Morrison explains New Zealand’s attitude on China.

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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.
According to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, New Zealand’s position toward China does not jeopardize the Five Eyes partnership.

On May 30, 2021, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will attend a reception for the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders’ summit in Queenstown. Mark Tantrum / Visits and Ceremonies Office / AFP

Morrison and his New Zealand colleague Jacinda Ardern were speaking to the media this afternoon, on his first visit to the country since the Covid-19 epidemic.

He said there were some countries who would seek to undermine the Australia-New Zealand relationship and security, but the two nations were working together in many fields and at an international level in the WHO and for trade, for example.

He played down the risk of conflict between China and Australia, saying he wanted to ease tensions and facilitate trade in the Indo-Pacific region.

Ardern this morning denied New Zealand was supporting Australia in a barley trade dispute with China to soothe relations with its Tasman neighbour.

This afternoon she said New Zealand was a committed member of Five Eyes.

Asked if New Zealand was “cosying up” to China, she said New Zealand was maintaining a principled position and there was little difference in the relationship compared to the Australia-China one.

She rejected any suggestion New Zealand was not playing its part in international responsibilities.

Morrison added that New Zealand and Australia worked together in situations like emergencies and peacekeeping.

“We each have different jobs to do” he said, “but we come together on many fronts”.

Covid-19 response

Ardern told media this afternoon New Zealand was keeping open the possibility of expanding the trans-Tasman bubble, and was looking to Pacific countries first.

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Morrison agreed and said the region had done incredibly well but he was very conscious of the risk Covid-19 posed.

The US has recently pushed for further investigation into the source of Covid-19 and whether it may have originated in a laboratory in China.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Australia counterpart Scott Morrison.

On one another’s team: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Australia counterpart Scott Morrison. Photo: Jane Patterson

Ardern says it was very clear from the outset that WHO’s delegation to China was the start of the probe and New Zealand would be concerned if the second tranche of this mission caould not be completed.

Morrison acknowledged the work of former prime minister Helen Clark, who was appointed as co-chair of the panel on the global Covid-19 response.

“We were very pleased when she was appointed to the role,” he said, and he knew she “would not hold back” on getting to the bottom of it.

“It has nothing to do with global politics,” he said. “We owe it to people all over the world” to get to the bottom of a public health issue that has caused so much misery.

He thanked Clark for the work she had done in furthering knowledge.

Suhayra Aden

Asked about terror suspect Suhayra Aden, Morrison said the topic has been discussed today and Morrison is open to further discussions on the fate of her children.

He said Aden was not an Australian citizen, and people must abide by Australian laws when they came to that country.

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Ardern said she has made it clear again that New Zealand was opposed to Australia having revoked Aden’s citizenship.

Mosque terrorist

Ardern said there had been no discussion about where the mosque terrorist would see out his days.

She said the informal feedback had been that he should remain in prison in New Zealand.

She said Morrison had always been open to discussing the subject.

Morrison said he also wanted to respect the wishes of the families most directly affected but was open to discussing the topic again in future if necessary.

Morrison visit to NZ focusing on ‘practical issues’

The day began with an Anzac wreath-laying at Arrowtown War Memorial, where they arrived to the sound of local school children singing the New Zealand national anthem.

Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern lay a wreath during the Australian Prime Minister's visit.

Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern lay a wreath during the Australian Prime Minister’s visit. Photo: Jane Patterson

Chatting among the crowd afterwards, Morrison denied the relationship had “hit a low ebb” in response to a question from media.

“Not at all, we’re very pleased to be here today and particularly here to mark the solemn occasion as we always must as Anzacs”.

Morrison said it was great to be there and have these talks “in person” after “many, many” phone conversations over the past year.

“I’m pleased that our annual leaders’ dialogue has not lost its pace and be able to meet face to face again.”

People often asked if there was a partnership, he said, “but it’s far more than a partnership – it is a family relationship”.

The formal discussions began this morning; Morrison and Ardern had a one-on-one chat, again playing up the family ties before heading into the talks proper.

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They would “spend a bit of time on the really practical issues for us, because as much as we celebrate the unique position, we’re in the Covid environment, the expectation of our people to maintain their safety,” said Ardern.

There was “no other leader in the world” with whom she could discuss the challenge of opening up to the rest of the world.

There were some serious challenges ahead, not just Covid but also from a “regional security point of view”, with both countries taking a “prominent role” in the Pacific and providing support on Covid, said Morrison.

“But the broader issue of the Indo-Pacific, and a free and open Indo-Pacific, is something Australia and New Zealand feel very strongly about, working with our like-minded partners all around the world.

“Those issues are all on the table today,” he said.

“There are common challenges, common threats, that have always eclipsed everything when it comes to the strength of the family, working relationship”.

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