Spat hits trans-Tasman ties

Labour blasts Bishop’s ‘false claims’ Wedged between Ayers Rock and NZ: Ardern

Jacinda Ardern
Barnaby Joyce
Julie Bishop

Regardless of what Australia’s foreign minister says, nothing is going to get in the way of New Zealand Labour’s relationship with its closest neighbour, Jacinda Ardern says.
“Politics is a constant rock and a hard place I’m currently wedged between Ayers Rock and New Zealand,” Ms Ardern joked in Christchurch today.
Yesterday she called an urgent meeting with outgoing Australian High Commissioner Peter Woolcott to express her disappointment in claims by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop that she would find it difficult to trust a potential Labour government.
“I certainly made it clear that I don’t want this situation to get in the way of the important relationship between Australia and New Zealand and that’s why it was so important to me yesterday to send that message clearly and directly to the Australian High Commission and the minister directly,” Ms Ardern said.
Ms Bishop’s comments added to the strain on trans-Tasman relations caused by claims of foreign governments conspiring after it was revealed former Labour staffer turned Australian Labor Party staffer Marcus Ganley asked MP Chris Hipkins questions about New Zealand citizenship.
The answers to those questions, asked of Internal Affairs by Mr Hipkins and Australian media, ultimately led to the reveal that Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was a New Zealand citizen.
“I do know Marcus. I worked in the Beehive at the same time the he did,” Ms Ardern said today.
Mr Ganley was an adviser to former finance minister Michael Cullen.
Mr Ganley and Mr Hipkins both say it was a general conversation between friends and not an official request from the ALP that led Mr Hipkins to ask the questions that he now acknowledges were inappropriate.
Yesterday, Ms Ardern accused
Ms Bishop of making “false claims” while declaring she would find it difficult to trust a New Zealand Labour government.
Ms Ardern says she was willing to speak to Ms Bishop about her concerns over dealing with New Zealand Labour if it forms government after September’s election.
“I would find it very difficult to build trust with members of a political party that had been used by the Australian Labor Party to seek to undermine the Australian government,” Ms Bishop said in Canberra yesterday.
Ms Ardern initially took to Twitter to blast the “disappointing and false claims” of collusion between Labour and the ALP, before going further, offering to speak directly with
Ms Bishop.
“I have been utterly transparent about this situation. I had no knowledge about the parliamentary questions lodged by Chris Hipkins MP,” she said.
“I greatly value New Zealand’s relationship with the Australian Government. I will not let false claims stand in the way of that relationship.”
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters was also expected to meet with Mr Woolcott, telling reporters he intended to get in first to try to fix the relationship.
Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee has backed her comments as a “perfectly reasonable reaction”.
He said it was the questions from an ALP supporter via Mr Hipkins that were “clearly designed to remove a government supporter in Australia” that was “the bigger problem”.
He also pointed out that a yet-to-be-implemented proposal by the Australian government that could see New Zealand students pay more for university education was also unhelpful to the relationship between the two countries.
Mr Ganley spoke to Mr Hipkins about citizenship law in recent weeks but did not mention Mr Joyce.
Mr Hipkins subsequently asked questions about Australia-New Zealand citizenship laws in the New Zealand Parliament. There was no specific reference in the question to Mr Joyce, nor was Mr Hipkins aware of any issue relating to the Australian deputy prime minister.
The New Zealand Minister of Internal Affairs Peter Dunne said any suggestion Mr Hipkins instigated the issue was”utter nonsense”.
“They were not the instigator. Australian media inquiries were,”
Mr Dunne tweeted. AAP

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