Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern and Prime Minister the Hon Scott Morrison MP met in Queenstown on 31 May 2021 for the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders’ Meeting. The Australia-New Zealand relationship is unique in its closeness; we are partners and allies, and we share a relationship of family, of whānau. Through our single economic market, our people-to-people ties and our shared interests in the region and the world, Australia and New Zealand stand together.
- The Prime Ministers began by acknowledging the unique role of Australia’s and New Zealand’s Indigenous peoples in the identity of both countries, including their rich cultures and languages, and their ancestral, spiritual and continuing connections to land, water and community.
COVID-19 response and recovery
- The Prime Ministers were pleased to have their first in-person meeting since February last year, made possible by two-way quarantine-free travel across the Tasman.
- They welcomed close trans-Tasman cooperation in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and noted that quarantine-free travel was a reflection of how hard both countries have worked to manage COVID-19. They acknowledged the toll on those in both countries who had lost loved ones, and all those who had suffered economically. They expressed condolences to countries which had experienced a far greater impact, including those battling second, third or fourth waves.
- The Prime Ministers acknowledged trans-Tasman collaboration to support early COVID-19 vaccine development and purchase, including the ACT Accelerator and the COVAX Facility. They acknowledged the valuable contribution of COVAX in ensuring equitable access to vaccines, globally. They agreed to continue cooperation on vaccines, including research and development. The Prime Ministers undertook to support efforts to ensure the free international movement of medical goods, including vaccines and vaccine components.
- The Prime Ministers reaffirmed that together Australia and New Zealand will provide safe and effective vaccines to ensure comprehensive vaccine coverage for our Pacific family and Timor-Leste at the earliest opportunity. This complements COVAX vaccines, and doses delivered by the US and France.
- The Prime Ministers also confirmed New Zealand and Australia will continue to use a variety of mechanisms to securing and delivering vaccines, including through direct support and bilateral donations to COVAX, bilateral donations to individual countries, and working through multilateral agencies such as UNICEF. Australia and New Zealand are not just providing doses, but also wrap-around support including medical supplies, consumables and support for planning, training, communications and cold storage. Australia and New Zealand will constantly work with partners in the region to reassess needs as circumstances change.
- The Prime Ministers discussed plans for reconnecting our region with the rest of the world, and welcomed continued close coordination given the linked trans-Tasman border. They noted opportunities to collaborate on initiatives to extend travel options for Pacific neighbours when safe to do so, including through the trans-Tasman quarantine-free travel zone. This reflects our close ties to the Pacific and our commitment to supporting their recovery. Leaders also tasked officials to explore technological solutions to verify vaccination status to enable Australians and New Zealanders to reconnect with the wider world, alongside other technological solutions that support a safe reopening, while maintaining the trans-Tasman travel arrangements. Leaders expressed their desire to, as much as possible, write the reopening rulebook together.
- The Prime Ministers acknowledged the severe economic hardship the COVID-19 pandemic has caused for many countries in the Pacific, with tourism sectors particularly affected. They committed to continuing work already underway with Pacific governments, the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and other partners to support Pacific economies, helping affected communities and businesses. They agreed to continue advocacy with other partners for increased assistance to the region.
- The Prime Ministers recognised a unified Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) provides the best mechanism for our Pacific family to have a strong international voice, and achieve outcomes on priority regional challenges. They expressed hope that the Pacific Islands Forum Troika Plus political dialogue would identify solutions for the benefit of all PIF Members.
- The Prime Ministers welcomed the deep and continuing partnership between Australia, New Zealand and Pacific island partners to address regional security issues including climate change, transnational organised crime, Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing, cyber-security and cyber-crime, and corruption.
- The Prime Ministers welcomed the entry into force of the PACER Plus Trade and Development Agreement, under which Pacific island countries will benefit from increased economic activity encouraged by customs modernisation, harmonisation and a Development and Economic Cooperation work programme supported by a dedicated implementation unit. The Prime Ministers look forward to all Signatories to the Agreement ratifying and more Pacific island countries joining the agreement in order to realise its benefits of enhanced economic integration and inclusive growth.
- The Prime Ministers reaffirmed the importance of ongoing work under the Single Economic Market agenda to promote policy and regulatory coherence, and to support economic recovery. They acknowledged that the established trans-Tasman architecture had facilitated cooperation in response to COVID-19, including on two-way quarantine-free travel.
