Jacinda Ardern has expertly dodged a question about her frosty relationship with former prime minister Scott Morrison as Karl Stefanovic called out the New Zealand PM for her ‘very clever’ answer.
The New Zealand prime minister landed in Sydney on Thursday night to meet with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese so the pair can discuss in-person a range of issues, including Australia’s controversial deportation laws.
After a night spent enjoying Vivid and trading favorite vinyl records with Mr Albanese at Kirribilli House, Ms Ardern headed to the Today Show on Friday morning for a chat.
Ms Ardern was discussing the gifts exchanged during her breakfast interview when she was quizzed by Today co-host Leila McKinnon on whether she and Mr Morrison traded records.
The two Trans-Tasman leaders had a testy relationship and didn’t see eye-to-eye on various issues, including Australia’s controversial policy of deporting criminals to New Zealand.
‘We talked about music on occasion but I’m not sure I would’ve picked necessarily the right music if I think I was given that task,’ Ms Ardern quipped.
Jacinda Ardern issued a cheeky response when asked why she and former Australian PM Scott Morrison didn’t trade records
Co-host Karl Stefanovic laughed and replied: ‘You’re being VERY diplomatic. Very clever. ‘
For the record, Mr Albanese received vinyls from Kiwi acts The Flying Nun, Aldous Harding and The Clean from Ms Ardern, who got Powderfinger, Spiderbait and Midnight Oil in return.
She also got a quick glance at Vivid while visiting Mr Albanese at Kirribilli.
‘The light show on Sydney Harbor was just just beautiful,’ she said.
Australia’s policy of deporting criminals to New Zealand who don’t have familial or community ties across the Tasman will be a hot discussion topic when she meets with Mr Albanese for official talks on Friday.
Ms Ardern’s government believes many of those deportees arrive untethered, without support networks, and can be destitute or join gangs.
She stressed she had no issue with Australia deporting criminals if they’re Kiwi natives.
‘If a New Zealander comes to Australia and commits a crime, send them home. That’s wrong, ‘she said.
‘But 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’ve had the grievance. ‘
Anthony Albanese had Jacinda Ardern over for dinner at Kirribilli House on Thursday night
‘I’ve heard the Prime Minister prior to winning the election speak to his acknowledgment that is the part of the policy that we’ve taken issue with. Even that acknowledgment says to me he’s hearing us, he knows it’s a problem.
‘We’ve never asked deportations as a general rule to stop. We won’t be hypocritical about it, because we do it too. It’s just those extraordinary cases that trouble us. ‘
Ms Ardern also gave her take on relations in the Pacific and with China, which recently demanded New Zealand to stop interfering in the Pacific region with concerns over Beijing’s new security arrangements with the Solomon Islands.
‘I take the same view that I always have. We are a Pacific nation. Our connections into the Pacific, they run deep, ‘she said.
‘We have large Pacific communities in New Zealand, Pacific communities in New Zealand, Pacific members of Parliament, 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. We have a closeness to one another that will always be the case. ‘
She also pointed out China’s presence in the Pacific isn’t new.
It’s whether or not they are seeking to change those relationships to dip into spaces like, for instance, the potential militarization of our region and that’s where that concern being raised, ‘Ms Ardern continued.
‘But off the back of those recent trips you also saw that the Pacific held its ground on security arrangements and I think that speaks to the fact that the Pacific are speaking and sharing their own views.’
Ms Ardern has welcomed back Aussie tourists from across the Tasman with open arms after international borders were slammed shut for almost two years during the pandemic.
‘I don’t hesitate to say we missed you. And you will get a welcome like no other right now, because we’re so excited to have people back, ‘she said.
‘It’s ski season in New Zealand. Look, in regular times, Australians made up of our international skiers about 71% of the market. So Aussies love to ski in New Zealand. I can see why. It’s easy, it’s accessible.
For the new Labor government, Friday’s engagement with Ms Ardern is seen as a meet-and-greet with a key regional ally.
She and Mr Albanese will also discuss tensions in the Pacific, and US President Joe Biden’s new Indo Pacific Economic Framework initiative.
Anthony Albanese shows off his new haul of records following a trade with Jacinda Ardern
However for New Zealand, any bilateral meeting with Australia is also a chance to press for concessions from its most important partner.
The significance of the relationship to New Zealand is underscored in a NZ ministry of foreign affairs brief received by foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta, when she took office in 2020.
‘The trans-Tasman relationship lies at the heart of New Zealand’s prosperity and security and Australia is our indispensable partner across the breadth of our international interests,’ the statement reads.
‘Australia is our only formal military ally, our most important security partner and our largest economic partner – the reverse is not the case.’
The asymmetric relationship is clear in both population – Australia is five times bigger – and economically, where Australia has a GDP seven times larger.
There are an estimated 700,000 Kiwis living in Australia – around 14 per cent of New Zealand’s population – while there are 70,000 Australians in Aotearoa, representing 0.3 per cent of Australia’s residents.
‘As the smaller partner in the trans-Tasman relationship, New Zealand needs to work with energy and vision to maintain the vitality of what will continue to be our principal bilateral relationship,’ the MFAT brief continues.
Jacinda Ardern had a frosty relationship with previous Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right)