Auckland Bilateral Press Conference

  • Transcript, E&OE

WINSTON PETERS: This is the final day of the six monthly Foreign Ministers' consultations. We've had a very fruitful discussion on a range of things of interest to our two countries, our regions, our trading business, our aid positions, and matters of concern such as terrorism and dare I say it, North Korea was raised as well. It was a very topical meeting and good preparations for our Prime Minister's meeting in March, it was very worthwhile in that respect. Thank you very much for coming along Foreign Minister.

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you Deputy Prime Minister. I was delighted to accept your invitation to attend this important and what has been a very effective meeting of Foreign Ministers from Australia and New Zealand. And on a personal note I want to thank you for hosting the dinner meeting last night where I had the opportunity to meet informally, and in very pleasant circumstances, with Prime Minister Ardern and we had a wonderful chat and a great opportunity to catch up. Our meeting today covered a whole range of issues crucially important to both Australia and New Zealand. We spoke about our commitment to the international rules based order and how we can continue to work together to uphold that order. We spoke about the important bi-lateral issues including the single economic market agenda so that the businesses between Australia and New Zealand and elsewhere can operate seamlessly. We spoke about trade and particularly the Trans Pacific Partnership, the TPP11 where both Australia and New Zealand have joined an extraordinarily diverse group of nations in a free trade agreement that will be of enormous benefit to both our nations in terms of economic development and growth and jobs growth. And we also discussed the challenges and threats from countering terrorism to people smuggling to cyber. And following the Australian Government's Foreign Policy White Paper which was released in November last year, where we identified New Zealand as a central partner for cooperation in the Pacific, we discussed a number of ways where we can more deeply engage together and with our Pacific friends and neighbours to ensure resilience, stability and greater prosperity in our part of the world. This meeting does come in advance of our Prime Ministers' meeting in Sydney in March, again as you said earlier Winston, the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London where Australia and New Zealand, who are very strong supporters of the Commonwealth, will bring our common perspectives and views for that discussion. Just on the Pacific, the Deputy Prime Minister and I have both been briefed on the unfolding cyclone situation in Samoa and beyond, Cyclone Gita, and both our nations have offered support and assistance and at this stage we are monitoring the weather as it unfolds but we both stand ready to provide support should that be required. So thank you again Winston, Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister for a most productive and enjoyable time here in Auckland.

WINSTON PETERS: Thank you Minister. Any questions?

QUESTION: Have you discussed the future of New Zealand's deployment in Iraq?

WINSTON PETERS: We did to the extent that we know that the time for that can be made at the very latest is in November this year and assume it will be raised with the Prime Minister of Australia when our Prime Minister meets in March so in that respect yes we did discuss it yes. But we did not announce from our point of view a decision.

QUESTION: Foreign Minister (inaudible) When will a decision likely be made?

WINSTON PETERS: The meeting's in March with Prime Minister Turnbull and Prime Minister Ardern so...

JULIE BISHOP: I think it's also fair to say that next week I'll be attending a meeting in Kuwait, and New Zealand will have a representative as well, co-hosted by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and in the presence of the Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi and at that time the Coalition nations that banded together to defeat ISIS in Iraq and we'll be discussing the future needs, the future requirements of Iraq. We are in Iraq at Taji Air Base with the consent and agreement of the Iraqi government so that must be taken into account and will be in a position to discuss this in the Prime Minister's meeting after the meeting in Kuwait.

WINSTON PETERS: At the moment our Defence Minister Ron Mark is offshore with the same view to find out perhaps, more of an understanding of what we've got to do so we'll wait till he gets back to report to us before we make a decision.

QUESTION: Minister Peters would you think it would be possible for you to make a decision on New Zealand's ongoing deployment after that meeting in Kuwait?

WINSTON PETERS: Well, look the meeting between the Prime Minister's meeting in Australia so the answer is no.

QUESTION: What is Australia's view on New Zealand taking on our reconstruction rule as in Afghanistan or would you prefer that they take on a training role?

JULIE BISHOP: This depends on what the Iraqi Government seeks from us. Australia's military contribution into Iraq continues until 2019 and that's been a decision from the Australian Government but this will depend on the needs of other Coalition partners in response to a request or otherwise from the Iraqi Government. Australia and New Zealand have equipped themselves exceedingly well at the airbase. We have about 300 defence personnel, New Zealand about 110. We have collectively trained 28,500 Iraqi soldiers and security forces. We have seen the success of that training in that ISIS has been driven from the caliphate in Iraq and the Iraqi Government has been very grateful for the contribution that we have made to date. This is a matter for the New Zealand Government and would I suggest in response to what the Iraqi Government may or may not require.

