Australia Day Reception hosted by Australian Consulate-General Opening Remarks
Australian High Commissioner, H E Ms Harinder Sidhu
9 February 2023
E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā karangataha maha
Tēnā koutou katoa
Nau mai, haere mai ki te kaupapa nei
No Inia oku tipuna,
I whanau mai ahau ki Hingapoa, engari i tipu mai ahau ki te whenua moemoea
Ko Harinder Sidhu tōku ingoa
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
A very warm welcome to you all to this event, to commemorate Australia Day
I want to thank Consul-General Brad Williams, Fiona Hart and the whole of his amazing team here in Auckland for bringing us together this evening.
And I want to acknowledge so many of you who have faced challenges in recent weeks as a result of the awful floods in Auckland. It means all the more that you have, so soon after this disaster, been able to come along and attend this evening.
I know that I am among friends of Australia, and I want to thank you all at the outset for your support and the contributions you all make to strengthening the relationship between Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.
Two days ago, I was in Canberra welcoming Prime Minister Hipkins on his very first international visit, to meet Prime Minister Albanese.
It was, as you can imagine, a very warm meeting. There is something about our shared outlooks that mean that when we meet, we move very quickly to a comfortable friendship. And I saw this in action on Tuesday.
At their press conference after their meeting, Prime Minister Albanese opened with the words: “New Zealand and Australia are family.”
I cannot think of another country where our PM would describe the relationship in these terms.
It is unique.
And it underpins everything we do in the relationshipthe kinds of things we are celebrating this year - the 40th anniversary of the Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement - still far and away the deepest and most wide-ranging trade bilateral trade agreement anywhere.
Against the tide of rising protectionism in the world, our two countries continue - through the Australia-NZ Leadership Forum, for instance (credit Greg Lowe and Fiona Cooper) - to find new and creative ways to remove obstacles to trade at our borders. There is scope to modernise that relationship, of course, into new areas of engagement, for example on digital trade, climate change and the energy revolution.
We also celebrate this year the 50th anniversary of the Trans Tasman Travel Arrangement, which allowed free movement of citizens between our two countries. This was at the time a groundbreaking arrangement, pre-dating the EU’s Schengen Agreement by a full 12 years!
We take the right to travel to and live in each other’s countries so much for granted that it is little wonder we are surprised when we are reminded that it doesn’t mean we have all the rights of citizens in each others’ countries.
As a matter of principle, the Government is of the view that we should do all we can - within our existing policy settings - to meet the spirit of the TTTA. This is why in recent weeks the Australian Government has directed that decision makers apply ‘common sense’ in making decisions on visa cancellations under s.501 of the Migration Act, to take into account a person’s links to their country of citizenship.
And why we are considering what more we can do to smooth the pathway to citizenship for Kiwis who are living in Australia.
The people ties we have extend far and wide. We are working now to bring our indigenous people and culture closer together.
One way we are doing that is through cultural outreach, including at the Auckland Arts Festival.
The signature event is Sandsong: Stories from the Great Sandy Desert, performed by the outstanding Bangarra Dance Theatre - Australia’s premier indigenous contemporary dance company. They really are outstanding and are playing from 15 - 18 March at the ASB Waterfront Theatre - and I would encourage you to attend and bring your friends, colleagues and guests along for what will be an amazing evening.
We’ve circulated copies of the Auckland Arts Festival program around the room. Feel free to take those with you and get along to support the arts in Australia and NZ.
Finally, this year we are celebrating 80 years of our diplomatic relationship.
It is mostly the case that diplomatic relations are about what each country does in the other. Trade, cultural relations, visits and exchanges.
With New Zealand, more than with any country, it is as much about what we do together. Over my diplomatic career, I know that wherever I have gone - be it in another country or in the WTO or UN, my Kiwi colleagues are who I reach out to first. We share our ideas, thinking and efforts to get things done.
Perhaps at no time is this partnership more vital than it is now. It’s not that our region has always been benign - far from it. But it is now facing multiple challenges - recovering from Covid, climate change and strategic competition.
Australia and NZ are working ever more closely together, especially in the Pacific, in a shared endeavour to help support its resilience, combat climate change and unite as a region to manage political currents from a position of strength.
And all of this can happen because of the level of trust we have in each other. Because of our shared histories. Because of our shared values - in democracy, human rights and freedom of choice and action.
Because we are family.
So on this celebration of our relationship, I would like to propose a toast
To His Majesty King Charles the Third and to the Government and people of New Zealand
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.