Watch: Chris Hipkins and Anthony Albanese hold joint media conference

2:42 pm on 7 February 2023

NZ Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese have held a joint media conference outside Parliament House in Canberra.

The two leaders met for an informal catch-up this afternoon and have spoken to media from both countries.

Albanese said it was fantastic to welcome Hipkins to Parliament House in Canberra.

"New Zealand and Australia are family. We had a very warm lunch today renewing our acquaintance. I had first met Chris - Prime Minister Hipkins in the Parliament in Wellington some years ago and it means a lot to us as Australians that your first destination is prime minister is here."

He said their discussion was wide-ranging, and covered economy, climate, security issues and "how we'll work together to continue the plan that was established at last year's leaders' meeting with former prime minister Jacinda Ardern including working through a range of issues relating to citizenship for Australians and New Zealanders which we intend to conclude before Anzac Day of this year".

They also discussed the value both countries placed on their role as members of the Pacific region, Albanese said, and noted that the Pacific Island Forum in Suva last year had led to positive developments.

This year marked 40 years of the Closer Economic Relations trade agreement, which Albanese said was a "gold standard" agreement, and one of the most comprehensive in the world.

It also marked 80 years of diplomatic relations, and the co-hosting of the women's World Cup this year, starting in July.

"I look forward to further developing our relationship with our friends in New Zealand ... I thank the prime minister very much for his visit today."

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins shakes hands with his Australian counterpart Australian Anthony Albanese.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins shakes hands with his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Hipkins said New Zealand had "no closer friend or partner" than Australia, and agreed the two countries are more than friends, "we are family".

"In the great trans-Tasman tradition I'm looking forward to working with you across a broad spectrum of issues that are important to both of our countries."

He said they also discussed how global economic conditions after Covid-19 were affecting New Zealanders and Australians alike.

"High interest rates, cost of living pressures affect families here and in New Zealand and we share a lot of issues in common in that regard, but many other countries don't have the same closeness as New Zealand and Australia and that's something we will never take for granted in New Zealand.

"I echoed the words of my predecessor in matters around deportations and we discussed the ongoing work that we have around addressing some of the issues regarding New Zealanders who live and work permanently here in Australia. They're complex issues but I do want to acknowledge and applaud the progress that's been made over the last year and we'll look forward to continuing to work on those."

Hipkins said he looked forward to hosting Albanese around the middle of this year.

Asked about joining AUKUS, Hipkins said New Zealand's foreign policy position had not changed just because of a change in leadership and it remained the same as it was under Ardern.

"Australia, the US, the UK are incredibly important security partners for New Zealand but our nuclear-free policy hasn't changed either."

Albanese said AUKUS was a part of the defence relationships but "that's not all it is, and our relationship with New Zealand including defence cooperation is strong and will continue to be strong".

"I'm very confident with how Aukus is proceeding, it's a positive move, and the discussions are reaching the point whereby announcements as the defence minister has said, announcements will be made soon. It's not just about nuclear submarines it's about a whole range of issues."

Asked about China, Hipkins said the country was "an incredibly important partner for New Zealand. A very important trading partner and a partner in other areas as well. That doesn't mean there aren't going to be areas where we disagree with China from time to time and we'll continue to voice our disagreement with China when that happens".

On defence, he said New Zealand was going through some significant transformation.

Albanese said Australia was clear it would cooperate where it could with China and disagree "where we must and we'll engage in our national interests".

He said the Australian trade minister yesterday had a "very productive meeting with his counterpart from China" and the trade with China was very important.

"The trade to China is more than the trade figures value than the next three highest trading partners combined so it's in Australia's national interests to have good economic relations."

Australian products like wine, meat and barley were "in my view, at least equal first as the best in the world, I say diplomatically".

The two men shared a laugh over that.

On 501s, Albanese rejected the idea of retrospectively undoing what had been done with deportations to date.

"We put in place our policy which is I believe a common sense policy. We retain section 501 deportations, the capacity to cancel visas and remove people who pose a risk to the community. What's changed is we will have a common sense approach and bear in mind what a person's ties are.

"There's a big distinction between someone who comes to Australia either as a teen or an adult and commits offences and someone who has zero connection back in New Zealand and might have come here as an infant.

"Friends as Australia and New Zealand are should have common sense approaches to these."

Speaking alone, Hipkins said he welcomed the change Australia had made on 501s in the last few weeks.

"It does recognise one of the key concerns from New Zealand, that we've had people deported to New Zealand who have no real connection to New Zealand."

He said it was a sign Australia had taken on board the concerns that were made.

"We'll continue to raise them, we'll continue to talk, but I want to acknowledge that progress is being made."

At this point the Australian government's position on taking some of those deportees back had not changed, however, but "we'll continue to work with them", Hipkins said.

Asked why it had taken so long, he said that was a matter for Australia's government to comment on.

"We would like to see New Zealanders living here in Australia treated similarly or the same as Australians living in New Zealand.

"I don't think a tit-for-tat has ever enhances the trans-Tasman relationship and that's not been New Zealand's approach in the past."

Today's flying visit to the Australian capital is Hipkins' first international trip since becoming prime minister last month, following Jacinda Ardern's shock resignation.

Asked about the meeting, Hipkins said "It was really nice, and look, the New Zealand and Australia relationship as I said is a really important one but we also have a lot in common. Leaders of Labour parties, relatively recent prime ministers of our countries, and so we were able to reflect on that."

He said any steps towards thinking about a republic was not raised in conversation today.

He is due to return to New Zealand this evening.

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