Press Conference - Queenstown, New Zealand

31 May 2021
Queenstown, New Zealand
Prime Minister, Prime Minister of New Zealand

THE RT HON. JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: Kia ora koutou katoa. Nga mihi nui kia koutou and welcome Prime Minister Morrison and welcome to all of you, including our guests from the Australian gallery. You've just seen that we've exchanged jerseys as we look to celebrate New Zealand and Australia's successful bid to host, co-host the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, which is one of the largest sporting events on the planet and I know PM Morrison and I were both very actively engaged in that bid and it's a delight to have that prospect of hosting together on the horizon.

I also want to just acknowledge the significance, as we've done throughout this visit, of our ability to speak face to face, to be here in person, and neither of us take that for granted. And as I mentioned last night, that's not to say we haven't been in close contact. In fact, over the last, you know, 15 months or so, our contact has only increased and that has been, I believe, certainly to New Zealand's benefit and I'd like to think to Australia's also, as we've shared our learnings, information and work collaboratively as we navigate COVID-19.

The COVID challenge that we all face is writ large at the moment and I did want to acknowledge the people of Victoria and just say everyone in New Zealand is thinking of you at this time. We've had our fair share of challenges and we understand what it's like when you, when you reach another hurdle, but we have absolute faith it's a hurdle that you will come out the other side of and we look forward to welcoming you back on our shores again soon.

The trans-Tasman relationship, as we've said many times, is New Zealand's most important. We are family and the pandemic has underscored that in, in many ways. You've seen the scenes of people being reunited but there's also been the cooperation during COVID. The fact that we have worked as collaboratively as we could around the disrupted supply chains that we have experienced, we've seen the value of a highly integrated economies between us, and we continue, we will endeavour to continue to work together on the challenges that we face.

We've had a wide-ranging discussion today across a varied agenda, which is somewhat captured by I think a 10-page leaders statement, so you will have seen the diversity of the agenda. We discussed everything from climate change, to trade and security issues, to our commitment to see the rollout of the vaccine in the Pacific and really checking in that we between ourselves felt like we had the breadth of coverage to ensure that we were supporting our Pacific neighbours in that rollout. We talked about managing our borders and the work that we can do collaboratively together as we write the rulebook for that next phase and look, when it's safe to do so, to reconnect with the world. We talked about our single economic market agenda, including our work on digital trade in the circular economy, and also the opportunities that exist to see intangible outcomes for APEC. Whilst that won't be a face to face meeting, I have invited PM Morrison to join me face to face in New Zealand for those virtual meetings if he so chooses.

We also discussed Australia's deportation policy and opportunities for people who move across the Tasman to access a pathway to citizenship - a concern and an opportunity that we have highlighted consistently for a number of years. As with any family, we will have our disagreements from time to time, but those disagreements are still undertaken in the spirit of openness and ultimately friendship. We are much bigger than our differences and the last year has taught us that. I note Scott that following your visit we have Dame Patsy Reddy our Governor-General visiting, and then myself in July, very much looking forward to visiting to be able to pick up again a number of exchanges across tourism and trade and to demonstrating our ongoing commitment to our relationship. Hand over to you now.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you Prime Minister, and kia ora. It is a great privilege to be able to come here together, as leaders of two countries that share an incredible history. And to come from lands which have an ancient Indigenous history as well, and we can learn so much of that as we chart our way through what are largely uncharted waters, I think, for both Australia and New Zealand. And as the Prime Minister has said, we think particularly of those going through great stress and trial, even now, whether it is back home in Australia in Victoria as we face our most recent challenge with the outbreak there, or indeed, not far, not too far from here in Christchurch and the the floods that are present. Australia is no stranger to floods or fires or cyclones, or indeed even mouse plagues. We have, as both countries, endured a large amount of challenge over the course, particularly of these last few years, and the relationship the Prime Minister and I, Jacinda and I, have had over that period of time has been incredibly helpful for us to work through these many issues.

