Oh to be a fly on the wall when Winston Peters sits down with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Waiheke Island today.

He will be looking for ways to co-operate to get the Trans-Pacific Partnership operating as quickly as possible, a trade deal he opposed in Opposition.

They will discuss the phenomenal success of the joint Anzac training mission in Iraq, a deployment he opposed in Opposition.

And he may discuss further New Zealand's willingness to take 150 refugees from Australia's offshore processing centres for asylum seekers, Manus Island or Nauru.


Peters now speaks for the New Zealand Government in the real world, not for New Zealand First in the artificial world of opposition.

His meeting with Bishop is the most important he has held on his home patch since being sworn in on October 26.

For four years she had a close working relationship with Murray McCully in the previous Government.

She is one of the most influential and respected foreign ministers in the Asia Pacific region, quite apart from being Peters' counterpart of New Zealand's only formal ally.

But by his own reckoning, there's a fraction too much friction in the relationship.

The day before being sworn in as Foreign Minister, Peters held a press conference and discussed a broad range of issues, including what he saw as a need to mend relations with Australia.

He painted the relationship in a much more negative light than Australia ever has.

He said New Zealand's relationship with Australia was not what it should be and that New Zealand needed to work seriously to improve it.


He was implying that National had let it run down over nine years, and that he would do a better job of it.

It is not possible that things have improved in a little over 100 days and in fact some would say things have worsened.

At the time that Peters was voicing concern for transtasman relations, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had not yet begun her megaphone diplomacy over Australia's offshore processing centres for asylum seekers.

She had not yet begun her repeated public offers to take 150 refugees.

Verdicts on what damage that did vary wildly. Ask anyone associated with the New Zealand Government and they'll say it isn't damaged at all.

But many close to the Australian Government say it was offended by Ardern's actions, namely her continuing to raise the offer at a sensitive time of domestic and international debate, which in turn led to Turnbull ministers leaking against her to Australian media about her causing increased chatter by people smugglers.

Her follow-up offer of up to $3 million to agencies such as the Red Cross to monitor the condition of asylum seekers added salt to the wound.

Australia may have seen her initial comments as inexperience but when she repeated them they were seen as thinly veiled criticism of a policy from which New Zealand undoubtedly benefits - because protecting the Australian border from mass landings also protects New Zealand.

Part of the explanation for Australia's senstivity is that Australian governments are just not used to being on the receiving end of any criticism from New Zealand on any matter not directly related to New Zealand, such as deportation of criminals, or hikes in tertiary fees.

It has been an unstated rule that the two countries don't criticise each other, implicitly or directly, and more so the smaller of the larger.

Tim Groser came close to breaching it when Australia signed a bilateral trade deal with Japan in the middle of the TPP negotiations.

And Bishop came close in her criticism of the United Nations Security Council resolution co-sponsored by New Zealand condemning Israel's unlawful settlements on the West Bank.

Both ministers could have gone further than they did at the time. A little more frankness from time to time shoud be acceptable, so long as the foundations remain strong.

If there has been damage over Ardern's Manus Island rhetoric, it is not likely to be long lasting unless she again engages in a repeat performance.

By the same token, Ardern will harbour no ill-will over Bishop's comments made in the heat of the Barnaby Joyce affair - the citizenship one.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins (while in Opposition) had collaborated with Labor mates in Australia to reveal that Joyce, Australia's Deputy Prime Minister, held New Zealand citizenship, forcing his resignation and a byelection.

Ardern was as furious with Hipkins as Bishop was and she publicly admonished him.

Plans for a meeting of the two women were not made public but a photo of the pair, posted by Bishop on Twitter, showed they had begun discussions. Their first formally scheduled meeting will be in March at the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum in Sydney.

That will be the week before the revised TPP, the CPTPP, is to be signed in Chile. And that deal is an area of work in which Ardern and Trade Minister David Parker worked closely with Australia and will continue to do so.

It is just as well Peters has had a change of heart on TPP because anything less would have meant an awkward three years. CPTPP is the start of a big new trade agenda, not the end of the process.

Peters' switch to support TPP is on the same grounds as Labour's – that it has changed enough to support it.

Jane Kelsey and other opponents say otherwise. For the first time, National and anti-TPP protesters agree that very little has changed, besides the name.

They are right that not a lot has changed but it has changed just enough in two significant areas – three if you count the US withdrawal - for Labour to say it is more palatable than before: Investor State Dispute Settlement and the right to ban foreign investors from buying houses in New Zealand.

The one area in which Peters need make no adjustment is in his support for United States' engagement in the region, an issue which is close to Bishop's heart.

His previous stint as Foreign Minister from 2005–2008 covered a crucial time in the restoration of New Zealand's relationship with the US.

Peters worked his charms on Condoleezza Rice, his US counterpart at the time, and in diplomacy personal relationships count for a lot.

If things are as bad as he said they are with Australia, then he has a lot of work ahead of him.

But more than likely, the outlook looks a lot more positive from the Government benches than it did from Opposition.