QUESTION: Has there been any discussion Minister Peters between New Zealand Australia defence forces about what next, is that right?

WINSTON PETERS: Well I would expect that the ongoing discussions would be the order that has been be going on for some time but the reality is we have not had a determined request from the government (inaudible). It's not a question you can answer at this point in time.

QUESTION: Minister Peters, Labour didn't support extending the mission over there. If the Iraqi Government does request further support from us, do you think that they will be able to change their mind that you will be able to change your mind on that?

WINSTON PETERS: Well I can't speak for the Labour Party in that respect but to be honest with you, you have to keep an open mind and deal with these circumstances that you are confronted with as we have been confronted with in the last half of this year. Until we know what those circumstances are and what the request is, we simply can't keep hypothesising on it.

QUESTION: Did you discuss Manus Island and the ongoing intelligence leaks?

WINSTON PETERS: We discussed it to the extent that in 2013 then Prime Minister Key made an offer to the Australians and that has not changed with the change of the new Government and that's where things stand at this point in time.

QUESTION: Minister Peters, did Minister Bishop indicate that Australia wants more help in the region to combat people smuggling from New Zealand?

WINSTON PETERS: I'm not the proxy here.

JULIE BISHOP: We discussed the situation on Manus Island, we discussed the need to ensure that the criminal people smuggling trade does not start up again. Through Australia's strong border protection laws there has not been a successful people smuggling venture to Australia in over three years. Likewise there has been no deaths at sea in the people smuggling trade in that time. Australia is focused on ensuring that our arrangement with the United States can be completed and thereafter we will consider options and other options that are available to those who have been found to be refugees. They can be resettled in Nauru, they can be resettled in PNG, there's an option in Cambodia and those who have been found not to be refugees, and are not owed protection should return home.

QUESTION: Foreign Minister you said last year that you would find it difficult to trust the leader of the Labour Party. Have they earned your trust now?

JULIE BISHOP: After I said that the now Prime Minister, Prime Minister Ardern said that the behaviour of her colleague and the member of the Australian Labour Party was inappropriate, it was unacceptable and it should not have happened and I agreed with her, and of course we move on and Australia and New Zealand have the deepest and closest of relationships. We see New Zealand as our essential partner and natural partner and that will continue. And in fact, today I think we deepened the relationship even further as we came up with ideas on how Australia and New Zealand can work more closely together in the Pacific for example. And I know our two Prime Ministers are looking forward to their meeting in March which will capitalise on those ideas.

QUESTION: You said it's a close relationship, is it a trustworthy relationship?

JULIE BISHOP: Absolutely. Australia and New Zealand stand side by side on virtually every major issue that is of a concern to our nations. We have fought together, we have defended freedom together. Australia always wants to have New Zealand at our side, and again today we just reflected our common world view on so many issues. We don't always agree, families don't always agree, but we are able to work through any disagreements in a very positive way. And the deep affection between Australians and New Zealanders will continue.

WINSTON PETERS: Can I just say this. You'd have to go back over six decades, to find a time where the Australians needed us or we needed Australia more than that time which is now. There's a lot out there and we've got to work together – there's a lot we can do together and there's a lot we can do with other countries together but we both need our efforts to the maximum more than any time in the last sixty years.

QUESTION: What did you discuss on North Korea?

WINSTON PETERS: Mainly the meeting in Canada, in Vancouver and the definitive statement that was made by all those countries and a very strong stance as to the concern about the neutralisation of the Korean peninsula and how we might bring that, those developments back but this is a case of us being in this discussion with our eyes wide open as to what could possibly happen if we don't succeed in that venture.

JULIE BISHOP: Australian and New Zealand are part of the international effort to impose maximum diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea to bring it back to the negotiating table so we can aim for a denuclearised Korean Peninsula and lessen the tensions in the Korean Peninsula in our efforts to do that.

QUESTION: What about the CPTPP, Minister Bishop you made some comments a couple of weeks ago about trying to get America back into that is that something that you're pushing NZ to help with?

JULIE BISHOP: Well in fact President Trump at Davos said that he would reconsider the TPP and the architecture of the Trans Pacific Partnership 11 is that it's open, in other words, other countries can accede to the agreement should they meet the rules and the benchmarks and the standards that have been set. This is a very high quality, comprehensive, free trade agreement that is of undoubted benefit to the Australian economy, the New Zealand economy if I might say, and we see it as an opportunity to really drive jobs growth in our export sector. Australia, like New Zealand is an open export-oriented market economy. We depend for economic growth and our standard of living, on selling our goods and services into existing markets or new markets around the world and the Trans Pacific Partnership, the TPP11, provides such an opportunity.

