20 Dec 2023

Watch: Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and Australian PM Anthony Albanese

2:59 pm on 20 December 2023

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and his Australian counterpart, Anthony Albanese, say they want to strengthen ties between respective ministers, in particular for defence and foreign affairs.

Luxon travelled to Sydney on Wednesday and was officially welcomed to Australia with a Welcome to Country ceremony, led by Aboriginal elders.

It is his first official overseas visit since taking office.

At a conference after the two leaders had discussions, Luxon told reporters: "We know we're facing a more challenging and complex world, our close security and defence relationships we have with our only ally - Australia is very foundational for New Zealand and so New Zealand is committed to doing our share of heavy lifting in the alliance and I have determined New Zealand will continue to be alongside Australia as we seek to advance our shared interests and our common values.

"We will defend and advance the international rules based order."

The leaders agreed their ministers of foreign and affairs and defence would hold a joint meeting early next year "to dive into some of those issues and ensure that our plans and responses are aligned and coordinated and mutually supported."

Luxon said AUKUS was an important element to ensuring peace and stability and emphasised New Zealand's nuclear-free position.

"We are interested in exploring pillar two, particularly in AUKUS, and the new technologies and the opportunities that may mean for New Zealand to participate. We'll work our way through that over the next year."

Albanese said there were operations for both countries' militaries, particularly in interoperability.

"One of the things we commented on today in our discussion was that often it is indeed our defence forces respectively that provide support for each other in times of need, and natural disasters - and that's just one area whereby inquest cooperation could benefit both of our nations."

Albanese said at the Pacific Islands Forum, Australia received "support and understanding" about their AUKUS arrangements. He said they were envisaging "nuclear propulsion not nuclear-armed ships".

Luxon said the Pacific faced complex challenges such as climate change and "an increasingly contested strategic environment".

The Pacific Islands Forum was a key mechanism to ensuring peace and stability in the region, he said.

"We discussed the way we can work together in the Pacific Islands as well," Albanese said.

He said both countries would continue to support Pacific priorities to respond to the region's shared challenges, including climate change action.

Leaders comment on personal relationship: 'Aviation nerds'

Before the conference, Albanese warmly greeted Luxon and quipped he was sorry about the weather, with rain expected for parts of Australia on Wednesday after scorching temperatures had been settling in this week.

Smoke from fires in NSW in the north side were now spreading across to the north-west and down into the greater Sydney area, the Guardian reported this week.

In his opening remarks, Albanese said the relationship between the countries was one of friends and partners.

"We need to streamline any further bumps which are there, and I know that you are very keen on that as well, in the interests of both of our nations."

The pair were "aviation nerds", Albanese said, having known each other since he was transport minister and Luxon was Air New Zealand chief executive.

The nature of their discussions showed their relationship was continuing, not "starting", Luxon said.

"I was also pleased that last week we showed the extent of our cooperation with a joint statement, we made, with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, condemning Hamas' attacks on Israel, supporting urgent international efforts towards a sustainable ceasefire and affirming our commitment to a just and enduring peace in the region."

Luxon said echoed him with similar remarks.

"We have no closer friend or ally than Australia. It is one that I want to put more urgency and energy behind, to make sure we can advance what is in both of our interests a much more secure more stable and more prosperous region."

The health of the relationship between both countries was close to his heart, with his daughter living there now, Luxon said.

He said the trans-Tasman bond was as strong as ever. "We want to deliver new energy, new enthusiasm and new direction to ensure that our bond is fit for contemporary challenges that we see."

He thanked Australia for their support during Cyclone Gabrielle and also offered New Zealand's help with north Queensland's situation.

Albanese thanked Luxon for indicating New Zealand would help Australia, as it has done, in times of need.

Extreme weather driven by ex-tropical cyclone Jasper has dumped a year's worth of rain on parts of Queensland.

"You know you can rely upon us as well in times of natural disaster," Albanese said.

"Climate change means we are having more frequent more intense natural disasters and I really appreciate the fact that relationship is so strong."

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon meets with his Australian counterpart, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Sydney on 20 December, 2023.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon meets with his Australian counterpart, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Sydney on 20 December, 2023. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Trade and economic relations

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement.

Today, the leaders recommitted to the 'trans-Tasman roadmap' to 2035, which will be reviewed and modified annually.

Albanese invited Luxon to attend and meet ASEAN leaders when it will be hosted by Australia in March 2024.

"We'll continue to deepen our trade and economic engagement in the context our unique single economic market agenda."

Luxon said economic relationship underpinned jobs and livelihoods across both sides and the leaders wanted to see what more could be done to renew and extend their aspirations.

He said Australians and New Zealanders made a significant contribution to both countries. "Just putting it out there, I think they're your best migrants," Luxon told Albanese.

He acknowledged the PM for the work and interventions he made to ease the pathway to Australian citizenship.

The annual leaders' meeting in the middle of next year will be used to track progress on ambitions, he said, but they want to ensure respective ministers also have a relationship with each other.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon meets with his Australian counterpart, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Sydney on 20 December, 2023.

Luxon with Annette King Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs