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What Came Out of First Day Talks Between Anthony Albanese and NZ PM Chris Hipkins?

Passport-free travel between Australia and New Zealand is still at least a year off, after talks between prime ministers Anthony Albanese and Chris Hipkins in Wellington.

The annual leader’s summit in the Kiwi capital coincided with the 50th anniversary of the trans-Tasman travel arrangement, allowing freedom of movement between the two countries for its citizens. 

But removing restrictions altogether is a way off, despite the leaders committing to trying to streamline the travel process.

“We haven’t looked at a trans-Tasman passport. What we are looking at is making a seamless experience of going through from country to country,” Mr Albanese said.

“So, that might look at, for example, how smart gates could operate and be complimentary, our systems, so that before you get on a plane, in either country, it’s already recognised that you’re OK to come in and therefore, can just go through smart gates in a seamless way and in a timely way.”

Earlier in the year, Australia announced new pathways to citizenship for Kiwis living in the country, and there has already been a surge in applications.

“There have already been thousands take up — more than 10,000 — and I expect that there will be many thousands more,” the Australian prime minister said.

“This brings into a lot of alignment with what New Zealand does for Australians.

“That’s why it’s the right thing to do.”

‘Part of the Pacific family’

While focusing on the trans-Tasman relationship, the two leaders also lifted their gaze towards the broader Pacific and tried to steer small island states away from China’s overtures.

“When Australia provides aid and support to our neighbours there aren’t strings attached,” Mr Albanese said.

“We do that because we are part of the Pacific family and that’s important.

“So we’ll continue to work constructively. And that work is aided if we’re working together in the region, which we certainly will continue to do, and I think in an even more concerted than we have in the past.”

The two leaders discussed the AUKUS defence and security pact between Australia, the US and the UK, which is allowing Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

Whether the New Zealand government joins the agreement in some way, shape or form in the future remains a topic of consideration.

“I think there’s no question that we have a different position around nuclear, nuclear propulsion is also covered by New Zealand’s nuclear-free arrangements,” Mr Hipkins said.

 “But in terms of military, we were open to conversations with the AUKUS partners around what New Zealand’s involvement in some of those things might look like.”

NZ PM weighs in on Voice to Parliament

While reluctant to delve into matters of Australia’s domestic politics, Mr Hipkins did offer some views on the recognition and respect of New Zealand’s First Nations and suggested it could be instructive for Australia as the Voice to Parliament debate continues.

“The debates in New Zealand and Australia are very different starting points. And I certainly respect the fact that the referendum in Australia is a matter for the Australian people, and I don’t intend to proffer a comment on that,” Mr Hipkins said.

“I can certainly speak to the New Zealand experience.

“I’m firmly of the view that the process of reconciliation that New Zealand has been going through for a number of decades has been overwhelmingly positive for New Zealand.

“That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been bumps on the road. It doesn’t mean they haven’t been periods where it’s been very controversial.

“But when I look back on some of those controversies … many people look back on them and wonder what was so controversial about them.”

‘Incredible welcome’: Albanese

Earlier, the prime minister was formally welcomed to New Zealand’s parliament in central Wellington with a traditional Maori Pōwhiri ceremony.

A solemn-faced Mr Albanese was challenged by a Maori warrior as to whether he came to the building in peace, before following him into the parliament’s ballroom.

On social media, the prime minister described the welcome as “incredible”.

After signing the official guest book, Mr Albanese was escorted into the House of Representatives by Mr Hipkins and Speaker Adrian Rurawhe.

“Welcome Prime Minister Albanese, it’s good to see you here,” New Zealand’s Opposition Leader Christopher Luxon told the chamber.

“It’s a very special relationship that we have with Australia, and it’s great that you’re here in New Zealand.”

Mr Albanese and Mr Hipkins travelled to an official Women’s World Cup fan site on the edge of Wellington’s harbour after their meeting, before an official dinner at Government House on Wednesday.

Source : ABC