It began with the unusual situation of the Australian apologising to the New Zealander for the weather - but the jacarandas were in full bloom and even the drizzly day could not detract from the view of Sydney Harbour from Kirribilli House.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was there for brunch with Australia's PM Malcolm Turnbull - their first face-to-face meeting.

Turnbull, left, welcomes Ardern to Kirribilli House in Sydney. Photo / AP
Turnbull, left, welcomes Ardern to Kirribilli House in Sydney. Photo / AP

But it turned out Ardern was not alone - the Ghost of Prime Ministers Past hung over the meeting in the form of Turnbull's affection for John Key.

Turnbull laid on the charm saying they had "hit it off" from the first time they spoke. He later said they got on well "we trust each other". "The fact we are from different political traditions is irrelevant."

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But the first reference to Sir John Key came when Turnbull showed her the view of the Harbour and mentioned kayaking. Ardern - aware of Turnbull's famous kayaking visit with Key - quipped she was half expecting him to ask her to go for a paddle.

The next was just 3 minutes and 50 seconds into the press conference.

Turnbull spoke of his deep admiration for NZ before saying Key had told him once it was because New Zealand did not have as much money to throw around as Australia.

There was a reminder of New Zealand's Place (beneath Australia, lest there be confusion). It came in a reference to Australia being so very much bigger than New Zealand - both in terms of its economy and geographically.

Size matters, it seems, although he tried to soften it by insisting New Zealand was at least very efficient in its miniatureness and Australia could learn from its innovation.

Malcolm Turnbull dropped in a reference to kayaking with John Key within minutes of meeting Jacinda Ardern. Photo / John Key's official Twitter account
Malcolm Turnbull dropped in a reference to kayaking with John Key within minutes of meeting Jacinda Ardern. Photo / John Key's official Twitter account

But by the end it was all about Ardern. The press conference went places nobody had ever imagined.

Turnbull started talking about his memories of Hamilton - Ardern's home region - climbing Mt Porongia, scrambling over a Maori pa and "eating a very large quantity of feijoas".

"I think I reduced New Zealand's feijoa population quite materially."

Ardern - possibly not a fan of New Zealand's most divisive fruit - said that would be impossible.

Turnbull also raised Ardern's occasional stint as a DJ and his own "rather feeble" attempt at a rap for a television show.

Ardern laughed. "This is not announcing our joint act."

Turnbull almost looked disappointed.

As for her offer to take 150 of the refugees on Manus Island, Ardern didn't get a yes but nor could Turnbull quite bring himself to deliver a firm no.

She insisted afterward that it was very much still a live option although it was effectively a No Delayed - at best an "only as a last resort" and possibly not even then.

Ardern described the meeting as "challenging" at times.

She might have left effectively empty-handed but that was not really the point.
A joint musical act was ruled out but she will be content that the political double act of New Zealand and Australia remains intact - even if Turnbull could not quite stop himself singing the praises of Ardern's predecessors.

The annual catch-ups look set to continue - Ardern said there would be a catch up in March.

But Ardern made it clear she wasn't taking any of John Key's hand-me-down photo ops.
Key famously went kayaking with Turnbull on his first visit to meet Turnbull in Sydney. But when Turnbull tested Ardern's enthusiasm for such an antic as they stood looking out of Kirribilli House across the harbour, she was having none of it. She joked she would end up going in circles around him.

Later she put things firmly back into her own comfort zone. She said when Turnbull came to New Zealand, she would take him fishing. "I'm no kayaker or paddle boarder. But I can fish."

That is one area at least in which size matters.