Morrison and Ardern to talk crime, coronavirus and managing their coalition partners


Prime Minister Scott Morrison may be hoping Ms Ardern will provide a similarly steadying force, not to mention some refracted starlight, when they come together for their annual leaders’ meeting in Sydney on Friday.

Ms Ardern graced the cover of Time magazine this month, and has been feted as widely as at the United Nations in New York and on Stephen Colbert’s late-night talk show.

But despite her popularity abroad, domestically she faces criticism for her handling of a political donations scandal embroiling her coalition partner NZ First, led by nationalist-populist Winston Peters.

Ms Ardern is also under pressure for not making great progress on commitments to tackle child poverty and housing affordability, ahead of September’s general election.

She is also under fire for not standing down Mr Peters, who has publicly intimidated journalists reporting on the donations scandal, being investigated by New Zealand’s Serious Fraud Office.

“I had nothing to do with this and I’m not going to stand here and explain it or defend it because it’s not for me,” Ms Ardern has said.

Behind the scenes, Mr Morrison and Ms Ardern may bond over the difficulties of managing their idiosyncratic junior coalition partners.

Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison (left) and Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern meet in Melbourne in July 2019.Credit:AAP

But their official business will focus on the vexed issue of Australia’s deportation to New Zealand of their citizens who have lived in Australia most of their lives.

“This is a running sore for Kiwis,” said Luke Malpass, the political editor of the Dominion Post.

“Australia has exported a crime wave to New Zealand of people who are effectively Australians but never got their piece of paper. Gang numbers have gone up significantly over the last two or three years.”

New Zealand’s crime management problem clashes with Australia’s tough-border stance and is a source of conflict in an otherwise close relationship.

Other topics of conversation are likely to be coronavirus management, trade and the rise of China in the Pacific.

While Ms Ardern has previously said Australia would have “to answer” to the rest of the Pacific for its climate policies, she is likely to tread carefully this visit.

“She doesn’t want to come across as lecturing the Australian government,” Mr Malpass said.

On Friday Ms Ardern will be officially welcomed by Governor-General David Hurley at Admiralty House. Mr Morrison will meet her there for their talk.

Both prime ministers will witness the signing of an Indigenous Collaboration Arrangement between Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt and the New Zealand Minister of Maori Development Nanaia Mahuta. They will hold a short joint press conference before Ms Ardern departs.

Commentators have noted the favourable press Ms Ardern has received internationally, but in Australia, it’s been mixed.

In 2018 60 Minutes journalist Charles Wooley did an interview with Ms Ardern and partner Clarke Gayford in which he calculated the date of conception for their baby, Neve.

And last year 2GB shock jock Alan Jones was widely condemned for an on-air tirade against Ms Ardern, during which he declared Mr Morrison should “shove a sock down her throat”.

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