Jacinda Ardern will meet Australia’s new prime minister this week, with the controversial 501 deportation policy near the top of her agenda. Video / Mark Mitchell 7 June 2022
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has touched down in Sydney on her first official visit to Australia since the pandemic – and the first official meeting with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
The pair will have a private dinner tonight before a day of public engagements on Friday. Details of the dinner are scant as of Thursday evening, but the Australian Government will publish a photo of the pair’s official meeting.
Speaking at her post-Cabinet press conference on Tuesday, Ardern said she expected the meeting to be positive.
“This is my first engagement with the Prime Minister. It will be a positive one,” Ardern said.
Ardern will raise the tenuous issue of Australia’s 501 deportation policy with Albanese.
“I will raise these issues, but let’s see where we can take them,” Ardern said.
“We’ve been clear with the incoming Prime Minister that these issues remain for us, regardless of who’s in office. We want to make progress,” she said.
The policy means a person in Australia on a visa will be deported back to their country of citizenship if they fail or are suspected to fail a good character test, or if they are sentenced to 12 months or more in prison. This occurs regardless of how much time someone has spent in the country.
The previous Australian government took a hard line on deportations, which are often blamed for increased organised crime in New Zealand. The issue cast a shadow over Ardern’s relationship with Albanese’s predecessor Scott Morrison.
On Ardern’s last trip to Australia, she urged Morrison “not deport your people and your problems”.
Ardern has said she will raise the issue again with Albanese – using the same forceful rhetoric if necessary.
Albanese has said deportations will continue under his watch, but Guardian Australia has reported his government may tweak ministerial discretion to take into account the amount of time a deportee has spent in Australia.
Cementing a strong relationship with the Australian prime minister is a key foreign policy objective for any New Zealand leader, and past prime ministers have made it a priority to secure a meeting with their Australian counterpart as soon as possible after they are sworn in.
Ardern will be the first foreign head of government Albanese has welcomed to Australia as prime minister. Since being sworn in last month, he travelled to Japan, meeting with the leaders of that country, the United States and India. He has also visited Indonesia.
Ardern and Albanese are not strangers to each other. As leaders of sister parties New Zealand Labour and the Australian Labor Party the pair have met before in New Zealand.
Albanese even reached out to Ardern the night he was elected, speaking to her on his way to address his supporters.
During the campaign, Albanese said he already had a strong relationship with Ardern.
“Jacinda Ardern is someone who I’ve met with here in Australia and also in Wellington and in Auckland. I think she is an outstanding prime minister and I’m sure that we would have a very warm and cordial relationship,” Albanese said.
The only public engagements of Ardern’s trip are tomorrow, after midday New Zealand time.
Ardern will have a meeting with Albanese in the morning, before hosting a joint press conference.