WINSTON PETERS: Can I just say this? The Trump administration was out of the TPP on the same grounds as the present government of New Zealand was out before the last election. The reality is that we've made giant steps in changing some of the issues and clauses that concerned us to do with our sovereignty and to do with the judicial requirements there might be and whatever tribunal there might be, where a lot of the countries, or their businesses, could sue the New Zealand government. These issues have been massively turned around, as has the ownership question, both with respect to housing and with land. So much so that this rebuts some of the media comment I've been reading, so much so that Mr Trump wants to be back in.

QUESTION: Can you shed any light on the text? There are concerns about the secrecy of the text and about withholding text from people?

WINSTON PETERS: No, we're not withholding the text. The reality is that translations have to take place, the law has to be translated as well in these other countries that have effected this deal. There's a lot of work to be done. No one is being secretive here at all because the work has not been completed. Now please don't rush off as some of you journalists do by saying you've signed up to something you've never read. That's humbug. We know the principles, the vast detail of the final document has not been prepared, it won't be prepared until the first week in March, that's right, and we'll sign it then. And we're going to have a full parliamentary debate remember, and that'll be new.

QUESTION: If Mr Bishop wanted to come back in tomorrow, how much longer would it take to get that deal across the line?

JULIE BISHOP: Are they talking about the United States?


JULIE BISHOP: Well the Trans Pacific Partnership 11 has concluded its negotiations, and like all trade deals, negotiations are confidential between the member parties. When the agreement is signed, then it will have to be ratified by each Member of Parliament and in Australia we have a joint standing committee on treaties, which will report to the government. So the ratification process takes some time and I assume New Zealand has a similar process – it must go through Parliament – and there are 11 nations so that will take some time before the TPP11 is finalised, ratified and in effect. So if the United States, or indeed any other nation wishes to accede to the TPP, they'd have to wait until it's ratified and thereafter sit down and negotiate what terms they would be looking for. But the point we make is that we have a high quality, gold standard, free trade agreement across 11 very diverse and important economies and I would imagine that a number of countries would want to join.

QUESTION: Minister Bishop, Maori Television has been covering a few families, deportees and detainees from in Australia and they actually wanted me to ask you would you consider, will the Australian government consider fairer laws for them? They claim they've been deported back for smaller crimes, driving offences and so on and so forth – is that something that the Government would consider, considering our relationship?

JULIE BISHOP: Our laws apply across the board, they're not directed at New Zealand. These visa laws apply to all countries with respect to Australia. We do have a very close working relationship with New Zealand and cases are being managed and discussed and I reiterate Australia's commitment to consult with New Zealand on matters that affect New Zealand citizens and that affect our relationship, so we will continue to consult closely on that.

QUESTION: Besides that, we've been talking to other advocacy groups that are concerned about section 501 of the Immigration Act saying that Kiwis over in Australia don't have the same security or protection rights as others do. Will they receive some sense of security?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, in fact, New Zealand citizens who have been residing in Australia or who have become Australian citizens do receive considerable benefits from the relationship. We have New Zealand students studying in Australia with access to Australian places. We have an enormous exchange of people between Australia and New Zealand and there are many thousands of New Zealanders living productive lives in Australia and likewise Australians living in New Zealand so there are enormous benefits from our Trans-Tasman exchanges and the visa laws about which you are raising questions apply to all nations in relation to Australia.

QUESTION: Minister Bishop can you make some comments regarding the US appointment of Harry Harris as the US Ambassador to Australia?

JULIE BISHOP: I am able to confirm that President Trump has announced his intention to nominate Admiral Harry Harris as Ambassador Designate to Australia. This will be subject to a Senate confirmation I understand, but should that Senate confirmation proceed, Australia warmly welcomes the appointment of Ambassador Designate Harry Harris. He's very well known to Australia, and indeed to New Zealand, as the Commander of Pacific Command for the US Navy. He has visited Australia many times, he is well known to us. He's a highly decorated Naval Commander and we look forward to his Senate nomination proceeding.

QUESTION: Is there any particular reason why it took so long? New Zealand has had an Ambassador for some time.

JULIE BISHOP: It depends on the circumstances. I recall under President Bush there was at least a 12-month delay in the appointment of an Ambassador and under President Obama it was at least 10 months. So it depends on the circumstances. In Admiral Harris' case, he is still on active duty so there will come a time when he retires from his current position to take up this position, so the personal circumstances of the Ambassador Designates have to be taken into account. Just on that note, I'm pleased to say that Australia's High Commissioner Designate Ewen McDonald is here today and this has been a great opportunity for the High Commissioner Designate to meet with Foreign Minister Peters, and of course with the Prime Minister, and we look forward to him deepening and strengthening this very important relationship.

