Live: Scott Morrison to visit Queenstown before end of the month

Michael Neilson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 17 May 2021, 4:02PM

Live: Scott Morrison to visit Queenstown before end of the month

Michael Neilson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 17 May 2021, 4:02PM

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will host Australian counterpart Scott Morrison in Queenstown for their annual meeting at the end of the month.
Ardern made the announcement at her post-Cabinet press conference this afternoon.

The key focus of the meeting will be the Covid-19 recovery, as well as regional and security issues, she said.

The last meeting they had was in February last year, the day of New Zealand's first Covid case.

Strong and successful responses on both sides of the Tasman had enabled the world-leading travel bubble, she said.

It will be a "milestone and a pleasure" to resume discussions face-to-face, she said.

Topics will include regional pressures, including climate change and geo-strategic issues.

Speaking ahead of an immigration announcement this evening, Ardern said they were looking to shift away from attracting low-skilled to high-skilled migrants.

Over the next 12 months they were expecting about 220 investors to arrive.

Ardern has previously used such meetings to press home her dissatisfaction with Australia's 501 deportation policy.

Regarding Morrison's visit, Ardern said they had always been transparent about "difficult" issues in the relationship.

They always discussed those when they popped up, she said.

So this meeting was more about where to next for the relationship, she said.

"I expect it to be a very practical meeting."

Ardern may also seek an update on Suhayra Aden, the former Australian-New Zealand dual citizen alleged by Turkish authorities to be an Islamic State terrorist. Australia revoked Aden's Australian citizenship, prompting a sharp rebuke from Ardern for abdicating its responsibilities to its citizens.

Both countries' relationships with China are also likely to be discussed.

This follows questions over whether New Zealand's stance on China is soft due to a reluctance to upset its biggest trading partner, and why New Zealand has been absent from some Five Eyes' statements critical of China limiting Hong Kong elections.

New Zealand has at times joined the Five Eyes' statements, and other times spoken out on the Hong Kong issue by itself.

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has said that she was "uncomfortable" using Five Eyes to comment on non-security matters.

Last month Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, in a visit to New Zealand, declined to criticise New Zealand for not endorsing more of Five Eyes' statements.

Payne also did not push for New Zealand to take a stronger line on China, saying she had learned "not to give advice to other countries".

She said Australia's stance on China has offered "clarity, consistency and confidence", which has contributed to the security and prosperity of the region.

Morrison, accompanied by his wife, will arrive in Queenstown on May 30 and talks will take place the following day.

Ardern and Morrison will engage with Australian and New Zealand business, tourism, and community leaders, and lay a wreath at the Arrowtown War Memorial.

"I'm looking forward to welcoming Prime Minister Morrison back to New Zealand following a difficult year for both our countries through the pandemic," Ardern said.

"Our relationship with Australia is our closest and most important and this has never been more evident than in these trying times for the world."

She said the visit was an opportunity to celebrate the transtasman bubble.

"An in-person Leaders' meeting reflects a significant achievement for both our countries and is highly unusual in the Covid-19 context."

Budget unveiled on Thursday

On Thursday the Government will unveil its spending priorities for the coming year in Budget 2021.

Regarding the Budget, Ardern said it was about making sure New Zealand came out of Covid stronger than when coming into it.

The economy had performed better, unemployment better than expected, all due to "careful" management, she said, and that would continue.

The immigration announcement was about looking at what New Zealand's needs were, she said.

New Zealand had the highest reliance on temporary workers in the OECD.

"We need to move away from relying on overseas labour to support our economy."

The immigration reset was not about "crude numbers" but the outcomes New Zealand - and those coming here - were after, Ardern said.

For too long New Zealand's reliance on a low-paid workforce as not working for them or New Zealand, she said.

Asked about RSE workers specifically, Ardern said this would not be touched.

That was not just about labour shortages in New Zealand, but providing opportunities for people in Pacific islands countries.