- Recognising the role of the digital economy as an enabler for all areas of the SEM agenda, the Prime Ministers welcomed agreement on a roadmap for mutual recognition of digital identity. They instructed officials to continue work towards interoperability on improving government services, payment practices policies, and the Consumer Data Right.
- The Prime Ministers welcomed continuing bilateral collaboration towards a responsible approach to artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies. They welcomed the ongoing joint implementation of the Trans-Tasman Cyber Security Research Programme and its projects. They also supported bilateral and multilateral engagement on standards setting for critical and emerging technologies.
- The Prime Ministers agreed on the value of policy alignment on a circular economy and directed officials to work together on issues such as data collection on waste and material flows; sharing lessons on respective waste strategies; cooperation on marine plastics; and increasing capacity of onshore processing, which will have added benefits for Pacific Island countries given our shared role as recycling and waste management hubs for the region.
- The Prime Ministers instructed officials to establish a Supply Chain Dialogue, building on our respective existing and planned freight and supply chain strategies, to share experiences and seek opportunities for collaboration. They asked officials to share best practices for identifying and managing supply chain disruption risks and use this to drive information sharing and tangible joint action. They agreed addressing non‑tariff barriers will support supply chain resilience and committed to improving trans-Tasman regulatory coherence and resilience in the freight, transport and health sectors. They asked officials to explore opportunities to harness innovations from the pandemic response, and advance digital trade.
- Prime Ministers welcomed work between border agencies to deliver a more seamless border for traders that manages risk while also facilitating imports and exports across our economies. They directed officials to continue work on a secure trade lane between Australia and New Zealand for low risk cargo, and on improving processes for border clearances, including through enhanced use of data and technology.
- The Prime Ministers encouraged officials to ensure our countries maintain strong biosecurity by harnessing technological developments, building on close bilateral cooperation on world-leading biosecurity risk auto-detection algorithms and 3D x-ray technology. They agreed to trial use of this technology through our respective biosecurity screening approaches, commencing with pre-screening of baggage and air cargo on commercial passenger services.
- The Prime Ministers recognised the importance of the Joint Food Standards System, underpinned by the Joint Food Standards System Agreement and supported by Food Standards Australia New Zealand. Prime Ministers directed officials to continue work on how the System can be maintained and improved.
- The Prime Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to mental health initiatives that provide best practice in mental health support in emergency response and recovery. They welcomed Australia’s announcement of a $2.3 billion investment in mental health support and treatment and New Zealand’s $1.9 billion investment in a programme of cross-government initiatives, and new services, to transform its mental health and addiction system.
- The Prime Ministers welcomed the passage of legislative amendments in Australia and New Zealand to enable New Zealanders to transfer unclaimed retirement savings in Australia into their KiwiSaver accounts. They instructed officials to update the Trans-Tasman Retirement Savings Portability Arrangement to facilitate these transfers.
- The Prime Ministers reaffirmed Australia and New Zealand’s growing focus on economic development opportunities, jobs and growth in the Indigenous business sector. They reflected on the success of the Virtual Indigenous Trade and Connections Event, and encouraged officials to continue to share policy experiences and data to support indigenous development, such as New Zealand’s recently announced policies and targets for government procurement with Māori businesses in Aotearoa and Australia’s Indigenous Procurement Policy. The Prime Ministers look forward to future trans-Tasman trade and policy missions between our Indigenous Peoples (as border restrictions allow), as well as ongoing partnership on the New Zealand-led Te Aratini Global Indigenous Symposium at Expo 2020 Dubai.
- The Prime Ministers acknowledged continued science, research and innovation cooperation under the Australia-New Zealand Science, Research and Innovation Cooperation Agreement. They welcomed progress on the Southern Positioning Augmentation Network (SouthPAN) joint program, scheduled to be fully certified and operational by 2025. They also welcomed continuation of the Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Dialogue, establishment of an Indigenous STEM Dialogue, and further work towards the development of a Trans-Tasman Innovation Ecosystem.
- The Prime Ministers welcomed the return of whānau/family members, business travellers and tourists moving in both directions across the Tasman. Quarantine-free travel has reunited friends and family and provided a boost to the economic recovery in both countries, as well as enabling a resumption of face-to-face meetings between the Prime Ministers, Ministers and officials.
