15 Feb 2011

Gillard welcomes stronger economic ties with NZ

10:11 pm on 15 February 2011

The Australian Prime Minister has started her visit to New Zealand, focusing on building a stronger economic bond between the two nations and education.

Julia Gillard flew into Auckland on Tuesday for the start of a two-day visit where she was met by Prime Minister John Key.

Ms Gillard spoke to a business luncheon in the central city and visited the school where Mr Key launched the contentious national standards for reading, writing and maths for primary and intermediate schools in 2009.

The Prime Minister was jovial at the business lunch and thanked New Zealand for its support during Australia's "summer of hardship" which has included floods, cyclones and bushfires in several states.

She emphasised the need to continue to strive for closer economic relations and cited the Investment Protocol, due to be signed in Wellington on Wednesday, as an example.

Ms Gillard said the two countries are very close friends, share the same outlook, the Anzac bond, and a partnership based on economic integration.

"There's no closer economic partnership between Australia and any country in the world than the economic partnership we have with New Zealand and we are seeking to build on it."

Under the investment agreement, Australians will be able to invest up to $477 million in New Zealand without facing screening. In turn, New Zealanders will be able to invest about $1 billion in Australia.

However, Ms Gillard was cautious when asked by media whether one day there might be a customs union or a common currency between the nations.

Later in the afternoon, she visited Glen Taylor School in the suburb of Glendowie, where she told students education is very close to her heart and she wants every child to have a chance.

Ms Gillard arrived in Wellington on Tuesday evening and will begin official discussions with Mr Key on Wednesday.

Gillard 'honoured' to address MPs

Julia Gillard says she will be honoured to address New Zealand MPs, despite her speech occurring outside Parliament's sitting hours.

The Green Party has prevented the Australian leader from addressing Parliament in session, saying it would set an uncomfortable precedent.

Ms Gillard will address MPs in the debating chamber at 11am on Wednesday.

"I'm absolutely honoured to have the opportunity to speak to Members of the New Zealand Parliament in their parliamentary chamber," she said.

"The details of these arrangements are properly a matter for the Parliament of New Zealand, but I will be very, very honoured to be there."