31 May 2021

Jacinda Ardern disputes tensions with Australia over China

11:35 am on 31 May 2021

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern insists China is not causing tensions in New Zealand's relationship with Australia.

Jacinda Ardern speaking to the media on 26 May 2021 after a post-Budget speech to the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo: RNZ / Nathan McKinnon

Ardern and her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison will hold formal talks in Queenstown today.

She told Morning Report the relationship with Australia had not changed despite differing policies towards China.

"When I think about the vast bulk of exchanges that Prime Minister Morrison and I have had in the last 15 months, this has not been an issue that has dominated our relationship at all.

"In fact, just recently we've joined as a country involved in a case being taken through the WTO [World Trade Organisation] by the Australians on Bali because we see the importance of maintaining a rules-based order around our trade relationships."

On Australia's probe into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic and its souring relationship with China, Ardern said: "It is not for me to determine what it is that's caused the tensions that they have. But it's for to comment or not whether New Zealand's position and our relationship is being portrayed accurately on not."

She said Australian media were not portraying that relationship accurately.

"Since May of last year, we have made 20 statements on concerns relating to issues of everything from security issues to human rights issues as they relate to China.

"There have been three statements made by the Five Eyes that we have not joined; two of those, in lieu of that, we joined with Australia bilaterally and made statements together rather than as part of a grouping of other countries.

"This idea that there is a large divide between us all - I totally dispute.

"What I will stand firm on, though, we are an independent country, we will make our own foreign policy decisions."

Ardern also commented on New Zealand's previous refugee intake offer to Australia, as sports star Sonny Bill Williams lobbies Morrison over the deal.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arriving at a reception for the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders' meeting in Queenstown on May 30, 2021.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo: Mark Tantrum / Visits and Ceremonial Office / AFP

Vaccine passports

She said Australia and New Zealand wanted to expand the travel bubble and were talking of ways to do so safely.

"Vaccine passports for the likes of the EU are a very different proposition than they are for us because we know that people who are vaccinated in Australia and New Zealand ... can still become infected with Covid-19," she said, saying the countries were waiting on data as to how infectious a person would be.

She said most countries were using vaccine passports as a way to minimise risk.

"For us, we have very little tolerance for risk because we don't coexist with Covid-19."

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