Ardern seeks to ‘reaffirm’ trans-Tasman relationship

Malcolm Turnbull, Jacinda ArdernMalcolm Turnbull, Jacinda ArdernMalcolm Turnbull and Jacinda Ardern are meeting for brunch at Kirribilli House in Sydney today. (Photo: RNZ)

05 November 2017

Jane Patterson – RNZ Political Editor

The Prime Minister is travelling to Sydney this morning to meet with her Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull, as Jacinda Ardern seeks to “reaffirm” the trans-Tasman relationship.

Manus Island, New Zealanders’ rights in Australia and TPP are all on the agenda for Ms Ardern’s first trip overseas as Prime Minister.

The New Zealand Labour Party’s relationship with Mr Turnbull’s administration took a knock when the Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said she’d find it hard to establish a relationship of trust, following the controversy over Barnaby Joyce’s citizenship.

But both prime ministers will be wanting to start afresh, over brunch at Kirribilli House in Sydney.

The way forward for the TPP will be discussed, in light of the United States’ withdrawal and the upcoming APEC summit in Vietnam.

Ms Ardern also wants to raise the treatment of detainees and Australian policies that curtail the rights and entitlements of New Zealanders.

However, one issue dominating the headlines and one which Mr Ardern will raise directly with Mr Turnbull is the ongoing situation on Manus Island, where 600 remain holed up on the detention centre Australia closed on Sunday.

Australia is coming under pressure over its handling of the situation with the United Nations calling on it to restore food, water and health services.

UN rights spokesman Rupert Colville condemned the “unfolding humanitarian emergency”, urging Canberra to transfer the men to the mainland to assess their asylum claims.

“We repeat our overall concerns about Australian offshore processing centres which are unsustainable, inhumane and contradictory to its human rights obligations,” Colville told a Geneva news briefing.

And the Governor of Manus province said Australia was leaving Papua New Guinea officials in the dark about its intentions for refugees.

Charlie Benjamin has also said he had humanitarian concerns for the refugees since Tuesday’s departure of staff.

He said he and PNG Immigration officials have made little headway when raising their concerns about the uncertainty with Canberra.

New Zealand’s offer to take 150 refugees was first made in 2013.

However, it has been rejected several times, most recently in February, on the basis refugees could use coming to New Zealand as a back door into Australia.

Speaking a few days before she left for Australia, Ms Ardern restated the offer.

“It’s a matter for us of making sure that offer remains on the table, it will be something I will discuss with Prime Minister Turnbull … but of course that’s within our wider commitment generally to make sure New Zealand is lifting the take of refugees.”

[Read the Radio NZ article].

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