Anthony Albanese is hosting Jacinda Ardern in Sydney today. What will …

Posted: June 11, 2022 at 2:03 am

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will host New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, for talks in Sydney today.

Ms Ardernis the first foreign leader to visit Australia since Mr Albanese won power last month.

New Zealand and Australia remain very close partners, with politicians on both sides of the ditch often calling each other "family".

However, while leaders from both countries find themselves straddling huge areasof common ground whenever they meet, there are still some real points of disagreement and tension in the relationship between Australia and New Zealand.

The two leaders are expected to discuss a host of issues. Many will be routine and uncontroversial.

For example, Mr Albanese and Ms Ardern will compare notes on how to manage global economic shocks from the war in Ukraine, as well as the looming threat of stagflation and the ripples of impactfrom the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is expected thatboth countries willdeclare their solidarity in the face of increasingly malign behaviour from authoritarian states, including Russia's invasion of Ukraine and North Korea's latest ballistic missile tests.

They'll find common ground on climate change too. While Ms Ardern struck up an effective working relationship with Scott Morrison, she'll likely have an easier ideological rapport with a fellow Labor prime minister.


The two PMs will also likely spend quite a bit of time discussing the intensifying geopolitical contest in the Pacific.

Like Australia, New Zealand was alarmed when China announced it had struck a security pact with Solomon Islands, with Ms Ardern labelling the agreement "gravely concerning".

Both Canberra and Wellington have watched uneasily as China tries to expand its commercial and security ties in the region, and were relieved to see Pacific Island countries politely stall Beijing's push for a sweeping new agreement covering infrastructure, trade, policing and cyber security.

And while the two countries already coordinate closely in the Pacific, it's likely they'll explore how they can harness their joint resources more effectively to try toshape its trajectory.

Successive New Zealand governments have complained bitterly about Australia's deportations policy, which has seen thousands of Kiwis with criminal records sent back across the ditch.

The policy isn't targeted specifically at New Zealand, but disproportionately affects New Zealanders because they have special rights to live and work in Australia.

New Zealand's government says many of those sent "back home" have actually spent most, or all, of their lives in Australia and have little connection to their notional homeland.

They also complain that many of those people sent back unmoored from their family go on to commit serious crimes and contribute to escalating gang violence.

A recent investigation by New Zealand media found that deportees had committed more than 8,000 offences since 2015.

After meeting MrMorrison in Auckland in 2019, MsArdern declared that the deportations policy was "corrosive" to the bilateral relationship.

The next year Ms Ardernwent even further during a press conference in Sydney, publicly telling Mr Morrison, "Do not deport your people and your problems".

It's not clear whether Mr Albanese is willing to take a different tack.

Labor has made it clear that it will notabandon the core policy of deporting criminals, but some government sources have hinted that it mightbe willing to exercise a little more discretion to ensure people with no connection to New Zealand are not dumped there.

Ms Ardern has made it clear that she would continue to press Australia on the subject, calling the deportations a "significant issue" for her country.

"Our concern has been that we have seen some of the really extreme examples those who have little or no connection to New Zealand, who have been deported to New Zealand," she said at a press conference this week.

"And then we see the consequences of that anti-social [behaviour] and that lack of connection back at home.

"We do want to see if we can make progress on some of those really difficult examples [that] New Zealand has come up against."

Ms Ardern told Channel Ninethis morning she was hopeful the new government would take a more flexible approach to her country's grievances.

She said she had been encouraged that the new Prime Minister had "acknowledged" the issue.

While China's presence in the Pacific will be a big point of discussion, both leaders may also discuss the delicate subject of their bilateral ties with Beijing.

While there has been talk of a reset between Australia and China afterthe federal election, MrAlbanese has responded coolly to the initial, rather lukewarm overtures from China's government.

His scepticism was likely hardened by the dangerous interception of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) surveillance plane by a Chinese fighter jet over the South China Sea.

New Zealand's relationship with China is much-less fraught than Australia's. It has typically been more cautious in its language when it comes to Beijing, and there was a minor diplomatic kerfuffle last year when New Zealand's Trade Minister suggested Australia could mend ties with China by showing its government more "respect".

However, ties between Wellington and Beijing soured earlier this month after Ms Ardern visited Washington and issued a joint statement with the Biden Administration, warning thata Chinese base in the Pacific could disrupt the region's strategic balance.

China's Ambassador in Wellington responded by making a thinly veiled trade threat, saying that New Zealand's reputation in China as a "green, clean, open and friendly country" should not be "squandered".

If MrAlbanese offers any advice to MsArdern on how best to respond to this warning, it will be worded very carefully.

Australia, of course, has intimate knowledge of Chinese trade punishments, and a fairly strong track record when it comes to absorbing the economic pain which accompaniesthem.

Still, while New Zealand has much in common with Australia, this is one experience it would very much rather not share with its closest neighbour.

Posted9 Jun 20229 Jun 2022Thu 9 Jun 2022 at 7:10pm, updated9 Jun 20229 Jun 2022Thu 9 Jun 2022 at 10:38pm

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