Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Aussie Labor leader backs Cunliffe

Australian Labor Party leader Bill Shorten (L) with Labour Party leader David Cunliffe. Photo / Getty Images
Australian Labor Party leader Bill Shorten (L) with Labour Party leader David Cunliffe. Photo / Getty Images

Australia's Labor Party leader Bill Shorten has denied it is inappropriate for him to visit New Zealand to endorse Labour leader David Cunliffe so close to an election - but rubbed salt in the wound by getting the Prime Minister's name wrong, calling him "Prime Minister Keys."

Mr Shorten spoke to the Labour Party's election year Congress today, focussing on the similarities in values between the two parties.

He also voiced strong support for Mr Cunliffe, saying he was "a passionate advocate" for education for New Zealanders.

Asked whether it was appropriate for the leader of a major party in another country to help campaign for Mr Cunliffe, Mr Shorten said he had spoken to "Prime Minister Keys" last night.

"New Zealanders will decide what happens in New Zealand politics, and I certainly make it my practice to talk to both sides of politics. But it's a privilege to be able to speak at a political conference and to talk about the issues I think are important in politics."

He said he chose to come because Australia's relationship with New Zealand was one of Australia's key foreign policy relationships. He had visited previously, although this was his first visit as leader of the Labor Party. He said forging those links was to mutual benefit.

The Australian and New Zealand Governments work closely together and in the past they have often been of different stripes - former Prime Minister Helen Clark was counterpart to Australia's John Howard for most of her reign and until last year Prime Minister John Key's counterparts were ALP's Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

Mr Shorten would also attend other events, including visiting the Joint Command and talking to the NZ Institute of Economic Research and a briefing by the Australian High Commission in New Zealand.

Mr Shorten said he would proffer advice: "The last thing New Zealand needs is another Aussie coming to give lectures. So I won't seek to judge New Zealand politics."

- NZ Herald

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