- The Prime Ministers re-affirmed the value of the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement, which provides for an exceptionally high degree of freedom of movement between the two countries. They acknowledged the support each country had provided to the other’s citizens during COVID-19, including allowing those ordinarily resident in the other country to return home, and their inclusion of each other’s citizens in respective COVID-19 wage subsidy programs.
- The Prime Ministers were pleased to confirm a change to the unique pathway to citizenship for New Zealanders living and working in Australia. From 1 July 2021, Australia will reduce the number of years in which applicants for the New Zealand stream of the Skilled Independent (subclass 189) permanent residence visa must reach the minimum income threshold (from four years to three). Prime Ministers also welcomed Australia’s flexibility for applicants whose income or time offshore was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and looked forward to a further review of the pathway visa in 2022.
- The Prime Ministers celebrated the successful bid for New Zealand and Australia to co‑host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, one of the largest sporting events on the planet. The Prime Ministers acknowledged the opportunity to use the event to achieve lasting social impact through sport for women and girls across our Indo-Pacific region.
Climate change and the environment
- The Prime Ministers agreed on the importance of ambitious and practical action in pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. They agreed to sustain close and valuable cooperation on climate change, including in the Pacific and on agricultural emissions. The Prime Ministers recognised the important contribution that innovation and accelerating the deployment of technology will play in reducing emissions. The Prime Ministers acknowledged the strong link between climate change, oceans, and biodiversity.
- The Prime Ministers recognised the importance of protecting the ocean, including coral reef ecosystems, to build resilience and address biodiversity loss, along with tackling the growing problem of marine plastic pollution.
- The Prime Ministers recognised that climate change remains one of the most significant long-term security and development issues facing the Pacific region. New Zealand and Australia will ensure their support for the Pacific’s COVID-19 response and recovery aligns with the goals of the Paris Agreement and helps build climate and disaster resilience.
- The Prime Ministers agreed to continue working closely with the Pacific to establish maritime zones and promote the preservation of these zones in the face of climate change-related sea-level rise. The Prime Ministers recognised fisheries will be a critical plank of the Pacific region’s economic recovery from COVID-19, and reaffirmed their commitment to the sustainability of the region’s fisheries and continuing to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing.
- The Prime Ministers emphasised the need for pragmatic solutions to address marine litter and other waste issues, and directed officials to incorporate these into their collaboration towards a circular economy. The Prime Ministers looked forward to the adoption of an ambitious post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework at the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming in October 2021.
- The Prime Ministers reiterated their support for the multilateral trading system, and the importance of a well-functioning World Trade Organization (WTO) in promoting sustainable global economic growth and prosperity, including as part of the COVID-19 recovery.
- The Prime Ministers welcomed the election of WTO Director-General Okonjo-Iweala. They recommitted to working closely together, and with APEC partners, to deliver ambitious multilateral disciplines on fisheries subsidies by July, and a successful WTO 12th Ministerial Conference that delivers concrete outcomes and a pathway for meaningful reform. They emphasised the need for the WTO to be responsive to the pandemic through outcomes on trade and health, and welcomed joint efforts to strengthen disciplines to reduce trade- and production-distorting agriculture subsidies. The Prime Ministers also reiterated the importance of a functioning Appellate Body and welcomed plurilateral progress in services domestic regulation, and e-commerce negotiations.
- The two Prime Ministers agreed on APEC’s important role in driving the Asia-Pacific region’s return to economic prosperity. They agreed to work together, in support of New Zealand’s hosting of APEC in 2021 and beyond, for a sustainable and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes the immediate need to remove barriers to trade in vaccines and medical supplies in the region.
- The Prime Ministers affirmed their strong support for open rules-based trade that is based on market principles. They expressed concern over harmful economic coercion and agreed to work with partners to tackle security and economic challenges.
Indo-Pacific and Global security
- New Zealand and Australia stand together in facing a challenging global environment. The Prime Ministers discussed responses to increasing pressure on the international rules-based system and rising protectionism, and agreed on the need for coordinated regional and global action on issues such as human rights and climate change.
- The Prime Ministers reiterated their shared commitment to support an Indo-Pacific region of sovereign, resilient and prosperous states, with robust regional institutions and strong respect for international rules and norms, and where sovereign states can pursue their interests free from coercion. To this end, they committed to continue their close coordination and cooperation, as allies and partners, on current and emerging economic, security and environmental challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.
