17 Aug 2017

PM hopes trans-Tasman spat short-lived

2:47 pm on 17 August 2017

Prime Minister Bill English says he hopes relations between New Zealand and Australia will soon get back on an even keel after the Australian Liberal Party's citizenship drama spilled over into a Trans-Tasman diplomatic spat.

Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce addresses a press conference in Sydney, July 2016.

Photo: AFP

Australia's deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce discovered this week he holds New Zealand citizenship by descent, which is a breach of the country's constitution.

It was then revealed an Australian Labor Party staff member had contacted New Zealand Labour MP Chris Hipkins, who put questions in parliament about dual citizenship rules.

Those events led Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to claim she would find it very difficult to build trust with a New Zealand Labour-led government.

Mr English said the government would not want to let Ms Bishop's comments get in the way of a positive relationship between the two countries.

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Prime Minister Bill English Photo: RNZ

"I think in the heat of the moment they took it all pretty seriously, but they've got to get on and resolve the issues around citizenship.

"But I think the relationship is in good shape and over the years, governments of all shades have actually learnt to work together."

Mr English said the Australian government had a majority of one, so it was understandable the way it acted.

"Look, I don't think it's a measure of the relationship, now of course this will pass, we want to make sure there is a sound relationship because we've got to pursue the interests of New Zealand and New Zealanders in Australia."

New Zealand's Green Party leader James Shaw said the current Australian government clearly had little respect for any New Zealand government.

"I think it's pretty clear that Julie Bishop already finds it pretty hard to work with a National Government given how little [Foreign Minister] Gerry Brownlee has gotten out of her recently, when you consider the treatment of New Zealanders in Australia."

Metiria Turei resigns as Green Party co-leader

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern would not be drawn on whether Julie Bishop's comments had interfered with the New Zealand election.

She said the relationship between her party and the Australian government was important.

Jacinda Ardern on a visit to her hometown of Morrinsville. 10 August 2017.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

"My focus is on our election here in New Zealand, that's where I think people would expect my focus to be.

"We've dealt with this situation, I've made it clear that we should never have been involved, I've reprimanded the person involved and now we are moving on."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said it was clearly New Zealand politicians meddling with Australian politics, not the other way around.

"But I make it very clear, the Australians owe us far better than they are delivering to us, and this circumstance gives us less cull of right to fix it, than if we'd have not interfered.

"The idea that you're going around the backroom between research units, meddling in other countries' politics, is just plain stupid."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters in Bowen House.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters in Bowen House. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne said the situation was extraordinary and everyone was clearly running around trying to figure out who to blame.

"The only tentative advice that I would offer, at the risk of interfering and I'm not trying to, is that the Australians need to look at their constitution.

"The New Zealand law operates perfectly independently, it's not been an issue before, it's only become an issue where you have a constitution, unlike virtually any other in the world, that says you cannot do this if you are [a citizen of another country], full stop, end of story - that's where the problem lies."

Mr Dunne said everyone should take a deep breath and pull back from the brink.

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