New Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee knee-deep in restoring relations with Australia and Israel

Only 24 hours into the Foreign Affairs job and Minister Gerry Brownlee is on a plane to Australia and writing letters to ...
GEORGE HEARD/FAIRFAX NZ

Only 24 hours into the Foreign Affairs job and Minister Gerry Brownlee is on a plane to Australia and writing letters to Israel.

Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee is already in the thick of his new role with the issue of Kiwis across the ditch paying higher tertiary fees and working on restoring ties with Israel.

On Tuesday Brownlee headed to Sydney for his first overseas engagement since taking over the job from Murray McCully 24 hours earlier.

The trip is to meet his Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop, where the fraying trans-Tasman relationship is likely to be top of the agenda.

From next year, subsidies for New Zealand citizens enrolling in tertiary education courses will likely be withdrawn, making them fee-paying students.

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The proposed changes announced by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull left Prime Minister Bill English "pretty unhappy about it" and the traditional Anzac relationship is increasingly looking under threat.

Brownlee said he was "deliberately meeting" Bishop as early as possible in his tenure because of the "close-intersect of trans-Tasman values and interests".

He said he's keen to discuss the "bigger picture" and "how we can communicate sooner on these issues going forward".

Another problem area for Brownlee is patching up the strained diplomatic relations between New Zealand and Israel.

Brownlee told Newsroom he had written to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday "expressing a desire to get the relationship back on track".

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Netanyahu was furious with New Zealand over its involvement in a UN Security Council resolution last December, condemning Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.

"I sent him a letter yesterday afternoon, expressing a desire to get the relationship back on track, to recognise that we have had an incident that has caused a problem and proposing that we have a process for getting full diplomatic representation back in place and reasserting that New Zealand has been a long-term friend of Israel," Brownlee said.

At the time the resolution passed Israel recalled its ambassador from New Zealand in retaliation and Netanyahu had a heated phone conversation with McCully expressing the move would be seen as a "declaration of war" according to Israeli reports.

 

 - Stuff

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