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Luxon in Australia: PM will ‘explore’ joining Pillar 2 of Aukus

Author
Adam Pearse,
Publish Date
Wed, 20 Dec 2023, 12:45PM

Luxon in Australia: PM will ‘explore’ joining Pillar 2 of Aukus

Author
Adam Pearse,
Publish Date
Wed, 20 Dec 2023, 12:45PM

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says New Zealand will do its share of the heavy lifting in security and defence in its alliance with Australia - and will also explore joining Pillar 2 of security pact Aukus.

He made the comments alongside Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese while in Sydney for his first official visit to another country since becoming Prime Minister.

They held a private meeting earlier before their joint press conference.

Luxon said it was becoming a “more challenging and complex world”, and being New Zealand’s only ally, the relationship in Australia was “very foundational”.

A security matter they talked about was the Aukus security pact, agreed by Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

While New Zealand was unlikely to be a fully-fledged member of the pact given the country’s opposition to nuclear power, a possible agreement could be reached regarding Pillar 2 of the pact, which largely concerns the sharing of technology.

Luxon and the National Party had signalled stronger interest in investigating joining Aukus Pillar 2. New Defence Minister Judith Collins said the previous Government missed the opportunity and dubbed Labour “anti-American”.

Today Luxon said he would explore joining Pillar 2 and what opportunities that might mean for New Zealand, and the Government would work through that in the coming year.

He said New Zealand’s nuclear-free position was a non-negotiable, but Aukus was important in ensuring security in the region while “a number of countries were increasing military capabilities”. He did not name China.

Albanese would not say if he was pushing Luxon to join Pillar 2 of Aukus, saying that he led a sovereign government and sovereign governments didn’t push each other. But he said it was increasingly important in the context of greater use of artificial intelligence.

He invited Luxon to Australia in March for the Australia-ASEAN meeting, while Luxon said the Defence and Foreign Affairs ministers would meet in the new year as soon as possible to “dive into some of those issues” such as stability in the Pacific.

Albanese said he was “delighted” to welcome Luxon to Australia as a fellow “aviation nerd” who have known each other for a “long period of time”, meaning they weren’t starting from scratch.

Christopher Luxon shakes hands with Anthony Albanese in Sydney. Photo / Adam Pearse December 20 2023Christopher Luxon shakes hands with Anthony Albanese in Sydney. Photo / Adam Pearse December 20 2023 

Deporting 501s and citizenship struggles weren’t expected to dominate his discussions today, unlike previous meetings between transtasman leaders.

Instead, their conversation is thought to have had a heavier focus on security within the Pacific and how New Zealand and Australia can boost economic co-operation - a central priority of Luxon’s engagements with the world.

Meetings between transtasman PMs were often grounded in discussions of deporting criminally offending Kiwi citizens and pathways for New Zealanders living in Australia to gain citizenship.

However, progress had been made in both areas in the last year, with Albanese relaxing 501 deportation rules to a more commonsense approach, taking into account how long someone with Kiwi citizenship had lived in Australia.

One instance indicating the limitations of the former regime went through New Zealand courts this week - an Australian grandfather was deported from Australia for decades of criminal offending, but claimed he would struggle in New Zealand as he hadn’t lived there since he was a baby in the 1960s.

Data provided to the Herald by police last month showed that during the past 12 months, an average of just over 18 people a month have been deported to New Zealand — well down on the height of the deportations policy in mid-2018, when the average was just under 44.

Former Prime Minister Chris Hipkins (left) and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met in July this year. Photo / Mark MitchellFormer Prime Minister Chris Hipkins (left) and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met in July this year. Photo / Mark Mitchell 

Luxon yesterday hailed Albanese’s Government’s revised approach as “very constructive”.

“We are very appreciative of the personal efforts that Prime Minister Albanese and his administration have made to make sure we move things through to a much more common sense policy.

“We’ve got a government under Anthony Albanese that’s actually done New Zealand a real solid.”

In April during a visit ahead of Anzac Day, former PM Chris Hipkins and Albanese announced a new direct pathway to citizenship for eligible New Zealand citizens who have lived across the Tasman for at least four years.

Between July and December 15, more than 41,000 Kiwis living in Australia had applied for citizenship. So far, almost 3700 had attained it according to Australia’s Department of Home Affairs.

“They’ve also done an excellent job in terms of making sure there’s a pathway for citizenship for Kiwis there,” Luxon said.

Topics to be traversed included advancing “indigenous relationships” between the two countries. Luxon also said “big conversations” were needed regarding security in the Pacific region and economic co-operation between New Zealand and Australia.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon will likely speak with his Australian counterpart about security in the Pacific. Photo / Marty MelvillePrime Minister Christopher Luxon will likely speak with his Australian counterpart about security in the Pacific. Photo / Marty Melville 

As of yesterday afternoon, some doubt still lingered over Luxon’s mode of transportation - the Defence Force’s Boeing 757 set to make the day trip had recently experienced a maintenance failure, which prompted Luxon to announce he might require another plane, meaning his travelling press pack would be significantly reduced due to a lack of space and authorisation issues.

The plane had been fixed and was fit to fly as of yesterday evening.

The 757 was one of a pair in the Defence Force’s fleet. The other was grounded as it was undergoing long-term maintenance.

The maintenance issues led to Luxon and Collins requesting that the Defence Force come up with more reliable and sustainable travel options for PMs and ministers. That advice would likely come back in the first quarter of next year.

Adam Pearse is a political reporter in the NZ Herald Press Gallery team, based at Parliament. He has worked for NZME since 2018, covering sport and health for the Northern Advocate in Whangārei before moving to the NZ Herald in Auckland, covering Covid-19 and crime. 

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