Trans-Tasman talks underway in Sydney

  • 19/02/2016
The trans-Tasman talks begin (Newshub)
The trans-Tasman talks begin (Newshub)

Prime Minister John Key and his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull are currently meeting in Sydney for the first formal talks of the year.

The discussion is likely to cover the issue of Kiwi deportees, expanding citizenship rights for New Zealanders in Australia, and whether Australia would support any bid by Helen Clark for the United Nations Secretary-General job.

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 - which 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 along with his family.

They arrived in the country last night after flying in on a Royal New Zealand Air Force plane.

Once the two leaders are finished with their official duties, Mr Key and his wife Bronagh will be taking the ferry across to Mr Turnbull and his wife Lucy's home at Point Piper for a private dinner this evening.

But the Keys have also been invited to stay the night - an unprecedented move that's been dubbed "pyjama diplomacy" by one Australian newspaper.

It's reported Mr Key will be taking along a couple of bottles of New Zealand wine.

Tomorrow morning, the two prime ministers could end up kayaking on Sydney Harbour or checking out some of the local eateries.

Mr Turnbull has opted to stay at his private residence, rather than live in the prime ministerial residence at Kirribilli.

Mr Key has frequently enjoyed private dinners with Australian prime ministers and their partners over the years.

He developed a close relationship with Julia Gillard and her partner Tim, and even invited them to come over to spend some time at his Omaha bach after Ms Gillard was rolled by Kevin Rudd in 2013.