Jacinda Ardern makes her first international trip as Prime Minister on Sunday with a quick trip to Sydney on Sunday to meet her Australian counterpart, Malcolm Turnbull.
And at the meeting the ghost may be heard of the former Australian Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, and the tension between the New Zealand Labour party and the Turnbull Government after it was discovered he was a Kiwi.
That’s because with Turnbull will be his new Chief of Staff peter Woolcott.
Woolcott has just returned to Canberra having being the Australian High Commissioner in Wellington.and former Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand, Peter Woolcott.
While he was in Wellington he was brought into the centre of the row over the role played by Labour MP Chris Hipkins in revealing that Australian deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, was a New Zealand citizen and therefore ineligible to be an Australian MP.
The-then new Labour Leader, Jacinda Ardern, called an urgent meeting with Woolcott after Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she would find it difficult to trust Ardern if she became Prime Minister.
Ardern assured Woolcott that Hipkins should “never have asked” the questions about Joyce.
“I didn’t apologise but I made it clear what has happened is unacceptable from my perspective,” she said.
“It shouldn’t have happened, but ultimately it was questions raised by the media that caused this situation rather than questions from us.”
Ardern said she reiterated to Peter Woolcott that any suggestion that the Labour Party was responsible for Mr Joyce’s predicament was incorrect.
She did not want Labour’s relationship with the Australian government to be put at risk, she said.
Even so, POLITIK is aware that in Canberra those assurances are not entirely accepted and that the Turnbull Government do not agree that the New Zealand Labour Party is as innocent as Ardern claims.
That may be because the stakes there are so high over the citizenship issue.
When Joyce was finally disqualified last Friday by the High Court from being an MP because of his New Zealand citizenship, the Turnbull Government lost its one-seat majority.
The Liberal Government’s Leader of the House Christopher Pyne had previously accused the Australian Labor party of being part of a conspiracy involving its New Zealand counterpart to bring down the government.
But if that introduces a tension into Sunday’s meeting, the agenda itself sounds easy enough.
Ardern will now have been briefed on reactions at a three-day meeting which concluded on Monday in Japan of TPP Ministers to New Zealand’s proposals to legislate to ban foreign land sales.
All the signs are that the proposal is acceptable.
There are also suggestions that Trade Minister David Parker may have found a work around on Labour’s objections to International State Disputes Settlement procedures which are included in the TPP.
ISDS provisions in the TPP allow foreign corporations to sue states if a member state takes an action which disadvantages the corporation. The action is heard by an independent international tribunal rather than either of the states’ legal systems.
Labour have objected to the inclusion of these provisions within the TPP because they say they undermine New Zealand’s sovereignty.
Australia does not object to them.
Though the ISDS clauses are still expected to be discussed at the APEC meeting in Viet Nam in a week’s time, there may be a solution for New Zealand involving bilateral agreements with TPP states which would restrict the use of the provisions.
So what might have been a major obstacle to our relationship with Australia — a possible departure from the TPP — now looks much less likely.
That leaves the question of how Australia treats New Zealanders living there with particular respect to tertiary education fees and defence procurement as issues for the two leaders to discuss.
From January 1 next year most permanent residents and New Zealanders will no longer be eligible for subsidised places, meaning they will pay about three or four times more for their degrees, on average.
During the second Leaders’ debate during the election campaign on TV3, Ardern threatened Australia with retaliation if it went ahead with the proposals saying “if they lock us out of tertiary education, we will lock them out of it here”.
The move was included in this year’s Australian Budget, and though Ardern will object, it is expected that Turnbull will not concede any changes.
The other big item on the agenda will be New Zealand’s plan to replace its P8 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft.
Ardern is likely to be told that Australia would prefer that we buy the same aircraft as them — P8A Poseidon aircraft manufactured by Boeing.
That way the RAAF and RNZAF would be able to operate together more easily.
Up till now, both have flown the same maritime surveillance aircraft, the P3 Orions.
Four P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol planes would cost almost $NZ 1.5 billion, but that is included within the $20 billion defence procurement programme over the next 15 years.
Ardern’s meeting with Turnbull is scheduled for only two hours.
Though there may be some frank words, it is likely to end in smiles and assurances of mutual friendship.
Turnbull set the scene for that on Tuesday with a press statement announcing Ardern’s visit.
“Australia and New Zealand are not just mates; we are family,” he said.
“Our relationship is built on a solid foundation of economic, security, community and historical ties.”