And we have been on a journey as two countries, not just from the beaches of Gallipoli but the way through COVID as well, and it has been that constant dialogue, that very honest and open dialogue that we have been able to share. I remember one occasion, I remember you called, we were working through the TGA approval of the vaccine at the time. And I was out outback near Quilpie, and so wherever I happen to be in Australia or Jacinda happens to be in New Zealand we are always within close reach to be able to address the many issues we're facing together. Because we have pursued a very uniquely Anzac path, I think, through COVID-19, and we will continue to do that. And we had much sharing of those issues. But we also must continue to pursue a very Anzac path through the many other challenges we face, whether it's to regional security, the many other, the many other pressures that are placed on both of our countries to secure our way, to secure our prosperity and the jobs and the safety that we want for all of our peoples.

Today we, as the Prime Minister has said, we've committed further to the work we're doing in the Pacific, to provide not only the vaccines in our own countries, but, of course, to support the vaccination programme, whether it's in Fiji or whether it's in Tonga or many other places. We are covering the challenge that exists there. And as well for Australia, up in Timor Leste as well.

The supply chain dialogue I think is very important and goes to the closer economic relationship on our economies. As we're coming through COVID, the Australia and New Zealand economy is fused together more today than I suspect it has been over my lifetime. With our borders affected and largely closed, effectively closed, it is of the Australian and New Zealand economy which is sustaining each other. And so the opening up of the travel arrangements between Australia and New Zealand is good for both countries, as we always knew it would be. But in our discussions today, and with other business leaders, they are pursuing even more opportunities, I think, to see greater and more effective outcomes, while the rest of the world is closed off to us at this time. I think we will increase our appreciation of the economic ties that we have between Australia and New Zealand.

It is true that we are making changes to the pathway to permanent residency, reducing the five-year arrangement to prove on the income test down to three years, and also providing the leniency around the proof of that test around the impact of COVID, and that is welcome. And we will support New Zealand in their stewardship of APEC, which will come at a very important time when it comes to pursuing a free and open Indo-Pacific, one that is sovereign and one that is resilient. And trade is a key part of that agenda. As the world opens up again, and it's still too soon to say when that might occur, as we discussed that at length today, what will be important is the multilateral arrangements we provide to trading economies, trading countries like Australia and New Zealand to be successful when that occurs, and for us to continue to pursue that success, even now while our borders are closed.

THE RT HON. JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: Thank you, Prime Minister Morrison. We're now going to open the floor for questions. I believe that those have already been registered. I've been given the list, so you'll forgive me, we're narrowing down the [inaudible] job to myself today. So, starting off we have Newshub.

JOURNALIST: Hi, Prime Minister Morrison, [inaudible] from Newshub. You've said Australia's sovereignty is not for sale when it comes to China. Do you believe New Zealand sold its sovereignty to China, and is that jeopardising our relationship with Australia and our other Five Eyes partners?

PRIME MINISTER: No, is my short answer. Australia and New Zealand are trading nations. But we, neither of us would ever trade our sovereignty or trade our values. We have stood side by side to defend and protect and promote these values. So not just on the beaches of Gallipoli, but in Afghanistan and in so many other places around the world. This is a commitment that we share and that we honour, and that will always be our approach.


JOURNALIST: Thank you, Prime Minister. Pablo Vinales, SBS News. Prime Minister Morrison yesterday flagged the possibility of the Pacific bubble expanding into countries like Fiji, Vanuatu, Tonga and the Solomon Islands. What would be the requirement for this to happen in terms of vaccination rates, and  those countries their capacity to deal with the potential for outbreaks, and do either of you have a timeframe?

THE RT HON. JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: Both Australia and New Zealand share an enthusiasm for, where it is safe to do so, exploring additional options for expanding the trans-Tasman bubble. However, we both acknowledge that we want to maintain the freedoms we have. That means maintaining the very high bar, that between ourselves we have said we don't want to jeopardise the freedom that we have within our own countries to move about freely and to protect the health of our citizens. So in this early phase while we still do not have widespread vaccination in either the Pacific, our own countries, or indeed even broadly across the international community, we would need to satisfy ourselves that there wasn't the risk of COVID entering into our community. So there is a high bar. There are Pacific countries where that would potentially be an option. Some of them are not exploring it at present, but we keep that option open and available and it's most likely to be with our Pacific neighbours that we'll next look to.

