Jacinda Ardern should have an interesting brunch with Australia's Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, in Sydney tomorrow. The fact that she is making a day trip for the meeting underlines the importance the new Government places on the transtasman relationship. Turnbull, for his part, will no doubt be interested to meet the young New Zealander who turned around her party's election prospects so suddenly in August and has displaced a Government that, to many Australian eyes, had been going so well.
Not only Turnbull but Australian political commentators too, will be trying to glean whether Ardern represents a generational change such as seen in Canada, France and some other countries of late, and what that might mean for policies and priorities in their countries and international affairs. They will note the restrictions her government proposes on immigration and foreign investment in land and houses, while preserving the reciprocal rights of Australians to buy houses here.
It might help to offset an unduly xenophobic impression if the new Prime Minister was to announce New Zealand would take some of refugees refusing to leave the Manus Island detention centre Australia has abandoned. But that decision would not be welcomed in Australia on either side of the political fence.
When Helen Clark made her celebrated rescue of some of the Tampa refugees soon after coming to power, the Australian Labor Party was opposed to the Howard Government's determination to "turn back the boats". Since then Labor has been in power in Canberra and eventually adopted the same policy to discourage illegal immigration by sea. Ardern will not want to embarrass ALP leader Bill Shorten who could be the next Prime Minister she meets there.
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Turnbull is not doing well. When he toppled Tony Abbott in 2015 he cited the fact the Coalition had been trailing in 30 consecutive Newspolls, under him it has been behind in the past 21 polls. It has lost its one-seat majority in the Lower House of Parliament with the High Court ruling against Barnaby Joyce, declared ineligible for hold a seat he won when he had New Zealand citizenship. That is a subject neither Prime Minister will be anxious to discuss.
The role played by Ardern's colleague and now Education Minister Chris Hipkins in undermining Joyce's position, and the equally unwise response of Turnbull's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, are best left in the past.
As always, Australia's treatment of expatriate New Zealanders will be high on the agenda tomorrow. Two weeks ago, Ardern repeated a hint she made in the heat of the election campaign, that if the Turnbull Government places restrictions on expatriates' access to universities there, she may take reciprocal steps. However, that would not be in the best interests of New Zealand universities, none of which stand with the best in Australia on international rankings. The more Australian students they can attract, the better for their standing.
Much as our new Government has professed "change" at home, it is not in the national interest for it to do so abroad. New Zealand has had an outward-looking foreign policy deeply engaged in multilateral trade initiatives and the United Nations. Despite its intended limits on immigration and foreign investment there is no reason to think the new Government is going to be less outgoing. That is the message we hope our youthful, engaging Prime Minister takes across the ditch.