'New Zealand has no better friend than Australia' - NZ-Aus PMs meet

New Zealand has ramped up its rhetoric against Australia's policy of deportations, calling it "corrosive" in our relationship with that country. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern singled out the issue in her opening remarks, alongside Australian counterpart Scott Morrison, in which she was also careful to say our relationship with Australia transcended Government relations. 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison jetted into Auckland on Friday, for high-level talks with Ardern. 

Branding Australia as "family" rather than "friends", meant the leaders could have more forthright conversations," said Ardern. 

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern discuss China's growing influence.

It barely garnered an acknowledgment from Morrison, however he went on to echo Ardern's statements that the relationship could withstand many frank conversations.

Both also paid tribute to the lives lost on the eighth anniversary of the Christchurch Earthquake, which included on Australian. And the rescue and response after was heavily supported by Australian search and rescue specialists and police.

While the pair have met before, on the sidelines of the ASEAN forum in Singapore last year, this Morrison's first official visit to New Zealand and their first formal bi-lateral discussion since he rolled former Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull and took over the Australian Premiership in August. 

Morrison was given a full pōwhiri welcome at Auckland's Government House on Friday morning, where he was greeted by Ardern.

The pageantry-laden welcome saw Morrison accept his first wero (challenge) from a professional kapa haka group, before standing in front of the New Zealand military and brass band for both countries' national anthems.

Morrison then inspected the New Zealand troops, before he and Ardern entered Government House to share lunch before beginning their formal talks.

While the leaders got down to business, Morrison's wife Jenny Morrison would be spending the day at Auckland Zoo with Ardern's partner Clarke Gayford. Baby Neve would not be in attendance.

A fleeting visit lasting less than a day, Morrison is forgoing the usual weekend retreat to New Zealand enjoyed by previous Australian Prime Ministers.

The whistle-stop tour is likely reflective of his own precarious position in Canberra; while a recent poll had the gap close between the more popular Labor Party, in Opposition, and Morrison's Liberal Party, the Liberals were still on track to lose the next election.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison inspects the troops at Government House in Auckland, on his first official visit to New Zealand.
ALDEN WILLIAMS/STUFF
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison inspects the troops at Government House in Auckland, on his first official visit to New Zealand.

His Government recently lost a key vote on legislation which now allows doctors to decide whether asylum seekers in offshore processing centres should be brought to Australia if they need medical attention.

In what might be seen as a perverse reaction on this side of the Tasman, that was possibly one driver that saw the Government narrow the gap with the Opposition.

Morrison also took the chance to reopen a detention centre on Christmas Island - likely to be one of the items on the agenda for discussion between the two leaders on Friday. 

While the visit has been pared back to the official basics, it's hoped a stately appearance alongside Ardern will also play well with domestic audiences across the ditch.

The full powhiri and military welcome mat was laid out for visiting Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday.
ALDEN WILLIAMS/STUFF
The full powhiri and military welcome mat was laid out for visiting Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday.

Ardern was particularly forceful in expressing New Zealand's view over Australia's policy of detainment and deportation, particularly of dual New Zealand nationals who had never set foot in this country.

It was unlikely to result in any change however, but both leaders could potentially walk away from an exchange with positive reviews on the issue.

National security matters were also likely to be a top priority between the two; both leaders of Five Eyes countries are under various pressures as a result of recent decisions to ban Chinese telco Huawei from being a part of developing 5G networks.

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern discuss migration policy.

It's one driver for the mounting speculation of potential economic backlash, that has gripped New Zealand trade circles. While there is no evidence of that in this country, Australians woke to the news this morning that its coal experts into a major Chinese port have been banned by Chinese port authorities. 

And both countries were heavily invested in developing an increased focus in the Pacific, at least in part, as a counter to an expanding Chinese presence there. 

New Zealand had its Pacific Reset, while Australia branded its policy the Pacific Pivot, however, both called for a collaborative effort to strengthen diplomatic ties through significant increases to aid, infrastructure and other development ventures.

During his day-long visit, Morrison also met with Opposition leader Simon Bridges, and laid a wreath at the Auckland War Memorial before taking part in a business roundtable discussion at Sky City. 

"ALL ABOUT RESPECT"

Morrison said this morning's Powhiri at Government House was "very moving".

He told Bridges, when he met him Friday afternoon, that it had been a while since he had faced a powhiri – a reference to his time living in Wellington between 1998 and 2000 when he was director of the Office of Tourism and Sport.

Bridges suggested any powhiri was quite fierce.

"It is," said Morrison.

"But it is all about respect. That's one of things I picked up when I lived here all those years ago. It's the heart of the (Maori) culture."

Morrison said that the word he loved, more than any other Maori word was "mana."

"There is no equivalent for it in English."

Mana refers to an individual having prestige, authority and power.

Bridges told Morrison it was great to have him back.

"And we don't hold it against you that you worked for Murray McCully," he said.

​Morrison repeated his comments from his press conference with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and said there was no closer relationship than the one between Australia and New Zealand.

"It goes beyond politics, beyond sport; it goes beyond everything," he said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stop for a quick photo opportunity, before heading into bilateral discussions.
ALDEN WILLIAMS/STUFF
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stop for a quick photo opportunity, before heading into bilateral discussions.

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