PRIME MINISTER: I agree with that. Pacific nations play important roles within both of our economies, particularly when it comes to seasonal labour and things of that nature. And so where we have opportunities to pursue at least that, at least that in a safe way and with appropriate quarantine arrangements, I think they're the early steps that can be made in that area, and Vanuatu is such a country that has been raising that with Australia. But you've got to do it safely, and not just safely for Australia. We are very mindful that across the Pacific, where COVID has had and will continue to have the potential to cause terrible devastation in those communities, and by and large, they have done incredibly well. But we are very aware of the health risks for our Pacific family, as much as we are in Australia and New Zealand.


JOURNALIST: Prime Minister Morrison, [inaudible] from TVNZ. What's the latest on Suhayra Aden and is it appropriate for you to export your problem to New Zealand when we're supposed to be mates?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Suhayra's not an Australian citizen. But we have spoken today about her children and the pathway that they have eligibility for in Australia and to stand ready to address those issues. On the broader issue, which is one often raised when I come to New Zealand or indeed when we meet in Australia. Australia's rules, laws regarding criminal acts by those who commit them in Australia, in violation of our laws when they're not citizens, are deported on the conclusion of their sentence. Now, that's not a law that applies specifically to New Zealand or any other country. It is a universal position of Australian law. Australia is, together with New Zealand, some of the most, I would argue, the most successful immigration countries anywhere in the world. And one of the reasons you are able to achieve that is that you're very clear that when people come to your country that they have to abide by our laws.

JOURNALIST: Was it appropriate though to revoke her citizenship?

PRIME MINISTER: It is our law, and we believe it was.

THE RT HON. JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: We, of course, reiterate our ongoing view on the issue of the cancellation of citizenship, on issues of deportation. Prime Minister Morrison and I have had these exchanges before. He's very clear on New Zealand's view.

I've come to The Daily Telegraph.

JOURNALIST: Clare Armstrong from The Daily Telegraph. Prime Minister Ardern, your recent positioning on China has alarmed Australia and western allies. Are you worried your country's Five Eyes membership could be downgraded? And Mr Morrison, China says New Zealand is more wise and sober in its dealings with Beijing than Australia, but doesn't Australia and Five Eyes need friends who will stick with us?

THE RT HON. JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: So, the short answer to your question would be no. And in fact, you know, at no point in our discussions today was, did I detect any difference in our relative positions on the importance of maintaining a very strong and principled perspective on issues around trade, on issues around human rights. And you'll see that Australia and New Zealand have broadly been positioned in exactly the same place on these issues consistently. So I really push back on any suggestion that we are not taking a strong stance on these incredibly important issues. When it comes to the matter of Five Eyes, we remain a committed member, that is not in question, not in doubt.

PRIME MINISTER: I concur with the Prime Minister. I think as great partners, friends, allies and indeed family, there will be those far from here who would seek to divide us. And they will not succeed, because as we've stood resolutely together for the values and principles that Australians and New Zealanders have stood for, and indeed fought for, that will continue to be the case. So partnering successfully as we've always done, whether it's in the Five Eyes in particular or more broadly in our great cooperation. Most significantly, whether it's in the OECD or the multilateral fora, the World Trade Organisation or indeed the work that we've done through the World Health Organisation, where we share very strong views. And so we will continue to work together in that way. And I have no doubt there will be those who would seek to undermine Australia and New Zealand's security by seeking to create points of difference which are not there.


