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Jacinda Ardern wraps up Australian visit after warm welcome from Labor government

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern received a warm welcome during her visit to Australia this week.

It was Ms Ardern’s second trip across the Tasman since the Albanese Labor government was elected on May 21.

A smiling Ms Ardern was photographed with Anthony Albanese and some of their respective cabinet ministers after they gathered at the first Australia-New Zealand Leaders Meeting on Friday.

While Ms Ardern maintained an effective working relationship with former prime minister Scott Morrison, she’s likely to have much more in common ideologically with Mr Albanese and his MPs.

That’s because the Australian Prime Minister and Ms Ardern respectively lead the centre-left Labor and Labour governments, in contrast to the more conservative Coalition government helmed by Mr Morrison.

AUSTRALIA-NZ LEADERS MEETING
Camera IconNew Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern along with key ministers during the Australia-New Zealand Leaders’ Meeting. NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short Credit: News Corp Australia

Ms Ardern last month became the first foreign leader to visit Australia after Mr Albanese’s election victory.

The two prime ministers appear to have found common ground, not only on their respective political philosophies, but on taking action on climate change and the way they engage with their Pacific neighbours.

Australia’s controversial “501” deportation policy was a major sticking point between Ms Ardern and Mr Albanese’s predecessor in the top job.

The policy has been used primarily to deport New Zealand citizens with criminal convictions, even if they have lived their entire lives in Australia.

It has been a source of tension between the two countries since it was introduced by the Australian Coalition government in 2014.

AUSTRALIA-NZ LEADERS MEETING
Camera IconA smiling Ms Ardern was photographed with Anthony Albanese and some of their respective cabinet ministers. NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short Credit: News Corp Australia

Scott Morrison and Ms Ardern publicly clashed over the policy a couple of years ago, when the New Zealand prime minister called for Australia to “stop exporting” people.

“Australia is well within its rights to deport individuals who break your laws, New Zealand does the same,” Ms Ardern said in a press conference at the time.

“But we have a simple request; send back Kiwis, genuine Kiwis. Do not deport your people and your problems.”

Ms Ardern and Mr Albanese have taken a big step towards resolving the disagreement after their bilateral talks this week.

Mr Albanese said on Friday his government would apply “common sense” to the “501” policy, so that people who had not real relationship with New Zealand wouldn’t necessarily be deported.

He and Ms Ardern have also agreed to work on reducing the barriers to citizenship for New Zealanders in Australia, with a plan to be handed down by Anzac Day next year.

AUS NZ JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE
Camera IconMs Ardern and Mr Albanese made a number of major announcements on Friday. NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short Credit: News Corp Australia

Mr Albanese also announced his government would consider giving New Zealanders living and working in Australia the right to vote in its elections.

Mr Albanese said he would ask a parliamentary committee to consider the change, as part of the “normal review process” that occurs after a federal election in Australia.

Their joint press conference wrapped up Ms Ardern’s official duties in Sydney. She spent Wednesday to Friday in the NSW capital, accompanied by a delegation of kiwi business leaders.

While there, she gave a major speech on foreign policy to the Lowy Institute in which she encouraged greater co-operation in the Pacific and lashed the United Nations’ “failed” response to the war in Ukraine.

She also met with NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet to continue a round of trade talks with state leaders and business representatives.

Ms Ardern began the week in Melbourne, where she met with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. The two leaders expressed support for greater collaboration on infrastructure and Covid-19 management.

Ms Ardern’s visit signals a “reset” between Wellington and Canberra and Pacific allies.

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