7 Jun 2022

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson to meet Australian counterparts, Samoa's PM to visit NZ

6:13 pm on 7 June 2022

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her deputy Grant Robertson will meet their Australian counterparts this week and Samoa's prime minister will visit Aotearoa next week, marking 60 years since the signing of the Treaty of Friendship.

Watch the briefing again here:

In the briefing, Ardern announced that the government has added monkeypox to New Zealand's schedule of notifiable diseases.

The designation will give the Medical Officer of Health the power to contain any possible spread in New Zealand, including contact tracing and isolation orders.

It also means medical professionals must notify the Medical Officer of Health about any known or suspected cases.

There are no known or suspected cases in New Zealand so far and the overall risk has been assessed as low to moderate.

Associate minister of health Ayesha Verrall said the two diseases were very different in their nature; Covid being spread by casual interactions via either droplets or aerosols, and monkeypox through face-to-face or more intimate interactions.

"Previously, we've seen monkeypox lead to quite short chains of transmission, so the outbreaks have been limited. Whereas Covid clearly was a totally novel pathogen - we have some experience with monkeypox."

"We have a smallpox vaccine, which isn't the ideal vaccine to use for monkeypox should we need it. There are what's called a third generation vaccine, which would be an improvement, and there is very limited supplies of that vaccine available globally.

"[When we do have cases here], our response would primarily be driven by testing and contact tracing, and ESR should have a PCR test online this week in order to facilitate that."

Contacts would be asked to monitor for symptoms, she said. "Because unlike Covid, we believe infectivity starts after symptoms."

What's on the agenda for Ardern and Robertson's Australia trip?

Ardern said it was fitting that she would be first foreign leader to head to Australia to meet with new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, because the relationship between the two countries "is like family".

"We are fortunate to be close neighbours who share common values, history, personal connections, and business relationships.

"This meeting also comes at an important moment in our reconnecting programme, as for New Zealanders and New Zealand businesses alike, Australia is a source of prosperity, labour, tourism, innovation, science and knowledge.

"This is also an opportunity for new conversations to be had on aspects of the bi-lateral relationship that have been difficult for a number of years, namely the elements of Australia's deportation policy, and the rights of New Zealanders in Australia."

New Zealanders' dissatisfaction over their rights of Australia all come back to the ability to access citizenship, she said, adding that she would raise that point.

"Deportation, citizenship issues, have been on the table throughout my time in office, and will continue to be an issue that we raise, because... it does mean New Zealanders who contribute a significant amount to Australia - they're tax-payers, they are filling skills gaps, they often have long-standing connections - find themselves sometimes in a disadvantaged position when it comes to education for their kids, it means they pay the equivalent of ACC, but can't draw down on it if they need, and we have seen some really distressing situations, so ... it will be an issue that I continue to advocate on."

Despite areas of friction, New Zealand's relationship with its neighbour remains deep, she said.

"It didn't stop us working together on issues that mattered to us as well. Be it everything from exchanging ideas, on Covid-19, to support that we provided them on bush fires and us on Whakaari White Island."

Australian opposition leader Anthony Albanese gestures as he addresses Labour supporters after winning the 2022 general election at the Federal Labour Reception in Sydney on May 21, 2022. (Photo by Wendell Teodoro / AFP)

Photo: AFP / Wendell Teodoro

Ardern already spoke with Albanese over the phone after he took office and will head over with Robertson on 9 June.

She expects their meeting to include discussions on climate change, the Indo Pacific Economic Framework, AUKUS, and the upcoming Pacific Island Forum.

"New Zealand and Australia work exceptionally well together on the international stage to achieve our common goals and I know we will continue to advocate for a more stable and resilient region, defend and advance the multilateral rules based system, and maintain momentum on our world-leading economic integration."

Asked if the change of leadership in Australia was seen as a chance for climate change to be prioritised, she said: "We've often been asked about Australia's position on climate change, our view is we had to make sure that we were doing our bit, rather than casting around at the position of other nations.

"But, I'm sure that what has already been projected [by the new government], with climate change being a priority, will be welcome by the region.

"The Pacific Island Forum, and members themselves, have said that the number one issue for the region is climate change ... it still actually comes back to the very real here-and-now threat that climate change represents."

Meanwhile, Robertson will meet with Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers to discuss economic challenges such as higher inflation, supply chain constraints, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

"'The Australian Government has also indicated it will introduce wellbeing aspects into the Australian budget process, which New Zealand has been doing since 2019, so I am keen to discuss the Treasurer's plans," Robertson said.

While Ardern is set to head back on 10 June, Robertson will stay an extra day to meet with senior officials and state economic leaders and investors with interests and opportunities in New Zealand, like Costco and Fortescue Future Industries.

Samoan PM's visit to Aotearoa

Ardern said she was delighted that the Samoan prime minister's first official bilateral overseas visit would be to New Zealand.

Samoa's Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, speaking at the 76th UN General Assembly in New York

Samoa's Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, speaking at the 76th UN General Assembly in New York Photo: Samoa government

Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataʻafa will officially be welcomed on 14 June, marking 60 years of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and Samoa, and the 60th anniversary of Samoa's independence.

"The treaty underpins our relationship and pledges that both countries work together to promote the welfare of the people of Samoa and was, in fact, signed by Naomi Mataʻafa's father and Samoa's first Prime Minister, Fiame Mata'afa Faumuina Mulinu'u II," Ardern said.

"The prime minister and I have already spoken on three occasions and I look forward to further discussing the key issues affecting our region, development cooperation and our ongoing respective Covid-19 responses."

She will attend a series of community and official engagements in Wellington, Hawke's Bay and Auckland, including a community gathering with Regional Season Employment workers and a lunch with the Pacific Parliamentary Caucus.

In response to reports that China is secretly constructing a naval facility in Cambodia, Ardern said: "For New Zealand we often judge activity in the region based on the question of whether or not it provides peace and stability; we've been very opposed to the increasing militarisation of our region, the Pacific region because we do not believe that it adds to the peace and stability in our back yard."

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