Malcolm Turnbull says Julie Bishop has no need to apologise to incoming New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after a clash over Barnaby Joyce’s New Zealand citizenship being outed.
Australian foreign affairs minister Ms Bishop had recently raised concerns over working with NZ Labour if they were elected after one of its members, Chris Hipkins, contributed to “outing” deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce as an alleged New Zealand citizen.
At the time, Ms Bishop accused Ms Ardern’s party of “foreign interference” and conspiring to undermine the Coalition government, placing Australian and New Zealand relations “at risk”.
“I would find it very difficult to build trust with members of a political party that had been used by the Australian Labor Party to seek to undermine the Australian Government,” Ms Bishop said in August.
Mr Joyce’s eligibility to remain in parliament is now pending the outcome of a High Court ruling.
While Ms Ardern did not explicitly apologise for Mr Hipkins’ behaviour, she deemed it “wrong and unacceptable” and confirmed he had apologised.
Now that Ms Ardern is officially New Zealand’s new prime minister, Ms Bishop’s comments regarding “trust” between the two nations have been revisited.
Ms Bishop took to Twitter on Friday, following Ms Ardern’s appointment, to castigate journalists who were claiming her previous comments meant she could not trust NZ Labour.
“Rubbish. Read what I actually said,” she tweeted.
“I agree entirely with Ms Ardern’s admonishment of her colleague – that his conduct was ‘unacceptable’.”
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Mr Turnbull told 3AW radio on Friday that Ms Bishop had no reason to apologise to Ms Ardern, claiming he did not expect their disagreement would lead to any trust issues between the nations.
Now was not the time for “scratching away at past political episodes”, he said.
Mr Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten were the first leaders on the phone to congratulate Ms Ardern, while Ms Bishop offered congratulations from afar.
During her first press conference after the announcement Ms Ardern said she intended to travel to Australia in the near future, describing her conversation with Mr Turnbull as “warm and friendly”.
“That (Australia) is one of our most important international relationships and that will continue under my leadership,” Ms Ardern told RNZ on Friday morning.
Speaking to reporters in Canberra, Ms Bishop congratulated Ms Ardern on her appointment as prime minister, noting that Australia has a strong and deep relationship with New Zealand.
“I congratulate her on her election as prime minister … I am looking forward to working with the new government.”