Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has announced a major shift on the contentious "501" deportations policy towards New Zealanders and vowed to work on pathways to citizenship and grant voting rights to residents.
Albanese stated while Australia would retain the right to deport people, it would now be done in a "common sense" approach based on "actions of friends".
"In situations where someone had lived their entire life in Australia and they have no connection to New Zealand we will work through it as friends and in a common-sense way."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met with Albanese this morning in the final stop of her five-day visit to Australia.
Albanese said they had a "very successful discussion", which also reflected the "reset" between the countries as announced during Ardern's previous visit.
"There are no closer friends than Australia and New Zealand," Albanese said after emerging from formal talks.
Significant shift on Kiwi rights in Oz
Albanese announced a range of reviews into policies affecting New Zealanders living in Australia, including pathways to citizenship, voting rights of residents, and deportations.
The topic has long been a sore point between the countries. Australians living in New Zealand are granted a range of rights and services - including a guaranteed pathway to citizenship and the ability to vote - but this is not reciprocated across the Tasman.
"We don't want people to be temporary residents forever. We will work on pathways to citizenship, with a timeline of Anzac Day 2023," Albanese said.
He said he and Ardern and ministers would work to ensure there were equal rights in their respective countries.
Meanwhile, "unilaterally", Australia would look into voting rights of residents.
"In New Zealand if you are a resident for a year you have voting rights, are able to participate fully in those processes," he said.
As part of the normal review process after a federal election, Albanese said they would look at returning systems of giving New Zealand people living in Australia, who are paying taxes, voting rights.
"I think it is a really common-sense position, to at least examine," he said.
Bilateral meetings to occur annually
Ardern and Albanese also discussed new decisions, including having annual meetings with economic and international ministers, along with respective climate ministers.
This would focus on the shift to clean energy in the economy, Albanese said. There would also be foreign affairs and defence minister meetings.
Ardern said bringing the climate portfolio into the bilateral exchanges was important not only for the two countries working together but how they operated in the wider Pacific.
Pacific Islands Forum, regional security and climate change
On the Pacific Islands Forum, Albanese said they were looking to engage with the Pacific family on issues of climate change and maritime security.
He spoke of Australia's plans to step up aid as well.
Ardern said it was auspicious to be in Australia during Naidoc week (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee).
She paid tribute to Australia's indigenous peoples, and said that had been a focus of many of their discussions. There was a lot they could do together around developing economies of their respective First Nations peoples.
Ardern said she felt they had established a work programme to bring to life the reset. Ardern said they had been seeking common sense and to work together as friends.
On the upcoming Pacific Island Forum and the China and Solomon Islands deal, Ardern said based on the Biketawa Declaration, regional security issues were for the forum.
She expected the issue would be raised at the upcoming meeting. She said they could work on ways to ensure the matters were discussed more, while maintaining national independence.
Albanese said the discussion was one of the reasons Australia was attending. He said he'd put forward Australia's concerns. It was an era of strategic competition in the region.
New Zealand was clearly opposed to the militarisation of the Pacific, Ardern said. She also reiterated her desire for security issues to be discussed at regional levels.
Albanese said they were seeing security issues in the Pacific not seen a decade ago. China was being "more aggressive". They would work with China but stand up for Australian values, he said.
When Australia engaged in the region there were no strings attached, it was about bringing up the development of our neighbours, he said.
On climate financing, Albanese said he'd been speaking to many leaders and every discussion began with two points, congratulations and that the Government he led was part of action on climate change.
He reiterated Australia's intention to bid for a future climate change COP conference.
Ardern said New Zealand had increased its climate ambitions. On climate financing, she said it was now about delivery.
On cost of living issues and skills shortages, Albanese said the Government was not targeting New Zealand workers.
The countries had common challenges, part of global challenges. They wanted to work together on those.
On the reset of the relationship, Albanese said he wanted to see them working together on as many issues as possible as there were a lot of common interests.
On the 40th anniversary of the Closer Economic Relations agreement, Ardern said it was an opportunity to modernise and adapt the arrangements.
There were options in the digital and sustainability space, she said.
Before the meeting, Ardern picked up where she left off with her Australian counterpart.
Having met with Albanese in Sydney a month ago, caught up in Europe, and done a Q&A at a business conference on Thursday, the leaders of their countries' labour parties are well acquainted.
Before starting their official bilateral, while media were still allowed in the room to take photos, they bantered about the music-themed gifts they exchanged during their previous meeting.
Albanese, who was given a selection of vinyl from Flying Nun artists, said this was "the best record label in New Zealand".
Ardern chimed in, saying she'd worn her Midnight Oil T-shirt from Albanese.
"Oh, were you expecting us to say something of diplomatic substance?" Ardern joked, before Albanese said: "We're talking about Flying Nun Records – it's very important."
Finance Minister Grant Robertson (who loved the chatter about his favourite South Island record label), Transport Minister Michael Wood, Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson and Climate Change Minister James Shaw and their Australian counterparts joined the Prime Ministers in the meeting.
On Thursday, Ardern spoke at an Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum event with Albanese.
The two-day forum brought together more than 250 New Zealand and Australian businesspeople and government representatives to share ideas on common economic and political issues.
The last time the event happened in person was 2019.
Topics on the agenda included indigenous business, trade, the future of health, infrastructure, tourism, transtasman innovation opportunities, labour shortages, the future of work, economic growth challenges post-Covid, and climate change collaboration.
Government ministers and the 31-strong New Zealand business delegation leave Australia today.
Australia is New Zealand's second-largest trading partner: two-way trade accounted for more $22 billion in the year to December 2021.