New Aussie PM to visit NZ soon, says official

COME ON OVER: Prime Minister Gillard was likely to visit New Zealand after the Australian election due later in the year - if her party remained in power.
COME ON OVER: Prime Minister Gillard was likely to visit New Zealand after the Australian election due later in the year - if her party remained in power.

New Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard will make an official visit to New Zealand sooner rather than later, a party strategist says.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd was due to make his first official visit to New Zealand next week but that was scrapped when he was toppled by his party last week.

There had been questions about his commitment to trans-Tasman relations, but Labor strategist Bruce Hawker said on TVNZ's Q&A programme yesterday that the fact Mr Rudd had not visited in his 2 1/2 years in the top job was largely because of his commitment to leading his country through the financial crisis. "I think most of his focus was on the northern hemisphere rather than on the southern hemisphere."

Mr Hawker said he expected Ms Gillard would recognise New Zealand's importance as a partner for Australia "and she will, I would expect, be making a trip to New Zealand at some stage in the not-so-distant future in her prime ministership because she recognises the importance of that relationship".

The new prime minister was likely to have a more local focus now the financial crisis had eased.

Prime Minister John Key and Labour leader Phil Goff have both congratulated Ms Gillard on her new role, and Mr Key said there would not be any change in the relationship between the two countries.

He did not know when Ms Gillard would get to New Zealand, but it was likely to be after the Australian election due later in the year – providing her party remains in power. Ms Gillard said yesterday that the election would be held "very soon".

The Australian opposition has tipped the government to do a deal on the controversial resource profits tax with the coalseam gas industry, excluding the big miners from talks and painting them as extremists.

The opposition also says any backdown on the resources tax will require an emergency mini-budget.

The government is not tipping its hand, although it is reportedly prepared to move on the previously off-limits rate of 40 per cent.

The damaging row between the mining industry and the government contributed to the unease within Labor that culminated in the dumping of Mr Rudd.

Ms Gillard used her first media conference to call a truce, announcing an end to TV advertising promoting the tax.

- Agencies