Joint press conference with New Zealand Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee
JULIE BISHOP: I am delighted to welcome to Sydney Gerry Brownlee, the New Zealand ForeignMinister, for his first visit to Australia as Foreign Minister. Gerry is wellknown to us in his former role as the New Zealand Minister for Defence. Thisvisit is a part of the regular ministerial engagement that Australia and NewZealand have across the Tasman and I'm looking forward to meeting with MinisterBrownlee on a regular basis, as I did in the past, and we will continue to havefrank and open discussions about matters of concern and interest to Australiaand New Zealand. This is one of the closest relationships that could existbetween two countries and the recent meeting on the 17th of Februarybetween Prime Ministers Turnbull and English underscored the significance toboth our countries of this deep and strong and diverse bilateral relationship.
We discussed today how wewill continue to work together to promote peace and stability in the Pacific,in our region. Obviously we work very closely together in the Solomon Islands,in the RAMSI engagement, and we work together to promote peace and security andstability further afield, in Iraq and Afghanistan for example. I recently returnedfrom the Gallipoli commemorations of the heroic undertakings of the Australianand New Zealand Army Corps in World War I and over 100 years later we are stillworking very closely together as friends, partners and allies.
We are both open, export-orientedmarket economies and Gerry and I spoke about the benefits of the open globaltrading system, the free trade agreements that our countries both have withother countries, but on a bilateral basis we have a very strong economicrelationship. Two-way trade is over $24 billion, about $24.5 billion, two-wayinvestment about $138 billion and our business and industries work exceedinglyclosely together.
We are also advocates,defenders and promoters of the international rules-based order and Gerry and Idiscussed a number of areas where Australia and New Zealand's view of the worldaligns.
We discussed what's happeningin the Korean Peninsula, South China Sea, and further afield and, as always,I'm delighted to share views, exchange ideas, and work closely with mycounterpart from New Zealand. So Gerry welcome to Sydney and I look forward toworking more closely with you in the future.
GERRY BROWNLEE: Thank you very much Minister Bishop. Can I say what a privilege I consider itin my first outing as Foreign Minister you've generously made time availablewhen obviously it's at relatively short notice but it does I think confirm thecloseness of our two countries and the interconnectedness of the people fromAustralia and New Zealand with one another.
We have as the ForeignMinister has pointed out very, very strong trading relationships as well. Moreimportantly, roles that are complementary when it comes to views on many of thebigger issues that the world faces and we are both very strong voices for freetrade and for the freedoms that that will afford countries to develop betterlifestyles for their people in an environment like that. New Zealand very muchappreciates the way in which we are able to work in a complementary fashionwith Australia in so many areas and that's best demonstrated at the moment bythe way in which we are cooperating in a training mission in Iraq. Australia isleading that mission with New Zealand providing about a third of the trainingforce in that particular group. There are many other places where we have hadpast engagements together over the last few decades that build on that longhistory that goes back to the early part of last century.
The discussions we've hadtoday have been in my opinion quite easy on the basis of being friends asopposed to the mutual respect that you might - beyond the mutual respect Ishould say that you might expect in these circumstances.
I do need to mention a coupleof issues that we have had with Australia in recent times and put them in thecontext of the very long relationship that we have and the fact too thatsometimes in our two countries we forget that we are separate governments andthat we do have responsibilities to our separate populations. These are notthings that can't be sorted out or worked out or discussed in the future and wehave agreed today that officials from both countries will consider both of thecountries' domestic policies in relation to how it might affect our citizensliving in those countries as we move forward.
I do want to say that thewarmth of our discussions today re-affirms the deep friendship between ourcountries and that is certainly from our perspective to our benefit.
JOURNALIST: Ministers, the New Zealand Prime MinisterBill English said on Tuesday there is now significant uncertainty about thearrangement meaning the trans-Tasman travel arrangement. Is that still the caseor has that been resolved do you think?
