Judith Collins wants 'verbal shots' between Australia, New Zealand to end amid concerns about relationship

National leader Judith Collins wants the "verbal shots" between Australia and New Zealand to come to an end as she worries the two countries' relationship is at its lowest point in decades.

Revelations that a 15-year-old boy was deported to New Zealand last week under Australia's controversial '501' immigration policy is just the latest in a long line of incidents causing friction between the two nations. It was just last week that Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton labelled deportees to Aotearoa "trash". 

While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has repeatedly said the relationship between Australia and New Zealand remains strong, Collins is of a different mind.

The Leader of the Opposition said on Tuesday that Dutton's comments weren't appropriate so close to the anniversary of the March 15 shootings, when an Australian terrorist attacked two Christchurch mosques, killing 51 people. 

"You see the rhetoric between Australia and New Zealand is rarking up at the moment. I thought it was a pretty poor call for minister Peter Dutton to come out and start talking about sending out the trash to New Zealand in the same week we were commemorating what happened when an Australian came here and killed 50-odd people in New Zealand and injured so many more," Collins said.

"That is a pretty hard call and speaks a lot about the lack of goodwill I am seeing at the moment. I have never seen Australia and New Zealand relations at such a low ebb since the days of Rob Muldoon and Malcolm Fraser."

However, Collins said New Zealand politicians also need to consider their actions, as we can't expect to be respected if we don't show respect ourselves.

She made mention of comments by New Zealand Trade Minister Damien O'Connor earlier this year, when he suggested Australia could improve its relationship with China by showing the Asian nation more respect, similarly to Aotearoa. Those remarks infuriated Australian politicians. 

"Jacinda Ardern needs to refresh the relationship with Scott Morrison and that will help refresh the relationship between Australia and New Zealand at a Government level," she said.

"I think it is very bad for New Zealand to have a relationship that is not one of respect, and a bit of mutual ribbing from time to time, we have to do it."

The relationship between Australia and New Zealand could get worse if there is not an end to the "verbal shots", Collins told reporters, and we could use soft power to improve our standing.

New Zealanders need to remember that Australia is more important to us than we are to Australia.

"You don't demand, you ask," Collins said.

She's suggested New Zealand should "take the hand that is being offered in friendship" and open its borders up to Australians.

National on Tuesday launched a petition calling on the Government to do just that. She said our tourism industry is "on its knees" and a bubble would also free up space in managed isolation facilities for other Kiwis trying to get home and for much-needed critical workers.

Ardern says officials are hard at work to sort the proposed bubble out, but that there are a number of complicating factors, such as concerns about people becoming stranded if it was quickly closed and how to deal with transit passengers. 

The relationship between Australia and New Zealand has received much attention in recent weeks.

National's Simon Bridges last week said the "war of words" between the two nations had hit its worst point in some time, which Labour's David Parker disagreed with. 

"I don't find that. My dealings with the Australian ministers, and I have a lot of them, are actually very pleasant."

An Australian international relations expert last week examined claims of strain between the trans-Tasman nations, writing that the two countries have long had differences and suggesting that Australia could learn something from New Zealand's way of doing diplomacy.

Among Melissa Conley Tyler's observations was that New Zealand had recently rocketed up a ranking of the world's top soft power nations. Aotearoa now sits at 15, up from 22 - the biggest rise of any nation. Australia is ranked 10th. 

A Sydney Morning Herald article published in February suggested the relationship had become frosty over recent issues - especially over deportations and China - but said the ties between Morrison and Ardern were holding up well.