PM unconcerned about NZ’s relationship with Australia

Prime Minister Bill English (Photo: Jason Walls)

15 May 2015

Jason Wall – National Business Review

Prime Minister Bill English has shrugged off concerns New Zealand’s relationship with Australia is on the rocks and is the fault of Kiwis.

In fact, he says New Zealand puts more effort into the relationship than Australia.

Speaking at his weekly post-cabinet press conference, Mr English says New Zealand has a “deep operating relationship” with Australia.

The former chairman of the Australia/New Zealand Leadership Forum and the Australia/New Zealand Business Council, Kerry McDonald, told NBR Radio it was the fault of New Zealand that relations between the two countries have recently become frosty.

But Mr English is not concerned the transtasman relationship is under pressure.

“[The relationship will] proceed in the manner it has for the past decade I have been familiar with.”

Mr McDonald says that because New Zealand hasn’t given Australians the “priority it should have,” it’s no surprise its government has implemented restrictive rule changes affecting Kiwis in Australia.

“The quality of [New Zealanders’] engagement [is] completely inadequate, given the nature of the relationship.”

He says for years, New Zealanders have not been putting enough effort into their interactions.

For example, simple things like neglecting face-to-face interactions and instead opting for phone calls has caused relations to get frosty over the years.

Mr Kerry – who has sat on numerous company boards on both sides of the Tasman – say because of the attitudes adopted by New Zealanders towards Aussies, the restrictive rules adopted by the Australians have been “a long time coming.”

The Australian government has recently imposed new rules that place restrictions on Kiwis in higher education and shook up the rules around citizenship.

Mr McDonald says New Zealand has “basically squandered the situation we had, which is being a highly valued and preferred ally, with good relations.”

Mr English says with respect to maintaining a good relationship with Australia, “it’s always the task of the smaller partner to do more work.”

“New Zealand has done more of the work in the relationship and will continue to do so.”

[Read the National Business Review article].

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