Key to meet Turnbull for talks in Aus

  • 19/02/2016

The challenges facing the trans-Tasman relationship will again be laid bare when Prime Minister John Key meets with his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull.

The two prime ministers will hold their first formal talks of the year in Sydney on this morning.

Mr Key says the discussions will be wide-ranging, but it's inevitable long-standing issues around the rights of Kiwis living across the ditch, along with the more recent controversy around deportations, will be high on the agenda.

Mr Key is "ever hopeful" progress will be made on improving the situation for New Zealanders who now call Australia home, but he admits it's difficult.

"We think we're on pretty strong grounds in saying the current policy settings are not fair, but we don't have a massive amount of leverage," he told reporters earlier this week.

"In the end they are responsible for their own policies."

Because of the special visa category most New Zealanders move to Australia under, they aren't able to access social services like benefits and disability services that other permanent residents can.

They're also excluded from applying for citizenship, which is ultimately the reason why so many Kiwis have been caught out by tough new immigration rules which mean any non-citizen who's served a prison sentence of 12 months or more can have their visa cancelled.

Meanwhile, there could also be some discussion around New Zealand's offer - that Australia's never taken up - to resettle 150 refugees a year from Australia's offshore processing centres.

Mr Turnbull is under increasing pressure to allow 267 asylum seekers likely to be sent back to Nauru to be resettle in Australia instead.

There have also been calls for the Australian government to make use of the resettlement deal that was brokered between Mr Key and then-Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2013.

Mr Key remains willing to take in any genuine refugees, but he's made clear the ball is in Australia's court.

But Mr Turnbull appears reluctant.

"We recognise that the most important thing we have to do is not at any point give any encouragement or say or do anything that the people smugglers will use for their marketing," he said earlier this week.

"We have to manage this challenge with compassion but with a very, very clear head because the objective is to keep the boats stopped."

Mr Key is accompanied on the trip by a 30-strong business delegation.

The two prime ministers will be attending a trans-Tasman business lunch after their formal talks.



Australia's tougher immigration rules have caused plenty of angst in New Zealand. They've meant a dramatic increase in the number of offenders being deported from Australia, which has caused headaches for various parts of the justice sector. Key will be wanting to check that appeals against visa cancellations are being dealt with quickly and that people who want to lodge appeals from New Zealand, rather than stay in a detention centre, can do so.


It's a long-standing issue for New Zealand - the special visa category that most Kiwis move to Australia under doesn't allow them access to a range of social services such as benefits and disability services. They're also excluded from applying for Australian citizenship, which means they won't get the right to vote. Key said late last year he was feeling slightly more optimistic changes could be made.


Turnbull is under increasing pressure to allow 267 asylum seekers likely to be sent back to Nauru to be resettled in Australia instead. There have also been growing calls for the Australian government to take up New Zealand's offer to resettle 150 refugees from offshore processing centres a year, which has never been taken up but remains on the table. Key has said New Zealand would still take any genuine refugees under that deal, but the ball's in Australia's court.


Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark hasn't yet put her name in the hat to become the next UN boss, but it's expected she will. There's also speculation former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd could have a tilt. While Key says the New Zealand government will throw its full weight behind Clark and lobby others to do the same, there's a question mark over who Australia would support. Key's already said he won't hold Turnbull to a promise Tony Abbott made to back Clark.


Australian and New Zealand troops are working together as part of a joint mission at Camp Taji to train Iraqi soldiers. Both prime ministers have visited Iraq and they're likely to talk about the progress being made over there and what might be next. New Zealand's contribution is under review, as was promised would happen at the nine month mark when the deployment was announced last year, and that report is due to be presented to cabinet next month.