Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has done the rounds on Australian breakfast TV shows, answering questions over 501 deportations, China, and the cost of living.
Appearing on Channel 9’s The Today Show, Ardern said China needed to deal with the Pacific as a region on big issues like security, highlighting New Zealand’s closeness to its island neighbours.
She described New Zealand’s Pacific relationships as more familial than bilateral.
“We are a Pacific nation. Our connections into the Pacific, they run deep – they’re family. You know, we have large Pacific communities in New Zealand, Pacific members of Parliament, Pacific Ministers. So the relationship for us is not a bilateral relationship, it’s a family relationship.
“So I don’t see our relationship as ever being able to be described as interference.”
She said China’s presence and Pacific relationships were not new, and it was important to remember Pacific nations’ sovereignty.
“It’s whether or not they’re seeking to change those relationships to dip into spaces like, for instance, the potential militarisation of our region.”
“There is power in the collective and in fact all that we’ve in recent times asked: for big conversations, like for instance security arrangements, deal with us as a region, as a Pacific, and as a Pacific voice.”
On the trans-Tasman disagreement over 501 deportees, she told the programme New Zealand only opposed deportation in specific circumstances.
“When someone comes here and essentially hasn’t even really had any connection with New Zealand at all – has spent their entire formative years and grown up here and have all their connections in Australia and are essentially Australian – sending them back to New Zealand, that’s where we have the grievance.”
She said Albanese had acknowledged that viewpoint before he was elected, and she would be calling for action.
“I’ve raised it, I want to give the PM some time to consider that, it’s been a bugbear for us for a long time so I’d like to see movement on it.”
The hosts said Australia was “fast catching up” to New Zealand’s inflation rate of 6.9 percent, and asked what Australia could do.
Ardern quickly drew attention to global pressures.
“You’re absolutely right to point out that this is something we’re all facing. I’ve just recently come back from the United States, the cost of living issues are plaguing so many of us. In Europe and the netherlands they’ve got inflation upwards of close to 10 percent.
She said it was important to try to bring the Ukraine conflict to an end to ease the pressure on energy markets, and continuing to work to ease supply chain constraints.
She said both countries had some skill shortages but low unemployment and the borders were open.
“Please come and see us, we would love to have you, and if you work in some particular areas – construction, IT, come and stay for a little bit longer.”
She said arriving into Australia had brought back a lot of memories, considering the last time she was there coincided with New Zealand’s first Covid-19 case in February 2020.
“It just brought all of that back,” she said.
She and Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese greeted each other warmly ahead of an informal dinner last night, with Ardern saying she was unaware they were being filmed.
They also exchanged a gift of vinyl records: Aldous Harding and The Clean for Albanese; Powderfinger and Midnight Oil for Ardern.
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