar reports back from Jenny as well, she's loving being back here today.

I just want to also begin by acknowledging that this is a significant day for all New Zealanders and all of those who were touched by the terrible earthquake eight years ago. It shook New Zealand literally but it should Australians as well in a very different way. The 500 police officers who turned up at a moment’s notice, I think was a great demonstration of the relationship that exists between Australia and New Zealand. It is very much like this; it's hard to see where one finishes and the other starts, between our two countries. It's beyond politics, it's even beyond sport on occasion.

[Laughter]

It's beyond all of these things and that’s why these meetings are so important. That’s why it’s so important to me to be here today. It’s a big year in Australia as we know – elections on, Budgets to prepare, but this is an important relationship as are all of our relationships throughout the Pacific.

It was in the context of reflecting on those very difficult days all those years ago in Christchurch that we reflected on many other disasters that have been occurring lately, and I express my thanks to those brave New Zealand firefighters who have been fighting alongside our firefighters in Tasmania over our summer. Thank you very much. They have very specialist skills to go into the wilderness heritage areas and to be able to fight those fires. We thank them very much to their bravery and their skills. They have made a big difference.

We also discussed today the lessons that we can learn post disaster. Whether it's from eight years ago, whether it's from 10 years ago in the Black Saturday Fires in Victoria, or indeed the lessons that have been put into practice now in Australia in north Queensland, whether it's on the coast of Townsville or inland in northwest Queensland where we are suffering terrible losses to our cattle and livestock industry in that part of the country. But equally down in Victoria where the drought has further encroached into places like Gippsland where they have seen fires. All of these require not just immediately dealing with the event, but the recovery programs that follow and we agreed today that our teams will do further work on how we do the response of the other side of disasters and learn the lessons from those.

A $30 billion boost to our collective economies comes from the initiatives we were talking about today. Whether it's the e-invoicing or the other measures to ensure we totally embrace the economic opportunities from the digital economy, I cannot think of two other national economies more integrated than Australia's and New Zealand's. Our banking system, our financial system, all of these are closely integrated. That means there are bigger opportunities to yield big economic dividends by further cooperation. The measures that we’ve been working on, I think, demonstrate that.

I also want to thank Prime Minister Ardern and her government for their leadership of the Pacific reset programme. It works hand-in-glove with our Pacific ‘step up’ programme. Both of these programs, in my moving around the region and I’m sure also Prime Minister Ardern, have been well received, because the Pacific is family. Whether it’s whanau or whether its vuvale or whatever term is applied; whenever you might be, that’s what it’s about. We want to see a sovereign, independent, strong Pacific with all of those Pacific Island nations and between New Zealand and Australia, they will not find a more friendly family partnership than with both our nations.  It’s been good to talk about that.

Finally can I once again thank New Zealand for their participation together with Australia and the other allies, in what we’re doing in the Middle East. In Iraq together, we have trained 42,000 Iraqis to make their country safer and more secure. That has come from those we’ve asked to go and serve in our name and train those who need our help to restore their country. I think that is something Australians and New Zealanders can be very proud of. The work that our men and women who serve in our defence forces have done – and I met them just before Christmas, I met a few of the Kiwis too - the way they work together and the respect they have for each other, just reflects the relationship we’ve spoken of. So thank you very much and happy to participate in the question process.

JOURNALIST: Hi to both prime ministers, Mike Pompeo has said today that the US won’t partner or share information with any countries that do deals with Huawei. [Inaudible] not possible [inaudible] use them and would you discuss taking a united approach to sharing info?

PRIME MINISTER ARDERN: Actually in the nature of our discussions were often prefaced by the fact that we have our own processes and systems. We of course make our own decisions based on our own national interest and based on our own independent foreign policy. I’d say that is the case regardless of whatever the foreign policy or national security matter, would be. Of course, we are close friends and allies. We talk frequently, we are both part of Five Eyes. But ultimately what determines our position on issues around national security, will always be our nationally determined position.

On Huawei, of course you well know that our process is governed by TICSA. We are still in the middle of that process at the moment, the option of mitigation sits with Spark and that is who the GCSB deal directly with. As I’ve always said, we of course are aware of other countries’ positions, but our position is our own.

PRIME MINISTER: I would only concur. We have different processes, but we arrived at similar decisions in our own independent way. In fact it was a decision I took as Treasurer last year, consistent with our own legislation and our own national interests. So we will take those decisions in our own interests and work with those who share an outlook on these matters.

