Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has hit out at a 60 Minutes Australia commercial questioning whether New Zealand is betraying our trans-Tasman partner for a "fast Chinese buck".
The promotional video advertises an upcoming episode looking into New Zealand's relationship with China. Including a deep voiceover, melodramatic background music and interviews with the likes of Mike Hosking, the advertisement suggests New Zealand is turning into "New Xi-land" and ditching Australia "for a fast Chinese buck".
It's been widely panned online, with experts in Chinese politics questioning its framing and the tone of coverage, while Twitter users have said it seems "like a parody".
Asked on Thursday afternoon whether she had seen the trailer, Ardern said she hadn't, but she understood it was "causing some amusement online".
"While I haven't seen the trailer, I do understand it is causing a little bit of amusement online. Obviously, I would completely disagree with the way that they are framing New Zealand and our relationship with Australia," the Prime Minister said.
"I think the response online is probably an indication of how New Zealanders are receiving it."
Ardern was also asked if she believed Hosking, a radio host for NewstalkZB, was a reputable NZ-China relations commentator.
"A whole host of journalists, commentators and opinion writers will take different views. I am very clear on where we are in our relationship and also where we are on our very close relationship with Australia," she replied.
The 60 Minutes episode - due to air on Sunday while Australia's Scott Morrison is in New Zealand - follows intense debate over recent months about whether Aotearoa is doing enough to raise concerns about human rights breaches in China or if it is keeping quiet to protect its $33 billion two-way trade partnership.
Australia has been hit hard by trade tariffs imposed by Beijing in retaliation for speaking up about abuses in the Asian powerhouse and for calling for an investigation into COVID-19's origins.
In January, Trade Minister Damien O'Connor came under criticism for telling Australia to practise more diplomacy with China, while right-wing Australian television host Andrew Bolt in April said New Zealand was backstabbing our trans-Tasman partner by not signing up to a statement expressing concerns about a study into COVID-19.
However, many overseas editorials accusing New Zealand of sucking up to China and abandoning Australia ignore the fact both Ardern and Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta have repeatedly expressed concern about the likes of activities in Xinjiang and Beijing's interference in Hong Kong.
In April, Mahuta did so in a joint statement with her Australian counterpart, while in December, New Zealand expressed concerns with China about a senior Chinese official posting an inflammatory image online of an Australian soldier.
Other issues have also emerged this year that have led some to question if the New Zealand-Australia relationship is deteriorating.
In March, then-Australian Home Minister Peter Dutton labelled deportees to Aotearoa under their 501 immigration policy "trash". That policy has long been a cause of friction between the two countries, and Mahuta hit out, saying Dutton's comments "only serve to trash his own reputation".
Despite that and other issues, Ardern said at the time that the countries' relationship remained solid.
"There is no breakdown in our relationship at all. We have an excellent relationship with our counterparts in Australia and indeed myself, with PM Morrison, we speak frequently and we work together often. It just so happens on this issue we strongly disagree."
Asked directly on Newshub Nation last month whether New Zealand was prioritising cash and trade over humanity and ethics, Mahuta said we have to be respectful of China.
"New Zealand's relationship with China is significant in terms of exporting, and there are areas that we can't agree on, but we want to be respectful, consistent, and predictable in the way that we treat China," she said.
Earlier in May, the New Zealand Parliament declared that "severe human rights abuses" are underway in Xinjiang, a move which angered the Chinese side.
The declaration was, however, weaker than originally intended. It was initially worded to declare a genocide as occuring, but that was watered down after deliberations with the ruling Labour Party.
Mahuta, a Labour MP, said a designation of genocide is tied to international law and should come only after a "rigourous assessment" of evidence. She called on China to provide United Nations experts unfettered access to Xinjiang to assess the situation.