Australia's Penny Wong says partnership with New Zealand 'indispensable', following meeting with Nanaia Mahuta

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong has met with New Zealand counterpart, Nanaia Mahuta, in Wellington today.

Speaking to media this afternoon, Wong said Australia's new government comes with a range of different priorities, including a "very different view on climate change to our predecessors" and a strong view on the Pacific region.

"We want a strong working relationship, a close working relationship with the government of New Zealand."

The relationship was essential to the wellbeing of the citizens of the two nations, she said.

"We see New Zealand as family and we see our partnership as indispensable."

Wong said one of the areas she was "most grateful" the pair engaged on was "having an indigenous perspective on foreign policy".

Australia had a lot to learn from New Zealand in terms of engagement with indigenous peoples, Wong said.

"It's about who we are. We are a multi-cultural, diverse nation and we have the privilege of one of the oldest continuing cultures on Earth and we should integrate that much more into how we engage with the world and how we talk to and with the world and about ourselves.

"I read a couple of speeches of Minister Mahuta in preparation for this where she talked about Māori concepts that were important to her foreign policy and to your foreign policy and I though they were powerful ... that is one of the ways in which you can do it, at least to talk about who you are and how that is expressed through your foreign policy."

Among the "many matters" the pair discussed was the "importance of the Pacific Island Forum ... and the security architecture associated with the forum".

The Pacific Island Forum was of central importance to both Australia and New Zealand and both nations would use the forum to promote peace, prosperity, stability, Wong said.

Wong also said they would advocate for rules being applicable to "all nations regardless of their size"

Australia had more work to do as a member of the Pacific family, Wong said.

"Many countries in the region have been concerned about Australia's previous position about climate ... so part of why I wanted to engage really is because I think we do have some ground to make up and we want to demonstrate we bring stronger and more ambitious commitments on climate because we think it matters."

Penny Wong and Nanaia Mahuta.
Penny Wong and Nanaia Mahuta. Photo credit: Newshub.

Mahuta said New Zealand and Australia must broaden their relationship in order to support the Pacific nations and their aspirations.

The two countries' partnership in supporting the Pacific would include joint practical action on issues such as climate change, Mahuta said.

Wong said the issue of sustainable debt financing in developing Pacific nations was of interest to both New Zealand and Australia.

Unsustainable debt financing poses a risk to sovereignty, choice, stability and potentially the security of the Pacific region, she said.

Asked about the 501 deportee issue, Wong said Australia would take New Zealand's concerns on board.

Australia would be retaining the 501 policy, she said this morning. "But we do recognise concerns have been raised, those deserve consideration."

She called her meeting with Mahuta productive and friendly.

"As we go forward, I am very optimistic about the ways in which foreign minister Mahuta and I can work together. I really appreciated her insights as someone who has been in the job longer than I," Wong said.

Mahuta said the pair had a productive meeting.

The pair discussed cooperation and engagement to help Pacific neighbours cope with a growing array of challenges including climate change and "an increasingly contested strategic environment", Mahuta said.

Having a neighbour who was also a close friend was more essential than ever for the security and wellbeing of both countries' citizens, Mahuta said.

Wong has been touring the Pacific to discuss China's push into the South Pacific with the region's leaders, following China's security deal with Solomon Islands.

She told Morning Report that Australia was concerned and that it had looked at some of New Zealand's policies in its process of wanting to engage with the Pacific more.

This afternoon, Mahuta said when asked about China's move to extend military actions in the Taiwan Strait: "We have experienced a real challenge in terms of China's influence across the Indo-Pacific region".

In her recent meeting with China's foreign minister, Mahuta laid out New Zealand's views that "we want greater stability and peace to be the priority" in the region.

As for Australia, it supported the status quo in relation to Taiwan, Wong said.