Australian journalist says NZ needs to 'grow up' and distance itself from China

An Australian journalist has come in blazing against New Zealand's attitude to China, saying Aotearoa needs to "grow up".

Jason Morrison, The AM Show's Australian correspondent, told Duncan Garner on Monday Australia and New Zealand must unite when it comes to "the China issue".

"There should be nothing between us," he said.

"This is important and it's important to our nation's future."

The conversation comes as New Zealand faces increasing criticism for its relationship with China, as other nations - Australia included, continue to stand up to China.

"New Zealand needs to get over the notion that China is its friend," Morrison said.

"China is not its friend, China is its customer and that's how it should be treated, that's how it should remain and that's how Australia is treating it."

New Zealand trades heavily with China, with 29 percent of its export revenue dependent on it.

This heavy reliance has led Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to tread gingerly when it comes to political issues between the two countries.

In a speech to the China Business Summit in early May, Ardern said the differences between New Zealand and China's interests and values "are becoming harder to reconcile". However, she said areas of difference "need not define a relationship" and those areas "form part of a comprehensive relationship"

When Australia took a tougher stance on China on issues like the origins of COVID-19 and the treatment of Uighurs and Hong Kong, the Asian superpower retaliated with tariffs, import restrictions and by warning its citizens not to travel to Australia.

While Aotearoa has condemned human rights breaches independently and with Australia, it hasn't signed up to some Five Eyes statements on the issue. That's led some to accuse New Zealand of being too cosy with China and more interested in protecting its massive trade relationship than standing up for human rights.

But the Government has rejected that. Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta says the Five Eyes isn't always the best forum to express condemnation as it is primarily for intelligence-sharing purposes. Mahuta and her ministry have also pointed to numerous statements from New Zealand on ongoing issues in Hong Kong and Xinjiang as evidence of it not being scared to speak up.

Garner told Morrison New Zealand has little choice but to be friendly with China as we are "such a small country".

"What else can we do?" he asked Morrison.

"Well, grow up because you're not that small and you live next to a pretty big nation that wants to help you," retorted Morrison.

He added Australia and New Zealand must unite and be in "absolute lockstep" on its policies towards China, before adding a final warning.

"You really think China will embrace you and love you? China will screw you in the end."