Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says New Zealand and Australia face “common threats” to the regional security of the Indo-Pacific region.
“We have some very serious times that we’re living in, not just from a health point of view but obviously from a regional security point of view,” Morrison said in his opening remarks at bilateral talks in Queenstown with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
“I really appreciate the direct personal relationship and dialogue we’ve had. That will only continue because we have common challenges. There are common threats.”
Morrison didn’t name China.
“All of us have a big stake in ensuring a world that favours freedom and a free and open Indo-Pacific.
“The broader issue of a free and open Indo-Pacific is something Australia and New Zealand feels very strongly about, and working with out like-minded partners all around the world – the US and the UK, across Europe, Japan, India.
“With those issues all on the table today, we should move on and get on with it.”
Ardern used her opening remarks to stress the closeness of the transtasman relationship.
“Your grandfather hailing from Ashburton, my great grandfather from Sydney, Clarke’s grandmother from Perth – when we talk about Australia and New Zealand being family, being whanau, we actually mean it quite literally as much as we mean it symbolically.”
She said how the region opens up to the world amid an ongoing pandemic would be a topic of discussion.
“The expectation of our people to maintain their safety but also for economic reasons to reopen to the world is a challenge we both face.
“And there’s no other leader in the world I can have that conversation with … we value so much our ability to work through those problems together.”
Morrison and Ardern had free and frank one-on-one talks before the bilateral meeting, which includes a number of officials from both sides.
They will hold a joint press conference this afternoon following the talks.
This morning Morrison, his wife Jenny, Ardern and Clark Gayford attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the Arrowtown War Memorial.
Morrison was asked whether the transtasman relationship was at a low ebb, and replied: “No, not at all.”
Last night 60 Minutes Australia portrayed New Zealand as putting business ahead of decency in its stance on China, which has imposed trade tariffs that have cost Australia at least $49 billion.
Ardern used her media round this morning to point out the joint statements that New Zealand and Australia had issued criticising China’s treatment of the Uighur Muslims and its the controversial changes it made to Hong Kong’s electoral system.
She also stressed New Zealand’s decision to be a third party to an Australia-China trade dispute over barley.
Last night Ardern told a business reception about the importance of New Zealand’s “family ties” with Australia to counter China’s increasing influence in the Pacific.
“In this increasingly complex geo-strategic environment, family is incredibly important, and Australia, you are family.”
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