- The Prime Ministers reaffirmed the benefits of open markets and inclusive regional economic integration in the Indo-Pacific. They expressed their commitment to promoting ratification and implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), as well as to negotiating the upgrade and modernisation of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA).
- The Prime Ministers agreed to continue working collaboratively, bilaterally, and with our partners in the Indo-Pacific region, to uphold sovereignty in an era of increasing strategic competition. The Prime Ministers reaffirmed their resolve and shared respective approaches to countering foreign interference and agreed the importance of building resilience across all sectors of society, including in education, infrastructure, research, electoral processes, media and communities.
- The Prime Ministers expressed serious concern over developments in the South China Sea, including the continued militarisation of disputed features and an intensification of destabilising activities at sea. The Prime Ministers further underscored the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight. They emphasised that maritime zones must accord with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and called on all parties to respect and implement decisions rendered through UNCLOS dispute settlement mechanisms. The Prime Ministers reiterated the importance of the South China Sea Code of Conduct being consistent with international law, particularly UNCLOS; not prejudicing the rights and interests of third parties; and supporting existing, inclusive regional architecture.
- The Prime Ministers expressed deep concern over developments that limit the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong and undermine the high degree of autonomy China guaranteed Hong Kong until 2047 under the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The Prime Ministers also expressed grave concerns about the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and called upon China to respect the human rights of the Uyghur people and other Muslim minorities and to grant the United Nations and other independent observers meaningful and unfettered access to the region.
- The Prime Ministers also expressed grave concerns about the ongoing crisis in Myanmar, and its implications for regional stability. They condemned the violence being perpetrated against the people of Myanmar and called on the military regime to exercise restraint, refrain from further violence, release all those arbitrarily detained, and engage in dialogue. The Prime Ministers underscored their strong support for ASEAN-led efforts to chart a course out of the current crisis and urged implementation of the five points of consensus on the situation in Myanmar, agreed at the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting on 24 April, as soon as possible.
- The Prime Ministers agreed North Korea’s continued development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions posed a serious threat to international peace and stability. They reiterated their commitment to working together and with partners to strictly enforce sanctions against North Korea until it took concrete steps towards complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation. They urged North Korea to prioritise improving the lives of its citizens over its weapons programs and to return to the path of dialogue, diplomacy and negotiation.
- The Prime Ministers welcomed the ceasefire in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank and called on all parties to ensure it holds. They also expressed deep concern at the recent violence including the significant civilian death toll, particularly children. The Prime Ministers reiterated the importance of a return to direct and genuine negotiations as soon as possible, with a view to defining a durable and permanent peace agreement that results in a two state solution. The Prime Ministers said it is imperative that the cycle of violence and bloodshed ceases and does not resume.
- The Prime Ministers reiterated their unwavering commitment to achieving a world without weapons of mass destruction (WMD), recognising the challenges posed to international peace and security by the slow pace of nuclear disarmament and by the proliferation of WMD. They also expressed concern at Iran’s uranium enrichment activities but welcomed the progress of talks on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which they hoped would lead to a resumption of its full implementation by all parties.
- The Prime Ministers acknowledged the 60th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty entering into force, and emphasised the Antarctic Treaty System provides an effective and enduring international governance framework for Antarctica. The Prime Ministers welcomed the continued cooperation between New Zealand and Australia in support of peace, science, and environmental protection in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.
- The Prime Ministers acknowledged the enduring strength and breadth of the defence partnership. They reaffirmed the enduring importance of working together as allies and partners to support the international rules-based order and a sovereign, secure, and resilient Pacific. They reaffirmed their mutual commitment to the 2018 Joint Statement on Closer Defence Relations, and acknowledged the mutual support provided during times of crisis. They reiterated their shared commitment to advance interoperability, including through continued collaboration on Defence capability and force design, for combined operations across the full spectrum of our shared security challenges.
- The Prime Ministers acknowledged the conclusion of Australia and New Zealand’s twenty-year deployments to Afghanistan in 2021. Both nations can be proud of our contribution to the fight against terrorism and support for the development of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. Australia and New Zealand remain steadfast in supporting Afghanistan as the country enters a new phase.
- The Prime Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the Christchurch Call to Action and its goal to eliminate terrorist and violent extremism content online. The Prime Ministers acknowledged the recent Christchurch Call Second Anniversary Leaders’ Virtual Summit, and reiterated their resolve to ensure a free, open and secure internet, while upholding human rights and protecting fundamental freedoms online.