Jacinda Ardern will mark her tenth day as New Zealand Prime Minister by popping out for brunch on Sunday - in Sydney. Her host will be Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian Prime Minister - or at least he was at the time of writing, you never can be sure.

Regrettably, Australia's Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, is just too busy to make it, so will have to wait for another opportunity to cravenly apologise for interfering in the NZ election campaign by saying she would "find it very difficult to build trust" with a Labour government.

Nevertheless, the Sunday morning summit offers a valuable opportunity to underline the importance of the relationship, for Ardern and Turnbull to establish a direct rapport, and for the Australian media to gain a better understanding of the woman characterised in newspaper headlines over recent weeks as a "loser", a "laughing stock", a "Commie", and most cruelly of all, "Jacinta".

It's not clear whether Ardern will be speaking in public beyond a brief press appearance after brunch, but just in case there is thought being given to an address from our new PM, here's a respectful draft submission.


Kia ora tatou. It is a great pleasure to be here in Sydney. [Ad lib joke about weather.] As Malcolm Turnbull said just the other day, "Australia and New Zealand are not just mates, we are family."

Never a truer word spoken, although I would note in passing that Mr Turnbull recently described President Trump - that being the same President Trump who berated and hung up on him in that infamous train crash of a phone call - as "family", so I'll need to have a closer look at that genealogy.

But where were we? Family. Families are great. They only really work, though, when you can be honest with each other. When you can tell your cousin or your sibling or your cat if they've gone wrong, offer candid advice and a helping hand. And that's what I propose to do today.

Families are also about love. And, you know, we've been talking a bit about love, about kindness, and about empathy in the last few weeks in New Zealand.

Asylum seekers in the Manus Island detention centre are living in unhygienic squalor. Photo / AAP
Asylum seekers in the Manus Island detention centre are living in unhygienic squalor. Photo / AAP

Talk is cheap, I get that, and my government will be judged on the extent to which it all adds up to more than warm fuzziness. Today, though, I want to urge our Australian friends - our Australian family - to think a bit about empathy, a bit about kindness.

I know what you're thinking: What is this Kiwi bloody Commie on about? I'm not on about your dreadfully handled marriage equality referendum, and the toxic plume of rhetoric it produced.

Not today. Nor the inequitable treatment of Kiwis resident in Australia, even if frankly you're being a sack of dicks about that.

Nor is this about your global embarrassment with regard to Australian politicians and citizenship and the constitution. I will, however, observe in passing that while reports suggesting I cursed the All Blacks to defeat against the Wallabies are bulldust, with a wave of my wand I am capable of decreeing everyone who stands for election in Australia automatically a citizen of Aotearoa New Zealand. Just so you know. [Consider *cast spell* gesture].


No. What I really want to talk about is Manus Island, about the "Pacific solution", about the system of offshore detention centres which might have begun with better intentions but has descended into something horrific, inhumaneand utterly unbecoming of a decent nation, something that we could never stand by and allow a family member to perpetuate.

In the centre on the Papua New Guinea island this week the power was switched off, food and water stopped, in an effort to herd the 600 men, many of whom have been detained for five years or more despite having committed no crime other than seeking asylum in Australia, into units in a nearby town.

As you know, they have refused to leave, fearing for their safety given local opposition to their relocation and past treatment from police.

Today they are starving, living in unhygienic squalor; deprived of medication and digging holes in the ground to seek water.

Perhaps, like looking into the dusk, your eyes have not adjusted. Perhaps you are locked in a defensive stoop. But what has happened on Manus, Nauru and on Christmas Island, the grounds of your outsourced incarceration - well, mates, it's got to stop.

Don't take my word for it. Amnesty International calls it "a deliberate and systematic regime of neglect and cruelty".

A United Nations inspection found the Nauru camp "an environment of open-ended, mandatory and, in the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' view, arbitrary detention".

It has chided an "increasingly dire and untenable" system, "contrary to the fundamental principles of family unity and refugee protection".

That's the same Australia that was one of 15 countries elected to the UN Human Rights Council last month.

The UN special rapporteur on torture has said the system "violates the right of the asylum seekers, including children, to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment".

The man who worked as chief psychiatrist for the detention system said, three long years ago, that it was an "inherently toxic" environment for mental health.

And: "If we take the definition of torture to be the deliberate harming of people in order to coerce them into a desired outcome, I think it does fulfil that definition."

In the current example of Manus, there is a kind of torture under way to coerce people to shift from one place of harm to another place of harm, and that is no solution at all.

All of those words should burn in the ears of fair-minded Australians. We love you, but, honestly, this is an ugly stain on your conscience.

My predecessor and your mentor, Malcolm, the Right Honourable Sir John Key, offered to welcome 150 of the refugees who risked their lives to make a home in Australia and now find themselves marooned in the Pacific.

That stands, and then some - we will welcome 300 to New Zealand, more even, if you welcome the rest. "NZ is our best chance," wrote Behrouz Boochani, one of the men on Manus, this week.

We would urge you to adjust your eyes, to see not "boat people" but human beings, and to join your cousins across the ditch in offering these long-suffering people a chance.