GERRYBROWNLEE: I think we've made a lot of progress.Sometimes with all due respect to the fourth estate you are reacting fairlyquickly to something that comes through in a relatively concise way then youmay not see it for its full benefit. Mr English is quite clear that Australiais a good friend of New Zealand. His relationship with Mr Turnbull is superb. Idon't think we can see that the travel arrangements are a problem, I thinkthere is always going to be an issue about entitlements in each other'scountries but reality is we are separate countries.
JULIE BISHOP: Might I add that Minister Brownleeand I discussed this morning the close engagement between officials, betweenministers, to ensure we understand each other's domestic policies. Recentannouncements have been made in the context of the Australian Budget and weclarified, lest there be any misunderstanding, that the Pathways to Citizenshipagreement made between Prime Minister Turnbull and Prime Minister Key andre-affirmed with Prime Minister English stands; that Pathways to Citizenshiparrangement stands.
In relation to some of thehigher education reforms that have been the subject of reporting in the paperin fact New Zealanders across the board will have greater opportunities toaccess the Australian higher education system and greater access to the HigherEducation Loans Program. So these issues underscore the fact that there is aspecial relationship between Australia and New Zealand and that will continue.
JOURNALIST: What specifically will Ministers onboth sides be reviewing?
JULIE BISHOP: They are not reviewing anything; theyare continuing to discuss matters of mutual concern between Australia and NewZealand and with a new Foreign Minister we took the opportunity to confirm thatour officials will continue even closer engagement on domestic policies of ourrespective governments as they impact on our respective citizens.
JOURNALIST: I meant on the specifics of theentitlements as they apply to citizens on both sides.
JULIEBISHOP: We only have the issues that have come up in the context of the AustralianBudget and that relates to higher education reforms and Gerry and I had adiscussion about that this morning and it's very clear that changes are beingmade in the context of the Australian Budget to ensure that our highereducation sector remains high quality and sustainable. What we have is anexception in the case of New Zealand for subsidised places – for those NewZealanders who arrive here as children and have been here longer than 8 of thelast 10 years will have access to government-subsidised places that areotherwise only going to be available to Australian citizens. In terms of ourHigher Education Loans Program New Zealanders across the board have greateraccess to what is a very generous Higher Education Loans Program and so myexpectation is that more New Zealanders will be seeking to obtain a degree froman Australian university. But it is not a free service and so our loans systemwill enable New Zealand citizens and Australian citizens to access a loansscheme that doesn't have to be repaid until the graduate is earning $42,000 ayear. That's a pretty generous scheme.
JOURNALIST: There hasbeen some concern that there will be further changes in the pipeline aroundchanges in pay for state schools can you…
JULIEBISHOP: That's speculation.
JOURNALIST: Mr Brownlee, what assurances can you give that you won't be blindsided bychanges from the Australian Government again?
GERRYBROWNLEE: Look, I appreciate it's verydifficult if you are putting together a Budget that you can't necessarily gooff and having international bilateral negotiations about what's going to be inthat budget so I think this is a bit of a one-off. As people become morefamiliar with how that scheme is going to work in the future I think theprediction made by Foreign Minister Bishop is probably going to be right. WhatI would say is we've got roughly a similar amount on a percentage basis ofAustralians living in New Zealand and New Zealanders living in Australia. Thereason for that is often because of the assimilation of our two economies andthe experiences that are required one side of the Tasman to the other becauseof that so we just want to know a lot more about how that - how those twogroups of people are affected in each country and I think it's quitereasonable, there's no big deal about it, it's just something that goes onto theradar screen.
JULIEBISHOP: Can I just point out we are talkingabout the Australian Budget which is to be delivered next Tuesday? So we arespeaking a week in advance of the Australian Budget and of course theAustralian Budget is subject to Australian parliamentary processes so we arehaving a discussion in advance of the Budget announcement about how New Zealandcitizens will be affected. Now we have, I'm afraid, other commitments, so can Itake one last question?
JOURNALIST: Mr Brownlee, are you satisfied withthe Turnbull Government's reassurance on the issue of 457 visa working rights?
GERRYBROWNLEE: Yes, I am. We have very longstandingarrangements in that regard and there is no question they are subject to anychange.
JULIEBISHOP: Thank you everyone.