Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spent much of her time during her first day in Melbourne talking up the strong relationship between New Zealand and Australia.
But there is one particular issue she said was “corrosive” to the two countries’ strong relationship – Kiwi deportations.
Speaking to media after attending a lunch where she talked up New Zealand as an investment destination for Aussies with deep pockets, Ardern said that decisive issue was a sticking point.
“I consider that to be a corrosive part of that policy and it’s having a corrosive effect with our relationship – so I’ll continue to raise that as well.”
Ardern said there were a number of areas where it would be completely legitimate for a New Zealand citizen to be deported back to New Zealand, if they have engaged in criminal activity.
However, she said there have been cases where a person had almost no connection to New Zealand and had still been deported.
This is not the first time Ardern has used such strong language when describing this issue.
When she met with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in February, she used the same word to describe the situation.
This issue will be on her list of topics to discuss when she meets with Morrison on Friday.
Ardern also told travelling media she would be looking to push the Aussie Prime Minister on the rights of Kiwis who live in Australia – specifically those trying to gain citizenship.
Although not an official bilateral meeting, Ardern said it would be a good opportunity for the pair to discuss a number of topics.
Aside from her “corrosive” comments, Ardern has spent much of the trip talking up New Zealand’s relationship with Australia.
“You are helping New Zealand to thrive,” she told a group of would-be Australian investors looking to spend up in New Zealand.
“Australia has long been a firm part of that ecosystem and will continue to be, but unlike any other.”
And it’s clear the admiration is not one-sided.
Australian media were scattered outside the airport as Ardern left with her convoy, with cameras craning to get a shot of the Kiwi Prime Minister.
There was a sizable Australian media pack at most events Ardern was at during the day.
It should come as little surprise why Aussie media are so interested.
A recent poll from the Lowy Institute international policy think tank showed that nine in 10 Australians say they have confidence in Ardern to “do the right thing in the world”.
“That places her far ahead of any other world leader, including many of Australia’s own leaders,” Lowy Institute research fellow Natasha Kassam said.
In fact, the iconic image of Ardern in a hijab embracing a Muslim woman after the March 15 terror attacks in Christchurch has been painted on the side of a silo in this very city.
Ardern had a full day of meetings with officials and dignitaries – but she was greeted on the tarmac by her friend and mentor, Dame Annette King – New Zealand’s High Commissioner to Australia.
King, a former Labour MP and Cabinet minister, was something of a mentor to Ardern when the pair were in Opposition.
In fact, Ardern took over from King as Labour Deputy Leader in 2017.
They hugged on the tarmac, before getting into a car to head for Ardern’s first engagement of her trip – a meeting with Victoria Governor Linda Dessau at Government House.
Ardern, along with her partner Clarke Gayford, met with Dessau and her partner for morning tea at Government house.
As the foursome posed for a photo Dessau found herself standing beside Gayford, instead of her husband.
She then proceeded to joke about how she and Ardern had swapped.
“We’re not that modern here.”
This story first appeared on the NZ Herald website and is reproduced here with permission.