Tony Abbott arrives on his first official visit to NZ today as Australian Prime Minister, bringing Margie, his down-to-earth Kiwi-born First Lady.

When Australia's First Lady, Margie Abbott, was called upon in 2010 to assure the Australian public her husband was not a misogynist as Julia Gillard claimed, she called her speech "the joy of an ordinary life".

In the life she described with Tony Abbott and their three daughters, it was hard to see her as anything other than an ordinary person, in the nicest possible way - a former teacher who grew up in Wainuiomata, who met her fella at a Sydney pub; a capable independent woman who still kept herself grounded in the lives of other ordinary people, who left their kids at her not-for-profit childcare centre.

She seems the sort of woman it is very hard not to like and New Zealanders may see for themselves when she arrives today with her husband on his first official visit as Australia's Prime Minister.

From the outset, from that meeting in the pub, he was clearly less ordinary and already making a name for himself in political circles - an attention-seeking rabid right-wing student, a former Rhodes Scholar, highly competitive, an edgy writer for national publications, politically ambitious and, fortunately for Margie, an ex-trainee priest but as many Australian voters know, harder to like.


His life pattern has been the same - driven in whatever he does but a magnet for trouble, usually of his own making.

So it has been with his extraordinary prime ministership.

Only 18 months into the job, his leadership has been destabilised by his own policies, unpopular with the voters, and style, unpopular with the Liberals' backbench.

A motion to test the party leadership was defeated three weeks ago, but not convincingly. It would have taken only 12 MPs to change their votes out of a total 100 to have brought on a leadership challenge.

It has left him in a vulnerable state, if not a lame duck, which he seems determined to address by ignoring it.

And the best way to ignore it is to avoid news media questions. He has not held a press conference with the press gallery at Parliament - one in which he answers questions - since before the leadership vote. With three questions available tomorrow to the travelling Australian media at the Prime Ministers' press conference, there may be as much interest in Mr Abbott's survivability as a joint New Zealand Australia training mission to Iraq.

Prime Minister John Key holds a formal press conference after Cabinet each week, a daily "stand-up" press conference when he is on official duties, and is usually accessible to senior journalists.

Mr Key gets on well with Mr Abbott. Mr Key got on famously with Ms Gillard, a Labor Prime Minister too - he offered her and partner Tim Mathieson his beach house for them to recover after her ousting - but that had more to do with the fact that she was not Kevin Rudd.


The ease of the Abbott-Key relationship was on display to New Zealand journalists last November when the pair met up at a Darwin base during a refuelling stop on their way to Apec in Beijing. They spent almost an hour showing each other their planes (Abbott's was smaller), talking privately, and then had an informal "race" to Beijing which the RNZAF won.

It's the two of us, says Key

New Zealand might need Australia, but New Zealand is very important to Australia as well, says Prime Minister John Key ahead of a visit by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

The pair will speak at a transtasman leadership forum meeting in Auckland today and Mr Key told the Herald that was the message he wanted to give.

"It's a two-way relationship; it goes both ways."

New Zealand was Australia's sixth-largest market and in 2013 alone there was $81 billion in investment from Australia.

"It is a critically important relationship on so many fronts: economically, militarily, whatever together and the things we do to improve the relationship together, or the conditions for our businesses, actually matter on both sides of the Tasman."