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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese give a joint Australian and New Zealand Leaders Forum press briefing in Sydney: Video/AP

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced a major change to the controversial ‘501’ deportation policy towards New Zealanders and pledged to work on citizenship pathways and give residents the right to vote.

Albanese said that while Australia would retain the right to deport people, it would now be done in a “common sense” approach based on “friendly actions”.

“In situations where someone has lived their whole life in Australia and has no connection to New Zealand, we will work as friends and in a sensible way.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met Albanese this morning on the final leg of her five-day visit to Australia.

Albanese said he had a “very fruitful discussion”, which also reflected the “reset” between the countries, as announced during Ardern’s previous visit.

“There are no closer friends than Australia and New Zealand,” Albanese said after the formal talks.

Significant Change to Kiwi Rights in Oz

Albanese announced a series of policy revisions affecting New Zealanders living in Australia, including pathways to citizenship, resident voting rights and deportations.

The subject has long been a sore point between countries. Australians living in New Zealand enjoy a range of rights and services – including a guaranteed path to citizenship and the ability to vote – but this is not reciprocated across Tasman.

“We don’t want people to be temporary residents forever. We will be working on pathways to citizenship, with an Anzac Day 2023 timeline,” Albanese said.

He said he, Ardern and the ministers would work to ensure equal rights in their respective countries.

Meanwhile, “unilaterally” Australia is reportedly looking at resident voting rights.

“In New Zealand, if you’re a resident for a year, you have the right to vote, you can participate fully in those processes,” he said.

As part of the normal review process after a federal election, Albanese said it would review return systems giving New Zealanders living in Australia, who pay taxes, the right to vote.

“I think that’s a really sensible position to at least consider,” he said.

Bilateral meetings will take place every year

Ardern and Albanese also discussed new decisions, including holding annual meetings with economy and international affairs ministers, as well as respective climate ministers.

This would focus on shifting the economy to clean energy, Albanese said. There would also be meetings of foreign and defense ministers.

Ardern said integrating the climate portfolio into bilateral exchanges was important not only for the two countries working together, but also for how they operated in the wider Pacific.

Pacific Islands Forum, Regional Security and Climate Change

At the Pacific Islands Forum, Albanese said he was looking to engage with the Pacific family on issues of climate change and maritime security.

He spoke of Australia’s plans to increase aid as well.

Ardern said it bodes well to be in Australia during Naidoc (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) week.

She paid tribute to the Indigenous peoples of Australia and said it had been central to many of their discussions. They could do a lot together around the developing economies of their respective First Nations peoples.

Ardern said she felt they had established a work schedule to bring the reset to life. Ardern said they sought common sense and worked together as friends.

Regarding the upcoming Pacific Islands Forum and the China-Solomon Islands agreement, Ardern said that based on Biketawa’s statement, regional security issues were for the forum.

She expected the matter to be raised at the next meeting. She said they could work on ways to ensure the issues were discussed more, while maintaining national independence.

Albanese said the discussion was one of the reasons Australia was there. He said he had raised Australia’s concerns. It was an era of strategic competition in the region.

New Zealand was clearly opposed to the militarization of the Pacific, Ardern said. She also reiterated her wish that security issues be discussed at the regional level.

Albanese said they see security issues in the Pacific not seen a decade ago. China was “more aggressive”. They would work with China but uphold Australian values, he said.

When Australia got involved in the region, there were no strings attached, it was about supporting the development of our neighbours, he said.

On climate finance, Albanese said he has spoken to many leaders and each discussion begins with two points, congratulations and that the government he leads is part of the action on climate change.

He reiterated Australia’s intention to bid for a future COP conference on climate change.

Ardern said New Zealand has increased its climate ambitions. On climate finance, she said it was now about delivery.

Economic challenges

On cost of living issues and skills shortages, Albanese said the government was not targeting New Zealand workers.

The countries had common challenges, which were part of the global challenges. They wanted to work on those together.

Prime Ministers and Senior Ministers of New Zealand and Australia meet in Sydney.  Photo / Jenée Tibshraeny
Prime Ministers and Senior Ministers of New Zealand and Australia meet in Sydney. Photo / Jenée Tibshraeny

When resetting the relationship, Albanese said he wanted to see them work together on as many issues as possible because there were a lot of common interests.

On the 40th anniversary of the agreement on closer economic relations, Ardern said it was an opportunity to modernize and adapt the arrangements.

There were options in the digital and sustainability space, she said.

Previous developments

Before the encounter, Ardern picked up where she left off with her Australian counterpart.

After meeting Albanese in Sydney a month ago, catching up with Europe and doing a question-and-answer session at a business conference on Thursday, the leaders of their countries’ Labor parties know each other well.

Before starting their official bilateral, while the media were still allowed in the room to take pictures, they joked about the music-themed gifts they had exchanged during their previous meeting.

Albanese, which received a selection of vinyl from Flying Nun artists, said it was “New Zealand’s best record label”.

Ardern chimed in saying she had worn her Midnight Oil t-shirt from Albanese.

“Oh, did you expect us to say anything substantial diplomatically?” Ardern joked, before Albanese said, “We’re talking about Flying Nun Records – that’s very important.”

Finance Minister Grant Robertson (who enjoyed discussions about his favorite South Island record label), Transport Minister Michael Wood, Maori Development Minister Willie Jackson and Climate Change Minister James Shaw and their counterparts Australians joined the Prime Ministers at the meeting.

Senior ministers from the New Zealand and Australian governments meet in Sydney.  Photo / Jenée Tibshraeny
Senior ministers from the New Zealand and Australian governments meet in Sydney. Photo / Jenée Tibshraeny

Ardern spoke at an Australia-New Zealand Leadership Forum event with Albanese on Thursday.

The two-day forum brought together more than 250 New Zealand and Australian business people and government officials to share ideas on common economic and political issues.

The last time the event happened in person was in 2019.

Topics on the agenda included Indigenous Business, Trade, Future of Health, Infrastructure, Tourism, Transtasmanian Innovation Opportunities, Labor Shortages, Future of Work , the challenges of post-Covid economic growth and collaboration on climate change.

Government ministers and the 31-person New Zealand trade delegation leave Australia today.

Australia is New Zealand’s second largest trading partner: two-way trade accounted for over $22 billion in the year to December 2021.