JOURNALIST: Kia ora, Jane [inaudible], Radio New Zealand. Prime Minister Morrison, what's your assessment of the possibility of armed conflict between Australia and China, particularly in flashpoints like Taiwan or the South China Sea? And if that did eventuate, would you expect New Zealand to back Australia as a traditional Five Eyes ally? And who are you talking about when you are saying there are those who seek to divide New Zealand and Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: Let me make a couple of points. The first one is the world is being characterised by increased strategic competition between the United States and China. That is a self-evident fact. But I would say that our shared view would be that such strategic competition doesn't need to lead to increased likelihood of conflict or other pressures, whether they be coercion of any nature or interference. That is not necessary. What we both pursue through the many ways we work together is a free and open Indo-Pacific. Where countries can trade, sovereign, resilient, and to go about what they wish to pursue in their national interests for the benefit of their people. A peaceful Indo-Pacific. So that's what our objective is. That's what our goal is. And whether it's cooperating ourselves, and particularly through the ANZUS Alliance, which is obviously guiding all ultimate decisions that are made in the context of that alliance. What we're also pursuing through the many other fora that we're working in – the United Nations and elsewhere – it's all about achieving that goal. Of course, the world is uncertain. Of course, the world has risks of conflict and tension. Our efforts are designed to mitigate that, to calibrate against that and to ensure that we're working together for a more peaceful Indo-Pacific where we acknowledge the realities of strategic competition, but do not accept as any foregone conclusion where that competition may lead to.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] and my other question, who are you talking about when you say others are seeking to divide us?

PRIME MINISTER: Oh, well there are many others, people are always trying to divide Australia and New Zealand all over the place, but they will not succeed. And as I said, the ANZUS Alliance arrangements are fairly clear.


JOURNALIST: Prime Minister Ardern, Fiona Willan from Nine News.


JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that New Zealand relies too heavily on Australia and others for defence and intelligence sharing. And is that why you appear to be cosying up to China? And Prime Minister Morrison would you say that's a fair description of the situation?

THE RT HON. JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: If I had the ability, I would ask for some examples or evidence of the claim that you've made, but you've already heard me speak directly and strongly to refute the assertion that we are doing anything other than maintaining a very principled position on human rights issues, on trade issues as they relate to China. And in fact, I think you'll find very little difference in many of the messages that we've been sending relative to Australia. So that would be my first point.

On the question of whether or not we rely on others. You know, in our view and my very strong view, we carry responsibility for ourselves to ensure adequate investment in our defence forces and equally, that we carry our weight as a member of the intelligence and security community. Having said that, we have always operated at a regional level where we support one another. There will be parts of the Pacific for whom we will be, for instance, better placed to engage in search and rescue, to engage in fisheries monitoring, to engage in monitoring trade sanctions than Australia, and vice versa. We work together, but I reject the suggestion that we don't carry and deliver on our behalf and towards the international community.

PRIME MINISTER: I share the Prime Minister's views. Australia and New Zealand obviously have different capabilities in these areas and we have different programs, but we have interoperability, which is, I think, incredibly important. Because that interoperability has been on display in so many theatres of conflict and peacekeeping and emergency response all around the world, and particularly in our own region. You'd be aware that Australia is continuing to increase our investments in these areas with our capability, we see these very much in our national interests. And we believe that Australia, acting in this way, also provides great stability and support for the region as well. And I know that's welcomed. And so interoperability, we each have different jobs to do, we each have different capabilities that we bring. It's our job as prime ministers to ensure that that comes together in the best way possible for the security of our own nations and our national interests, but also in the broader family role that we have across the Pacific.


JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] for Newstalk ZB. I'm just wondering, the United States is bringing pressure on not just the Australians, but on others to join in an inquiry to find out the source of COVID, whether it came from a laboratory in Wuhan or an animal base. Will you go along with that enquiry? This is for both of you. And just a follow up to you Prime Minister Morrison, your recent trip to Melbourne. [inaudible] exposed, but did you, how seriously did you think before coming to New Zealand about being in Melbourne so recently.

