Hundreds of documents briefing new Government ministers on key policies have been released. Herald journalists have been analysing the Briefings to Incoming Ministers (Bims). Here we look at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has described Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as a "strong champion for New Zealand," who had advocated for a better deal for New Zealanders in Australia.

The description was contained in the Briefing to Incoming Minister prepared for Foreign Minister Winston Peters when he took on the role.

It said the relationship had been strongly led by the relationship between the leaders of the two countries.


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Briefings to incoming ministers: The highlights

"The trans-Tasman relationship is uniquely Prime Minister-led, with leaders establishing the overall tone for engagement. Prime Minister Turnbull is a strong champion for New Zealand. Where possible, he has advocated for improved conditions for New Zealanders living in Australia and established a clear expectation of 'no surprises' in the trans-Tasman relationship."

Asked if she agreed Turnbull was a "strong champion," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said overall there were some areas of Australia's policy toward New Zealanders which were contentious.

"But there have been elements of that policy that have changed and I understand that in part that has been because of the advocacy of Malcolm Turnbull."

Turnbull was close to former PM John Key and relaxed some social security restrictions as well as providing an easier route to citizenship for New Zealanders working in Australia.

However, there was friction in other areas such as Australia's plans to start charging New Zealanders living in Australia the same university fees as international students and the deportation of those who had served more than a year in prison, regardless of how long they had been based in Australia.

The briefing stated Australia was our closest relationship and, while friction over the issue of New Zealanders' rights in Australia "cast a shadow" at times, the relationship was thriving.

"That reflects years of investment by successive governments (and a determination by New Zealand to make the relationship work given the reality that we need Australia more than it needs us)."


The briefing also touched on Peters' desire to restart talks for a free-trade agreement with Russia which were suspended after the annexation of the Ukraine. NZ First's coalition agreement with Labour includes a commitment to "work towards a free-trade agreement" with Russia.

The paper says while New Zealand had not imposed sanctions because of the lack of a Security Council resolution that did not mean it was not concerned about the "aggression" shown by Russia.

However, its specific advice on the free-trade agreement proposal was redacted.

The officials told Peters that the two relationships it had to "get right" were the United States and China because of their importance in Asia-Pacific.

"The United States is crucial to the region's stability. We need it to remain politically, economically and militarily committed to the region, in a way that gives the countries within it confidence and certainty."

It said China was now "critical to our prosperity and security" and the relationship needed careful co-ordination and management, especially of points of difference.


Much of the paragraph on the US was redacted but the paper also warned developments such as Brexit and the Trump Administration could hurt New Zealand while North Korea's nuclear programme was "a serious and direct threat to the entire region".

Officials wrote: "Brexit and the advent of the Trump Administration reflect social movements in the United Kingdom and the United States driven by a sense of exclusion and anxiety."

It said that reflected growing scepticism about the benefits of trade and trade agreements.

"Left unchecked, these trends could substantially constrain the opportunities for small export–dependent countries like New Zealand."

The briefing also spoke of the growth of the power of China and India, and security issues in Asia-Pacific from the "flashpoint" of North Korea to the "strategic arm wrestling" such as the dispute over the South China Sea.

"North Korea's missile and nuclear programmes are a serious and direct threat to the entire region."


It said violent extremism was also getting a foothold in South-east Asia.

"These security trends are occurring in a region where strategic trust is tenuous, habits of dialogue are not well developed, and the security architecture is yet to fully evolve."

The BIM also touched on climate change, saying it would disproportionately affect New Zealand's Pacific neighbours and combined with changes in world production and consumption would place pressure on limited resources such as water, food, land, energy, minerals.

"Resource competition may ultimately affect the management of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. It would also mean the Pacific was confronted with issues such as climate migration: "

MFAT said Peters' role was critical because of the relationships he could build and tap into.

It included a redacted list of the top priority Foreign Ministers from other countries he should try to contact and revealed Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was due to visit soon for a Foreign Minister's visit.


Peters is expected to travel to Australia in March next year along with Prime Minister Ardern for the annual talks with Australia.

It said it was also involved in preparing Budget bids for the redevelopment of Scott Base in Antarctic and for New Zealand's hosting of Apec in 2021.