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Climate, deportations on Aust-NZ agenda

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New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern will arrive in Sydney on Thursday for talks with Anthony Albanese. Photo: AAP
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The trans-Tasman reset begins this week with the first meeting of Anthony Albanese and Jacinda Ardern as leaders of their respective nations.

But whether the relationship, refreshed by the election of the new Australian prime minister and the alignment of the governing Labor and Labour parties, bears fruit is yet to be seen.

The two PMs will have dinner in Sydney on Thursday night before formal talks on Friday and a shared press conference, with Ms Ardern staying in Australia for less than 24 hours.

On the agenda will be a mix of international and regional concerns — particularly from the Pacific — along with trans-Tasman tensions.

Ms Ardern has pledged to bring up a number of issues with Mr Albanese; citing deportations and pathways to citizenship for expat Kiwis.

A number of reports suggest Mr Albanese is open-minded towards tweaking Australia’s hardline deportation practice.

While Australia would continue to deport Kiwi criminals, the new Labor government may accede to New Zealand’s request not to ship over criminals without genuine family or community links to the country.

“I’m very clear with any Australian administration that this is a significant issue for New Zealand,” Ms Ardern said.

“We accept that Australia has a deportation policy because New Zealand has a deportation policy.

“Our concern has been we’ve seen some of the really extreme examples, those who have little-to-no-connection to New Zealand who have been deported into New Zealand and then we see the consequences of their anti-social behaviour and their lack of connection here at home.”

Should the Australian government cede ground, they can expect a fiery pushback from Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, who as immigration and home affairs minister oversaw increased deportations.

“It was right to deport them and we’re safer because of having done so,” he told Sydney radio station 2GB on Thursday.

“I don’t want to see the Albanese government walk it back.”

Another major shift is that climate change is back on the agenda, with senior NZ government figures telling AAP the issue was declared a no-go zone under the previous coalition government.

“It’s a huge relief,” one source said. “It hasn’t caused problems in the relationship per se, but it’s just been such an anomaly in that Australia hasn’t been interested.”

The Australia-New Zealand Leadership Forum, a business-oriented group holding its annual gathering in Sydney next month, has put climate change on its agenda for the first time in 14 years.

“The two countries had such different approaches to managing emissions and so it was hard to have that conversation,” organiser Fiona Cooper said.

“It was like apples and oranges, chalk and cheese.”

Ms Cooper and other NZ business leaders hope the new relationship can continue to “advance the single economic market agenda”, including shared regulations, easier travel, and co-operation on challenges.

“Any time there’s a new government there is new opportunity. You’re having new conversations,” she said.

“Pre COVID-19 the goal was to make trans-Tasman travel as close to a domestic-like experience as possible and that’s what we now aspire to reach again.”

The re-engagement on climate issues also allows Australia to engage with more authority in the Pacific, where climate remains the primary concern.

On international issues, Ms Ardern says talks will focus on the “Indo Pacific Economic Framework, AUKUS, and the upcoming Pacific Islands Forum”.

– AAP