QUESTION: Minister Bishop, from our partners at Channel 9 in Australia, do you have any comments to make on the extramarital behaviour of Barnaby Joyce?


QUESTION: Minister, what did you speak with Jacinda Ardern about?

JULIE BISHOP: We discussed a whole range of things, it was absolutely delightful to meet with her in such an informal and welcoming environment and I really appreciated the opportunity. We spoke for a very long time about a whole range of things, as two female politicians we discussed a lot of matters of contemporary interest. We also discussed some very serious issues involving Australia and New Zealand so it was a delightful and in-depth conversation.

QUESTION: You have been known for your fashion diplomacy around the world Minister. Jacinda Ardern was wearing some New Zealand footwear. Did you have a chance to become acquainted with Allbirds Sneakers?

JULIE BISHOP: Seriously? Well now that you ask, yes we did discuss her footwear. She had been at a conference and was dressed casually and she told me that she was wearing a New Zealand brand of footwear. I understand 100 per cent Merino wool, and labelled "the comfiest shoes in the world". So I had shoe envy at that stage.

QUESTION: What were the other serious issues that you said that you discussed with her?

JULIE BISHOP: Oh a whole range. This was an informal meeting so there wasn't a set agenda. We just discussed a whole range of matters involving Australia and New Zealand and the type of issues I think Prime Minister Turnbull will raise with Prime Minister Ardern but it was a very friendly and informal chat as well.

QUESTION: What would you say was top of her mind in those discussions?

WINSTON PETERS: Can I just explain the circumstances. Jacinda Ardern was at a youth conference down in the Coromandel and because of the weather and things like that, and it was a bit dicey as to whether she could come to last night's meeting, whether as to the logistics would allow, but when it became clear that she could make it at a certain time, I asked the Honourable Minister Bishop whether she would welcome that. She said yes and so we put it all together. It wasn't a secret meeting as some of you have depicted. I mean what would be secret about it, but it was a great chance to …

JULIE BISHOP: Well I put it up on social media so if it were… [laughs]

WINSTON PETERS: So it worked anyway and it was very, very good, to get that off, to complete that. Not that there was a set agenda but the things that were and are important to us in the future.

JULIE BISHOP: I always find it easy to talk to my New Zealand counterparts. We have so much in common, so much to discuss and last was no exception.

QUESTION: If last night wasn't secret though – why wasn't her Chief Press Secretary aware?


QUESTION: Her chief Press Secretary wasn't aware of the meeting.

JULIE BISHOP: That's because the press weren't involved, I assume. Sorry I'm just adding, just putting that in.

WINSTON PETERS: Well the thing was, we're not going to make the same mistake that some professions do of speaking up before the thing was organised and finalised and we don't know that, that Jacinda would make it at a certain time of the evening, when we knew that I am seriously apologising for not telling the Press Secretary and all of those others who should have known before us but it happened.

QUESTION: Can we ask where the dinner took place?

WINSTON PETERS: Yes you can.

QUESTION: And where was that?

WINSTON PETERS: Ah well, in my Auckland home.

QUESTION: In your Auckland home – did you cook?

WINSTON PETERS: No, I think Minister Bishop deserves better than that. Although I organised it.

JULIE BISHOP: This indicates the closeness of our relationship. The fact that the Deputy Prime Minister invited the Australian delegation into his home and so graciously, in his hospitality invited the Prime Minister into his home, shows the depth of our friendship. It was a very delightful, charming evening.

QUESTION: Ms Bishop, did you get to try any wine over on Waiheke Island?

JULIE BISHOP: No. This was a very serious business meeting today but I was enchanted by Waiheke Island. I hadn't been there before and it was an experience that will lead me to encourage Australian tourists to visit it. I was thankful that Winston showed me a part of Auckland I had not seen before.

QUESTION: So Minister Peters, what made you choose Waiheke Island? Is there any symbolism or do you just like it?

WINSTON PETERS: Well let me tell you about, and the Minister will tell you, that you go to country after country after country, and you say to yourself this is one more country I've never seen. And I wanted to make sure Minister Bishop at least got to see a part of the country she hadn't seen before. This is a delightful part of Auckland and the only sad thing is that the weather wasn't as good as it should have been.

JULIE BISHOP: We never complain about rain in Australia.

WINSTON PETERS: It was a spectacular day nevertheless.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you, oh sorry, about rumours the next High Commissioner to Australia there's been suggestions it's going to be Annette King?

WINSTON PETERS: That was media speculation and to the best of my memory our current Ambassador in Australia is there until December 2018. So I can't confirm, I've not received one sentence, one word with respect of that apart from through the media.

JULIE BISHOP: High Commissioner.

WINSTON PETERS: All right, thank you very much.

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