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Anthony Albanese and NZ PM Chris Hipkins Announce Fresh Road Map

Anthony Albanese has lauded Australia’s longstanding friendship with New Zealand as he agreed to a new 10-year road map designed to keep the partnership “agile and responsive” to a changing world.

The Prime Minister appeared alongside his NZ counterpart, Chris Hipkins, to make the announcement following the annual leaders’ meeting in Wellington on Wednesday.

“Australia and New Zealand stand together as partners who share a common vision for peace, security and prosperity in our region,” Mr Albanese said.

“The road map also identifies how we will harness our collective strengths for the good of our countries for the good of our people and for the good of our region.”

Defence co-operation was a key focus of the talks in the wake of China’s increasing strategic presence in the Pacific.

In a joint statement released after the talks, the prime ministers expressed “serious concerns” over developments in the South China Sea and the implementation of Beijing’s policing agreement with the Solomon Islands.

“The agreement is inconsistent with Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ commitments and the approach the forum has taken on regional security matters,” the leaders said.

Mr Hipkins also signalled NZ could be open to stepping up defence ties with Australia and joining the next tranche of the AUKUS security pact.

“There is no question we have a different position around nuclear propulsion … but in terms of politics, we are open to conversations with AUKUS partnership around what NZ involvement in some of those things might look like,” he said.

“It’s early days.”

The second “pillar” to the AUKUS pact covers the sharing of advanced military technologies, including quantum computing and artificial intelligence.

It is the first official talks between the two leaders since the federal government changed the “long overdue” rules allowing NZ permanent residents of Australia a pathway to citizenship.

Since then, more than 10,000 Kiwis have applied for citizenship.

But Mr Albanese said the prime ministers were not considering a trans-Tasman passport.

“What we’re looking at though is making a seamless experience of going through from country to country,” he said.

“We have many business opportunities between us and the fact that business people will go from country to country regularly, what we want to make sure is that that experience is the best it can possibly be.”

It’s Mr Albanese’s first official trip to Aotearoa as prime minister. He was welcomed at the Beehive with a powerful powhiri ceremony.

Upon entering, Mr Albanese was met by a warrior in a ceremonial challenge who handed him a rakau tapu (or dart) to determine if he came in peace or with hostile intent.

Mr Albanese also performed the hongi, a touching of noses, with principal Maori adviser to parliament Kura Moeahu, who accompanied him inside the Beehive.

Mr Albanese later told reporters he was “honoured” by the traditional welcome.

The visit commemorates several milestones between Australia and New Zealand, including the celebration of 80 years of diplomatic relations, 50 years of the trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement and 40 years of our Closer Economic Relations Free Trade Agreement.

The leaders’ meeting took place in the shadow of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Hipkins said the pair were looking forward to sharing a beer at a fan event for the tournament in Wellington on Wednesday evening.

Mr Albanese will return to Australia on Thursday.

Source : News.com.au