THE RT HON. JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: Might start on the WHO and the enquiries that are being undertaken there. I think it was very clear from the outset, from the perspective of the international community that was really tranche one. That was the beginning of some of that investigatory work in which we all will benefit from understanding the origin of this current pandemic. We have, of course, long supported and continue to do so, the work that the WHO is doing to investigate the origin of the pandemic. And it was also a given that there would be a second tranche. We'd be concerned at any suggestion that we weren't able to complete that work, because as an international community, how are we going to protect ourselves from a further outbreak in the future if we don't understand what happened in the first place? So, yes, absolutely. We'll continue to work with others in encouraging and supporting the WHO to complete the mission that we are all very reliant on.

PRIME MINISTER: Can I start by acknowledging the work of former Prime Minister Helen Clark. As one of the countries that were there at the outset with the investigation that was led by the former Prime Minister, we were very pleased when she was appointed to that role. That gave us a lot of confidence that this was an exercise to the best of her ability and in the circumstances that she was dealing with, that she would not hold back in seeking to get the truth of what has occurred here. Now, there's clearly a lot more work to do. And I would share the view put forward by the United States. It's important that we understand this for public health. This has nothing to do with global politics. This has nothing to do with anything other than ensuring that the global pandemic, which has caused such havoc around the world, stealing lives and livelihoods, that we understand how this occurred so we can do everything we possibly can to ensure that that does not happen again. So many of the conversations we as leaders have, both with each other, but with many leaders around the world is, yes, we need to deal with what's happening in this pandemic, but what are the lessons from this pandemic for what is likely to be another and in what form it might come? And so that's why this process is so important and why it should not be impeded and why it should be so transparent. To ensure, we owe it to people all over the world to ensure that this is understood in the best way. So I do want to pass on our thanks to Helen for the work she has done and the other members of the panel there were Australians also involved at the officials level in that process. And I think this is a question that the world needs answered for their own safety and their own protection in the future.

On the other matter, of course, I complied with all the requirements of the New Zealand government regarding my travel to New Zealand as all Australian should and as all New Zealanders should when they come to Australia. It is a big challenge for the Victorian people at the moment, but they're coming through it strongly as I had no doubt they would. And we are working to ensure we open Victoria as soon as possible, so Victorians, Australians in Victoria can go about their lives again as the rest of the country has, and indeed as New Zealanders are here.


JOURNALIST: Chloe Bouras from Network 10.


JOURNALIST: Australia deports Kiwi criminals. Should we accept back an Australian criminal, the Christchurch terrorist? Mr Morrison, you've previously said that you're open to discussion, Ms Ardern, have you put in that request and do you think that fair given Australia's policy?

THE RT HON. JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: Well of course, one thing I'd say is that our view sometimes Australia deports Australian criminals. The issue though of the Christchurch terrorist. What we've always said is that so much about the future there and those future decisions really needs to come from the guidance of the community. And whilst we haven't undergone any formal consultation on the future imprisonment or where the terrorist will see out the end of his days in prison, certainly some of the informal feedback has been a desire for the terrorist to remain in New Zealand. And I understand that, there's something about the proximity and ensuring that the sentence that was handed down is served. But I do want to acknowledge just the open dialogue that I've had with Prime Minister Morrison on this question. There's never been any issue with me being able to raise the issue generally. But at this stage, I'm certainly not detecting at this stage any desire or strong desire from the community for there to be a change

PRIME MINISTER: That would be our view also. We are deeply sensitive to the New Zealand people, particularly the community and the families that are affected that I have met with and, of course, the Prime Minister has. And we want to respect their wishes and their interests, and we're always open to those dialogues should they wish to come forward. But at this point, that is not the plan.

JOURNALIST: Do you accept our Prime Minister's premise that you deport Australian criminals?

THE RT HON. JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: Look, we won't get into ad libbing there Barry, just because it's not fair on everyone else. But just to conclude, Prime Minister Morrison is under no doubt on my views on these matters.

PRIME MINISTER: And likewise.

THE RT HON. JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: All right everyone, thank you so much for joining us today. Safe travels to those of you who have travelled today. Unfortunately I'll be bidding Prime Minister Morrison farewell here so I can make my way to some of the floods affecting New Zealand. But thank you again, PM Morrison.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much, great to be here. Thank you everyone.