NZ kingmaker Winston Peters promises to fix ‘misunderstandings’ with Australia

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters with prime minister-designate Jacinda Ardern. (Photo: AP)

Oz Kiwi opinion

Both New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters have made promising noises about the rights of Kiwis in Australia.

NZ kingmaker Winston Peters promises to fix ‘misunderstandings’ with Australia

26 October 2017

Fergus Hunter

Winston Peters, New Zealand’s tough-talking protectionist and the newly anointed Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, says relations with Australia are at a low ebb after a series of trans-Tasman “misunderstandings”.

The New Zealand First leader, whose decision to enter into a coalition agreement with Labour propelled Jacinda Ardern to power, said recent tensions over the treatment of Kiwis in Australia must be addressed for the relationship to improve.

“I’m not beginning under any illusion that our relationship is as good as it should be. I think it could be better and I’m going to set out to find ways to ensure that it is better,” Mr Peters told Fairfax Media from Wellington.

Mr Peters said the two countries had enjoyed “an extraordinarily special relationship” but noted that “from time to time, we’ve had a few misunderstandings and I do believe we have a few of late and we need to rectify that”.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters with prime minister-designate Jacinda Ardern.

In April, former prime minister Bill English criticised the Turnbull government’s proposed citizenship changes, expressing concern about the impacts on New Zealand citizens living in Australia.

In August, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she would find it “very difficult” to trust NZ Labour in government after one of its MPs became involved in Canberra’s citizenship crisis. The following month, Ms Ardern warned of consequences if Kiwi students in Australia were forced to pay full fees under a measure in the 2017 budget.

In addition to the plum foreign affairs portfolio, Mr Peters’ party has also secured defence and three other ministerial positions in the coalition government, which also includes the Green Party.

Under a raft of policies negotiated with her coalition partners, Ms Ardern has announced foreigners will be banned from purchase existing homes in New Zealand.

Mr Peters also acknowledged Australians would be captured by the new rule but said they were not the target. He noted other countries – including Australia – were concerned about the growing levels of foreign ownership.

New Zealand First’s populist, protectionist, anti-immigration policy platform has attracted comparisons with Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. Mr Peters emphatically rejected the suggestion and said his party was more akin to “One Nation with a PhD”.

“Our policy has been seriously misinterpreted and short-changed by that sort of comparison,” he said.

Mr Peters also appeared to back away from earlier pledges by Ms Ardern to resettle up to 150 refugees a year from Australian detention centres.

“That was an offer made by the previous administration. At this point in time, we’ve had no discussions on it inside this coalition,” he said.

Mr Peters said he was grateful to Australia after working for BHP in Newcastle, and as a miner in the 1960s and 1970s.

Ms Bishop spoke with Mr Peters on Wednesday. Ms Ardern has said she wants to visit Australia as soon as possible.

[Read the Sydney Morning Herald].

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