But it’s also important to note that as we discussed today, that I think – and forgive me if I join New Zealand in saying this, but I know you won't disagree - we both welcome China’s economic development. We think that’s a good thing. We want to see that continue, because it’s meant a lot for our economies as well. So we welcome the growth in the Chinese economy. We are heavily integrated. They are Australia's single largest trading partner and our free trade agreement with China has been one of the most significant elements of the expansion of our trading opportunities as a nation in decades. So we welcome the growth, we welcome the strength in their economy and we would only encourage that. But as with all things, every country has to make judgements in their own interests. Both Australia and New Zealand have always done that.

JOURNALIST: Hello Prime Minister, there are no families or women on Manus Island, only single men. Some of them have some serious security issues, as we are finding out about in recent days. Australian Department officials have not denied that New Zealand officials have said; “We don't want to take,” New Zealand does not want to take, “any single men from Manus Island”. What is your position on taking single men from Manus Island? And Prime Minister can I get an update from you as well on the security issues in relation to some of those asylum seekers on Manus Island?

PRIME MINISTER ARDERN: I welcome the question from the Courier Mail and the opportunity to correct the record. We have been utterly consistent. The UNHCR themselves of course in the way they work through with refugees, does place some priority on women and children and of course, that was something that we acknowledged and shared. It was never, however, the case that our offer across Manus and Nauru was solely around women and children. But of course we acknowledge the special need that existed there in the same way that the UNHCR does. That is the first point.

The second point is that of course New Zealand will apply its own rigour around that process, as well. We are simply not benign recipients of individual refugees. We have a role to play in ensuring that our national security is protected at the same time.

PRIME MINISTER: Well that’s true - every country has to decide the circumstances in which people come to their country. My only regret is that in the Australian Parliament in the last week, that our ability to do that was compromised by the bill that passed the Parliament. On Manus Island, it is true that the only people who are there, are single males. We are aware that there are quite a number there who, if you would apply the normal character test that applies to all other persons who would seek to come to Australia - whether they are a student, a visitor or anything else - you wouldn't allow them in. That is why we are concerned about what passed the Parliament last week, because it compromises our ability to prevent the transfer of people who would otherwise not pass that test.

But whether it’s, certainly with the United States, where we have an arrangement where more than 450 people have already been transferred to the United States and as you know, the last four children who are on Nauru already have their bags packed, ready to go to the United States.  That remaining cohort of people, whether it’s on Nauru or Manus, is about the 1,000 mark, the majority of those that are on Manus Island. The process of engaging with the United States will continue and many are still engaged in that process. But ultimately it is up to the United States who they decide to take and who they don't. They are no more a passive participant in that process than anyone else would be. When it comes to the New Zealand arrangement, it’s something we touch on every time that we are here. The Australian Government has no plans to take up that arrangement whatsoever and that is particularly now more pertinent on the basis of what happened in the Parliament last week. That I think now makes it even more difficult than it was before. We weren't taking it up before, but that would make it even - ee appreciate the offer I should stress, it has been made by successive governments in New Zealand. We appreciate the friendliness of the offer and its’ genuineness, but in terms of Australia's security interests and how we manage our borders, we don't believe it’s consistent with that, particularly now after what happened in Parliament last week.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] Australian coal coming into Chinese ports, does that point to a souring of the relationship with China and could it affect New Zealand and our exports of kiwi fruit, milk powder and meat?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, no is the short answer to the question and I think people should be careful about leaping to conclusions about that. This is not the first time that on occasion local ports make decisions about these matters and so there is nothing, no evidence before me or us that would suggest it has those connotations, that it has anything to do with anything more broadly than that.

This happens from time to time. We will just work constructively with our partners in China about those issues. So what we’re engaged in, as indeed New Zealand is, is just pursuing a constructive relationship with China, a very constructive relationship with China. Our coal exports remain our single largest mineral export in Australia. It supports 55,000 jobs in Australia right across our economy. We, our Government, is certainly in favour of being able to continue to engage in our minerals resource industry, to ensure it flourishes. We would certainly think that if there was any weakening in that market, I certainly wouldn't think it was wonderful. I would think it would have a very serious impact on the Australian economy and I would be concerned about it and I would act upon it.

PRIME MINISTER ARDERN: Last year actually, our goods exports went up and in recent times, there has been some discussion around New Zealand's relationship and any knock-on effect for exporters, you’ve had exporters themselves come out and say that from their perspective, it was business as usual. In fact, we undertook our own assessment and when you do a comparison between any issues, regulatory issues with consignments at the border, of which we have many, last year there were only issues with 0.26 per cent of the time, and in January we only saw that 0.29 per cent of the time. So there is nothing to suggest that we are seeing any of those impacts on our exporters beyond what you might expect with just regulatory, administrative issues.

