Bill English will meet with Malcolm Turnbull in Queenstown today for the pair’s first annual leaders’ meeting. (Photo: RNZ)
17 February 2017
Chris Bramwell – Radio NZ
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull touches down in Queenstown this morning for his first annual leaders’ meeting with Bill English.
This year’s meeting takes place against the backdrop of another unfolding disaster in Christchurch, the collapse of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and a new and unpredictable US president.
When Malcolm Turnbull met with John Key last year, he announced a programme to make it easier for New Zealanders in Australia to become citizens, which is due to come into effect later this year.
Bill English said that would almost certainly be discussed at today’s meeting.
“We’ll be discussing the ongoing issues around the status of Kiwis in Australia and Malcolm Turnbull has been a good friend to New Zealand, he’s created a pathway to citizenship for thousands of New Zealanders who live there, so we’ll be just updating on that.”
The TPP has been floundering, with the US pulling out and Canada and Japan showing little interest in breathing life into the agreement.
But Mr English said it was possible New Zealand and Australia could present a united front on the deal.
“This is still a pretty fresh issue – the US withdrawal was only three or four weeks ago – but we have a strong common interest in progressing trade in the Asia-Pacific and if we can build a common Australia-New Zealand point of view, that would be good.”
Labour Party trade spokesperson David Clark said Australia and New Zealand had worked well together traditionally on trade and the two countries should look to leverage that on the world stage.
“Whether that is through the TPP minus USA, which in my view is a face-saving exercise by those who have staked their credibility on getting the TPP through last year, or whether it’s through some alternative trade agreement, we should be looking for opportunities for New Zealand to benefit, so long as those benefits are shared fairly across the population.”
New Zealand International Business Forum executive director Stephen Jacobi said the TPP minus the US was far from dead.
It made sense to be working with Australia on it.
“We are common companions on the road to trade liberalisation in the Asia-Pacific region, we’ve always done that.
“What’s more, our economies are heavily integrated one with the other [so] what benefits one of us benefits both of us, and I think we are very like-minded on these things.”
Malcolm Turnbull and Bill English have both had conversations with the new US President Donald Trump in recent weeks.
Mr Turnbull reportedly had a tense conversation with Mr Trump over a deal struck with former President Barack Obama to take 1,250 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru
It was still not clear whether the refugees would be resettled in the United States.
Green Party co-leader James Shaw, said there were two clear messages Bill English should be giving Malcolm Turnbull.
“First of all, is that New Zealand does not accept the way that Australia has been treating these refugees over the course of the last few years – we agree with the United Nations assessment that they are in inhumane conditions.
“And the second message is that if Australia’s arrangement with the United States falls through, that New Zealand would be willing to take those refugees.”
The two leaders will hold their formal talks this afternoon.
[Read the Radio NZ article].