Joint press conference, Canberra

  • Joint transcript with:
  • Hon Nanaia Mahuta, New Zealand Minister for Foreign Minister

Subjects: Visit by NZ Foreign Minister; CPTPP; Lehrmann trial; Neil Prakash; AUKUS; Legal system in Kiribati.

Penny Wong, Foreign Minister: Good morning, and thanks very much for being here. Can I just apologise for being a little late? Minister Mahuta asked if she could see the chambers, so we have gone and done that. So, I want to thank the Chamber departments, who I think left their Christmas function to make sure we could open up both the House and the Senate for the New Zealand delegation. I apologise that we're a little late.

Look, it's really wonderful to welcome Foreign Minister Mahuta to Canberra. Nanaia and I met pretty early on in me being the Foreign Minister, and I am really grateful for her friendship and her wisdom.

Aotearoa New Zealand is family to Australia and an indispensable friend and partner to us and we share so much; we share history, we share community, we share culture and we share a region.

One of the things that Minister Mahuta has helped me understand is how to bring First Nations experience, perspective and wisdom to foreign policy. And I was grateful this morning to Minister Burney, Pat Dodson and other members of the First Nations caucus and to the elders of Ngunnawal country who welcomed us with a smoking ceremony today. I'm told that it was, apart from cleansing, the greeting was for wisdom, for a shared purpose, and I hope that we achieve that today. So, thank you for your insights, Nanaia, for your wisdom on that, on how you have embedded Maori culture and tradition into New Zealand's foreign policy.

We've had an excellent, productive discussion - as you do between family and friends. We've spoken about the Indo-Pacific. We've spoken about Russia and Ukraine. We've spoken about the Pacific and the importance of Pacific regionalism. Obviously, New Zealand has such a strong connection, particularly to Polynesia. We've spoken about climate, and I thank her for the indication that you will support our bid to host the Conference of the Parties - we appreciate that. And we will continue to work together in the Pacific Islands Forum and more generally. So, I am really grateful that you've made the trip, and I'm grateful for our ongoing engagement. Over to you.

Nanaia Mahuta, NZ Foreign Minister: Tēnā koutou katoa. Can I first acknowledge the Ngunnawal people and pay my respects to the elders past and present and respect to also Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Can I also thank Foreign Minister Wong for our second in-person formal Foreign Ministers Consultations, and also for the warm hospitality that I have received since being here. We're no stranger to each other, as has already been said, and our meeting today allowed us to continue our discussion from our last consultations in June and progress a number of issues of importance for both our countries.

Firstly, I do want to say that that the breadth of issues that we have discussed reinforce just how deep and important the relationship between Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand is, and Australia is New Zealand's most important partner. We share deep economic, cultural and people-to-people links, and, as I said before, having close friends with shared values who can work together to defence what we stand for is so important during this very difficult time.

As has been mentioned, during our discussions, we discussed how we can cooperate and engage especially in the Pacific region and, importantly, how we can work together to support Pacific partners and their aspirations on the existential challenge of climate change. We know that there are complexities that they are meeting, and we know that we can partner and support those aspirations.

We also discussed matters across the Indo-Pacific region and how we can work together. We share many common perspectives about the way in which the Indo-Pacific can rise to the many substantial challenges, but for this time I just want to reiterate my thanks for the warm hospitality. I know that over lunch, we're going to continue our discussions around the importance of our bilateral relationship, that in the course of 2023, we'll be celebrating 40 years of our anniversary of closer economic relations. In the same year, our 50th anniversary of trans-Tasman travel arrangements and also the 80th anniversary of the opening of our diplomatic missions in each other's countries. So, thank you again, for that opportunity.

Foreign Minister Wong: Thanks, Nanaia. 40, 50 and 80 in one year – we'd better do something big I reckon! Any ideas grateful received.

Journalist: Speaking of common perspectives, this is to both ministers: do you have a common position on Taiwan's potential entry into the CPTPP, and what is each of your position on that prospect?

Foreign Minister Mahuta: Well, we have a number of applications to the CPTPP - we've got the UK, China, Taiwan, Ecuador and potentially another 5th country coming online. As a repository of those applications, New Zealand has consistently said we welcome applications into the CPTPP, and it must be a high-quality, high-standards agreement.

