2021 05 31 00163

"Common threat" to NZ and Aus - Morrison foreshadows talks on China

Jacinda Ardern and Scott Morrison were greeted with bagpipes and children singing the national anthems at the Arrowtown War Memorial, ahead of hard talks in Queenstown on Monday.

The backdrop was quintessential Central Otago late autumn colours as a small gathering of locals greeted the pair, with Ardern shaking hands with war veterans and snapping a quick photo on her phone of partner Clarke Gayford with a pair of boy scouts.

It was a friendly photo op before the leaders get stuck into serious talks on China and regional security, the vaccine rollout in the Pacific, and how to safely reopen their countries to the world.

The leaders laid wreaths at the war memorial before settling into their policy agenda for the annual Australia-New Zealand leaders forum.

Addressing media before the closed-door meeting, Jacinda Ardern touched only on the two countries’ shared challenge of how to uphold their track record on Covid while reopening for business.

“As much as we’ve celebrated the unique position that we’re in in the Covid environment, the expectation of our people to maintain their safety but also for economic reasons, to reopen to the world, is the challenge we both face.”

When it was his turn to speak, Scott Morrison touched briefly on Covid but then cut straight to the more thorny issues on the table - referencing New Zealand and Australia’s “common threats” - to regional security in the Indo-Pacific region. 

“We have some very serious times we’re dealing with, not just from a health point of view but from a regional security point of view,” Morrison said.

“I really appreciate the direct personal relationship and dialogue we have, because there are common challenges and common threats.”

Morrison did not mention China.

Jacinda Ardern snaps a quick photo on her phone of partner Clarke with two local boy scouts

“The broader issue of the Indo Pacific is something Australia and New Zealand feel very strongly about, working with like-minded partners US and UK, Japan, India, all of us have a big stake in ensuring a world that favours freedom and a free Indo Pacific.”

Morrison also mentioned the Covid challenges faced by Fiji and Papua New Guinea, and the importance of “supporting all of our Pacific neighbours through vaccine dose delivery.”

 

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