JOURNALIST: Mr Morrison, thanks for the question. Can I ask, you refer to the problem with those five northern ports and Australian coal exports as a regulatory problem, I gather, rather than a political decision.

PRIME MINISTER: There’s nothing to suggest otherwise.

JOURNALIST: Have you sought assurances from the Chinese Government, or has DFAT sought assurances from the Chinese Government that that is the case and if it is a regulatory issue, do you have any explanation as to why it appears that Australian exports have been targeted, but exports from other countries in those ports have not yet been targeted?

PRIME MINISTER: Well no, I can't offer any further comment than what I’ve already said before. These are local decisions that are made and there is nothing before me to suggest or that would be consistent with any of the conclusions that some are drawing. So I think in these circumstances, my approach is always just to remain very practical about these things. We will of course continue to engage with those local ports and those authorities and work through the same regulatory issues that we have worked through in the past. This isn't the first time this has happened, this is not new. It has occurred before and there are any number of issues practically that need to be addressed in these circumstances and that’s what we will do.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister Morrison, some may not be aware here that in fact you lived in Wellington for a couple of years about 20 years ago. You were the head of the Tourism and Sport office. In that capacity, of course, you developed a slogan; 100 per cent New Zealand pure.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, George Hickton did yes.

JOURNALIST: You were involved in it, as I understand?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, it was a great period of time.

JOURNALIST: I’m just wondering whether that slogan would apply to what the Prime Minister said was a corrosive part of our relationship; that is sending people that are classified as Kiwis in Australia, if they have committed a crime, back to New Zealand, when they’ve had about as much association with New Zealand as Barnaby Joyce did.

PRIME MINISTER: The simple answer is this; Australia has very well defined immigration and citizenship laws and our Government has taken a very strong line when it comes to those who are in Australia who are on visas. Visas are not citizenship. Visas are provided on the basis of people being compliant with those visas and that doesn't include committing crimes. So we take a very strong view about this. It is a view that is not restricted to New Zealand, I should stress. I understand that New Zealand understand that this is not targeted at New Zealand in any way, shape or form. As Immigration Minister, I made many such decisions with people who were deported back to the United Kingdom and other parts of the world. So we do have a very strong view on this. We do maintain very strict rules around our immigration in Australia. It has always been a hallmark of our Government and governments like us. We might not always agree in these meetings, as Prime Minister Ardern has said, but I can tell you that we do always listen and I think that is an important part of the relationship. We will seek to manage these issues sensitively, but at the same time Australia will always be a country, under my Government, which will treat the seriousness of the integrity of our immigration system very, very seriously.

JOURNALIST: So there’s no chance of a relaxation of those particular [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: We will work through individual cases sensitively.

JOURNALIST: Thank you so much, so my question, my first question is to Prime Minister Ardern. What have you learned, if anything, from how Australia handled pressure from China in the current diplomatic issues you are having with Beijing? And to both prime ministers, are you open to Japan and Germany either joining the Five Eyes intelligence alliance or cooperating with them further?

PRIME MINISTER ARDERN: On the second matter, that’s not something I have given individual consideration to and I don’t think it’s something that would be considered at an individual level, but rather as a collective of Five Eyes. On the first matter, you know we’re close friends and allies. There’s no doubt that we observe one another's international diplomacy and issues of national security. So I have made observations around of course, some of the decisions that have been made previously. But I think probably the point that I would like to still place emphasis on, is that none of that changes the nature of our own decision-making, or ultimately our own decisions. They are merely observations.

PRIME MINISTER: I would agree with Prime Minister Ardern's response on the second matter. But I would also say this; we work closely with both countries particularly when it comes to our region and particularly Japan. Prime Minister Ardern and I when we were in Papua New Guinea at the APEC Summit, we were there with the Americans and the Japanese and we were engaged in the most transformational project you could probably manage in PNG; the electrification of the nation of Papua New Guinea. I mean this is a game-changer of human development and opportunity that frankly I haven't seen in my lifetime, to have the opportunity to participate in and Prime Minister Abe is such an excited participant in this. As we continue to work with our family in the Pacific, we see a real opportunity for both countries to draw in the support of our friends and partners all around the world, which can include China, to see the realisation of the opportunity of the Pacific peoples. We feel deeply about this as nations and where we can work with other countries to realise their independence, their future, well, we will be happy leaders of that process.