New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has vowed the country would remain nuclear-free despite plans for future nuclear submarines in Australia as part of the AUKUS security pact.
Mr Hipkins met Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday, where the pair discussed the economy, climate change, cost of living issues as well as national security.
While there have been calls for New Zealand to be made a part of AUKUS – the trilateral security pact between Australia, UK and US – Mr Hipkins reaffirmed New Zealand’s commitment to be nuclear-free.
“Our foreign policy provision has not changed just because we have changed prime minister. The government’s foreign policy is the same as it was under my predecessor,” he said.
“Australia and the US and the UK are incredibly important security partners for New Zealand, but our nuclear-free policy has not changed.”
Mr Albanese said defence co-operation with New Zealand would remain despite AUKUS.
“(AUKUS) is about a whole range issues, including the interoperability of our forces and also it is co-operation on technology and other issues,” he said.
Talks were also held on citizenship issues between the two countries.
It follows changes to rules around the deportation of New Zealand citizens who have spent time in prisons in Australia.
Changes on the deportations are set to be finalised by the end of April.
New Zealand’s prime minister said the changes made to deportation laws were commonsense ones.
“They are complex issues, but I do want to acknowledge and applaud the positive progress that’s been made in that regard over the last year and we’ll look forward to continuing to work on those issues,” Mr Hipkins said.
Mr Albanese ruled out any retrospective changes to the laws.
“There’s a big distinction between someone who comes to Australia having either as a teen or an adult and commits offences and someone who has zero connection back in New Zealand who might have come here as an infant,” he said
“Our position hasn’t changed and I confirmed that with Prime Minister Hipkins today.”
The pair will meet in New Zealand later in the year for further talks as part of an annual leaders meeting between the countries.
Mr Hipkins assumed the role of prime minister earlier this year following the shock resignation of his predecessor Jacinda Ardern.
Mr Albanese said the visit to Australia, which coincides with 50 years of the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement, emphasised the significance of the relationship.
“It means a lot to us as Australians that your first destination as prime minister is here to Australia,” Mr Albanese said.
“This reflects a priority that Australia and New Zealand place on our relationship and the deep friendship between our countries.”
Mr Hipkins said the talks would lead to a strengthening of ties between the two nations.
“Many other countries do not have the same closeness as New Zealand and Australia and it is something that we will never take for granted in New Zealand,” he said.