17 May 2021

Australia PM Scott Morrison to visit New Zealand this month

5:04 pm on 17 May 2021

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will arrive in Queenstown for a two-day visit, his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern has announced.

The visit, set to begin Sunday 30 May, was announced after a Cabinet meeting in New Zealand this afternoon.

Speaking to media after the meeting, Ardern said Morrison would be in the country for the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders' Meeting, with the formal talks to be held on Monday.

Ardern and Morrison will also be going to Highlanders vs Melbourne Rebels rugby game in Queenstown on the Sunday afternoon; would meet with Australian and New Zealand business, tourism, and community leaders; and would lay a wreath at the Arrowtown War Memorial.

Ardern said the last time she met with Morrison was the day the country's first Covid-19 case was announced.

"It will be a pleasure and a milestone to meet face-to-face again."

She said she was looking forward to welcoming Morrison after a "difficult year" for both countries through the pandemic.

"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.

"Discussions will centre on how Australia and New Zealand will meet the shared challenges we face.

"The key focus of the meeting will of course be our Covid-19 recovery, as well as how we continue working together on key regional and security issues," she said.

Face to face leaders' meetings in these Covid times are "highly unusual", said Ardern, and Morrison's visit "reflects a significant achievement for both our countries".

Immigration update

At 6pm, MP Stuart Nash - standing in for Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi, who is unwell - will be making the case for policy change, which will re-focus on attracting highly skilled migrants.

On Thursday, Faafoi was shouted down at a rally of unhappy migrants at Parliament as they asked for families to be let into the country, to have visa processing sped up, and for residency visas for those on temporary work visas who would normally be eligible.

Ardern said New Zealand, which had the highest reliance on temporary workers in the OECD, would be looking to shift the balance away from relying on low-skilled workers to attracting high-skilled workers.

"Are we doing the best by them and also our own workforce?" she said.

She said her concern was that New Zealand's reliance on migrants was that it was for people who would receive low pay in the industries they worked in.

It was time for a discussion "on getting the balance right" to offer a better quality experience both for migrants and the country, she said.

The government also agreed to two new border exemptions for investors. Over the next year 220 investors were expected to come to New Zealand.

Cook Islands bubble

Another two-way quarantine-free travel bubble - this time between the Cook Islands and New Zealand - began today, with the first flight to Rarotonga expected to touch down tomorrow.

Ardern said if there was a Covid-19 case, it would almost certainly have originated in New Zealand.

She said people may be brought back to New Zealand so it would not put too much pressure on the Cooks Islands' health system.

She expected there will be a call on New Zealand to also help with any health needs in the event of an outbreak.

National Party

Today's announcement came after a Newshub Reid Research poll, released on Sunday, put Labour well ahead of National and cast a shadow over the Opposition party's full-day planning meeting on Monday.

Ardern is on 48.1 percent in the preferred prime minister stakes, while Judith Collins has slipped to 5.6 percent - a drop of 12.8 percentage points.

Despite that, National MPs are backing their leader and have endorsed her persistent claims that the government is pursuing a "separatist" agenda.

Collins, who this morning dismissed the poll, made statements over the weekend claiming Ngāi Tahu would take over 50 percent ownership of water assets, a claim the iwi itself denied.

Ardern said Ngāi Tahu had said all that needed to be said on the topic.

Arms will not be sent to Israel

Asked if she was comfortable with MFAT's approval of firearms samples to be sent to Israel, Ardern said she had checked and approval would not be given for the firearms to be sold to a private company, the government or the military.

"It seems to me to be a pointless exercise for the company to apply in the first place."

She said the current conflict was "moving us further and further away from a two-state solution", and New Zealand had stayed firm for the last two years in its position that Palestinians needed their own home.

"What we are seeing at the moment is devastating."


The government's Budget is to be released on Thursday.

Ardern said child wellbeing and poverty would once again be a major priority.

"I defend our record and the investments we have made there," she said.

Solo mothers on the benefit have said they need more help as they continue to struggle from week to week.

Ardern said family tax credits were a direct way to help low-income families, along with other measures such as the doubling of the winter energy payment.

Other developments

The successful election of Samoa's first female prime minister appears imminent after the country's Supreme Court made two rulings today, first rejecting a move by the previous ruling party to install an extra female MP, then rejecting as unconstitutional the Head of State's decision to call a second election.

Ardern said it would be a "historic decision" for Samoa.

"It feel significant to me, very significant..." she said.

On Saturday, Ardern opened the second anniversary leaders' summit for the Christchurch Call online.

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