Foreign Minister Wong: I'd make the same point that Minister Mahuta finished on – that this is a high-quality agreement and any application obviously will be assessed on the basis of parties' capacity to comply with and observe the fullness of the quality of the agreement. Our focus at the moment is obviously the UK. And I'd just make the point that any such application would require the consensus of the parties.

Journalist: Ministers – to both again directed to you –

Foreign Minister Wong: This means it's a ‘double barrel'.

Foreign Minister Mahuta: OK you go first this time.

Foreign Minister Wong: No, no it's ok. You can lead all of them. They're probably going to be nicer to you!

Journalist: I just don't want anyone to feel left out. Ministers, we're currently reviewing our policies for the treatment of New Zealanders living in Australia. That's due around Anzac Day. Was there any sort of progress/updates on that? Are there any issues that you'll raise that you'll particularly want to see addressed in that review?

Foreign Minister Mahuta: We're certainly pleased with the indications that we have had that this is an area where we have an opportunity to work together. But primarily that's a matter for Australia to progress. The opportunity for New Zealanders to ensure that we are advocating in the best interests of New Zealanders who make a contribution here in Australia, and we'll continue to do so.

Foreign Minister Wong: The Prime Minister has made our position very clear. We want to progress issues that affect the lives of those New Zealanders resident in Australia in ways that recognise our deep friendship and that apply common sense outcomes - that's what the Prime Minister said after his meeting with Prime Minister Ardern and we will work through those with New Zealand, as you'd expect.

Journalist: Questions for our Foreign Minister, if that's okay. Do you have an update on Neil Prakash, any details about that extradition process? And also, quickly, given you're the most senior member of the Albanese government who is a female, can I get your reaction to the abandoning of the Bruce Lehrmann trial and obviously calls to reform the legal system from women in Parliament?

Foreign Minister Wong: Any calls to reform the legal system are calls that should reform the whole legal system. Given the serious health concerns that the DPP referenced today I obviously am going to be very cautious about what I say. But I want to echo the prosecutor's comments, recognising the grace, the bravery and the dignity that Ms Higgins has displayed.

In relation to Mr Prakash, I'd refer you to the AFP statement. I can confirm that Mr Prakash was taken into custody. He obviously faces serious terrorism offences. He's scheduled to face the Darwin court today. An application will be made to extradite him to Victoria, and there he will be charged by the AFP-Victoria joint counterterrorism team. The AFP has issued a statement that makes clear there is no threat the Australian community. Other than that, it's a matter before the courts, so that's as much as I'll comment. One last question.

Journalist: In relation to the AUKUS agreement, was any update provided? And obviously there's been trilateral agreement with the UK and the US, does New Zealand have any role to play in ensuring regional cooperation? You know, was any update provided?

Foreign Minister Wong: Well, look, I think New Zealand is aware of our rationale and our intention in relation to AUKUS, which is about being able to ensure regional stability. And at a time where there's a lot of competition and contest in the world, Australia comes to those arrangements, just as we come to our regional engagement, with the same perspective and the same objective. We want a region that is peaceful, that is stable, that is prosperous and in which sovereignty is respected. And all of our work, whether it's in our defence capability or our diplomacy or our engagement in education or our labour movement position in relation to the Pacific, these are all about working towards that sort of region and ensuring all aspects of Australian power and Australian Government engagement is directed to that end.

Foreign Minister Mahuta: The AUKUS arrangements aren't arrangements that New Zealand are a part of, neither do we seek to be a part of. However, we have indicated that where there's an opportunity across the region to cooperate, for example, in areas such as cyber security, we remain open to those conversations.

Journalist: Ministers, can I ask quickly on Kiribati, just briefly? I know that you, Minister Mahuta, have expressed concerns – your Department has expressed concerns about the expulsion of two judges. Did this form part of your discussions today? What's Australia's and New Zealand's assessment of the rule of law in Kiribati? And what steps are both governments contemplating taking in that space?

Foreign Minister Mahuta: Well, it didn't occupy a huge amount of time. We had a very broad conversation around a range of matters across the Pacific. But in relation to Kiribati, we are concerned about the way in which the rule of law is being upheld. You have to remember, that the appointment of those judges was done in conjunction with international legal considerations and it's a matter that we've continued to convey our concerns on to Kiribati.

Foreign Minister Wong: Thank you.

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