Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has met with his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese in Brisbane today after a historic announcement of guaranteed citizenship pathways for Kiwis across the Tasman.
At a press conference fronted by the two prime ministers, Albanese said the two countries have “a strong relationship”.
Albanese said it was important Pacific Island families stayed together and that New Zealand will have an important role in this process.
Albanese said the citizenship deal “normalised relations to where they should always have been”.
New Zealand people who had contributed through the tax system will as a result of these changes have access to citizenship and its entitlements, Albanese said.
“I see this as a common sense approach.”
The Australian PM suggested a slight tweak to the five-year rule that is currently in place in New Zealand for Australians, prompting a smile from Hipkins.
“We are absolutely close allies and will remain that in perpetuity.”
Albanese spoke of Australia’s efforts to assist New Zealand after the recent floods.
And the same was true when Australia needed help. Those who were first on the ground were often “the Kiwis”.
Asked about the possible “brain drain” resulting from the citizenship, Albanese said he welcomed “all of your smartest and brightest, but I haven’t met a Kiwi who wasn’t smart or bright”.
Australia liked to claim Russell Crowe and the Finn brothers, Albanese said. “It’s a pity we haven’t been able to claim more rugby players.”
It wouldn’t result in more Kiwis coming to Australia but make things fairer, he said.
Hipkins said he didn’t think it would lead to more Kiwis moving to Australia but would make things fairer for them.
Albanese said figures showed there had been an increase in Australians travelling to New Zealand to live.
Hipkins said there are a huge number of areas for two countries to work in. They had intertwined economies, he said. Having common regulatory systems would make it easier to do business on both sides of the Tasman.
They would continue working closely with Pacific neighbours to make sure we had a stable region, Hipkins said.
Albanese said there were important regional relationships, but something that’s positive in Australia is positive for NZ, and vice versa. There is a common interest that we have going forward.
Albanese said the target had been to get the citizenship announcement across the line before Anzac Day.
“I think it is a very productive relationship and I look forward to seeing the Prime Minister at the King’s coronation” and the Nato meeting, Albanese said.
The news, announced yesterday, has brought immense relief to hundreds of thousands of Kiwis living in Australia who until now had felt “permanently temporary”, many deprived of basic social rights despite living and working in the country for years.
The move will also help address the disproportionate impact the “corrosive” 501 deportation policy has on Kiwis.
Hipkins and Albanese this morning attended Lutwyche Cemetery in Brisbane for the unveiling of plaques for the previously unmarked graves of soldiers who served during the two World Wars.
“The unveiling is the result of a joint project between the New Zealand Remembrance Army and the Australian Remembrance Army and is a poignant and fitting way to mark our Anzac Day connection during the visit,” Hipkins said ahead of the visit.
“The graves of New Zealand soldiers have been identified at the ceremony and brass plaques installed so that their service contribution is remembered.”
It comes ahead of Anzac Day commemorations on Tuesday, and New Zealand will hold a parallel event then to unveil the grave of an Australian Infantry Force private.
Both prime ministers laid poppies on the previously-unmarked graves of soldiers and laid wreaths on the Cross of Sacrifice.
Hipkins and Albanese are due to host a joint press conference at 2.40pm NZ time.
Speaking at a citizenship ceremony today, Hipkins said it might surprise people that a New Zealand prime minister would want to be at a ceremony to watch New Zealanders become Australia citizens.
But he said the ability for people to be able to do so cut to the “heart of the relationship” between the countries.
“We have a long and valued history of reciprocal kinship.”
Hipkins said it was no secret there had been “limitations” on that recently, with “unfair consequences” for New Zealanders and their families.
It was also “out of step” with what was offered to Australians in New Zealand.
He said he was “absolutely delighted” with yesterday’s announcement on citizenship pathways.
“I want to in particular acknowledge Anthony Albanese’s leadership in making this happen.
“Thank you, Prime Minister Albanese,” said Hipkins, as the crowd burst into applause.
Albanese said he was proud to have been able to make the changes and paid tribute to former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who he worked on the changes with last year.
“We sat down to discuss a fair system for New Zealanders in Australia.”
Hipkins is Brisbane with Trade Minister Damien O’Connor and a large business delegation celebrating 40 years of the Closer Economic Relations free trade agreement with Australia.
Overnight, Hipkins spoke at a gala dinner to celebrate the anniversary, attended by New Zealand and Australian business representatives and politicians.
There Hipkins thanked Australia for the citizenship pathways.
“We want to very warmly thank you, the people of Australia and the city, Australian Government for doing something about that, for making sure that they are recognised for the contribution that they make.”
He also had a conversation with Australia Treasurer Jim Chalmers, in which they discussed economic and trade difficulties facing the countries presently and in the future, including combating climate change.
Hipkins also acknowledged 50 years of free movement between each country, and 80 years of diplomatic relations.
After the grave unveiling, Hipkins and Albanese will attend a citizenship ceremony for about 200 to 250 New Zealanders.
It is expected the pair will also have private discussions likely to include the citizenship announcement and wider ramifications, alone with working better together on climate change, issues in the Pacific, and wider security arrangements, including Aukus.
With a large proportion of iwi and Māori business leaders from across Aotearoa joining Hipkins, it is also expected they will discuss work in Australia towards better recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights.
It comes ahead of one of the biggest current political issues for the Albanese government in its bid to enshrine in the constitution an indigenous voice to parliament, which would be voted on in a referendum.