Australian High Commission
New Zealand

High Commissioner: Trans-Tasman Partnership - Pacific, Climate and Security, 11 October 2023

Trans-Tasman Partnership - Pacific, Climate and Security

Panel Discussion at University of Waikato, Hamilton

11 October 2023

Opening remarks by Australian High Commissioner, H E Harinder Sidhu


E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā karangataha maha,
Tēnā koutou katoa.
Ko au te māngai o te whenua moemoeā
Ko Harinder Sidhu toku ingoa
Nō reira,
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. 
Thank you all for being here today - and thank you to the University of Waikato for hosting this session.
Thank you, Professor Gillespie, for your kind introduction and for moderating today’s panel.
Professor White and Dr Hemi, it’s a privilege to be here on the panel with you. I look forward to hearing your insights and to the discussion.
It’s such a pleasure to be here on my very first visit to Kirikiriroa (kih-ree-kih-ree-roh-a)/Hamilton, and ‘the mighty Waikato’.
In traditional trans-Tasman fashion, I was hoping to start off with some rugby banter. But given Australia’s now out of the World Cup, we can probably skip that part.
But in all seriousness, I do wish the All Blacks the very best of luck on the weekend in the Quarter Finals against Ireland.

A Roadmap for the Future

The breadth of the issues we are discussing today – the Pacific, climate and security – illustrate just how wide and deep the trans-Tasman relationship is. 

What has been most striking to me since taking up my role as High Commissioner is just how deeply interwoven our two countries are.
Our historical links are many and worth celebrating. This year alone we mark a trifecta of anniversaries – the 40th anniversary of the Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (CER), the 50th anniversary of the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement and the 80th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic representation.
Today, there is virtually no issue, no policy, no activity in government, business or elsewhere, where we do not connect with other in some way.
It’s fair to say that these connections have built a deep trust between our two countries.  In a crisis, we would want to have the other by our side.
This kind of relationship is unique in diplomatic terms; I can think of few others like it.  In a world that is becoming ever more complex and challenging, it is also a valuable asset, one worth investing in.
But because the Trans-Tasman relationship is so interconnected, we also are at times confounded when we try to articulate what the future together might look like.  What’s important? Everything.  Where do we need to focus our efforts? Everywhere.
This is perhaps why the Trans-Tasman Roadmap to 2035, launched by our Prime Ministers in July, has had such resonance.
It defines five areas where Australia and New Zealand will work to build and strengthen our relationship.
The Roadmap is more than just another diplomatic declaration.
It is a statement of where and how we will work together as we face a changing world and a more uncertain future.
It aims, in the words of Prime Minister Albanese, to make our partnership “fit for the modern era”.
Looking at the world we face over the next decade, the Roadmap defines five key areas where Australia and New Zealand can work together, not just to strengthen and benefit our nations, but also to better deliver support for nations in our region – primarily the Pacific.
These themes intersect neatly with the themes of our panel discussion today, so let me briefly run through them for you.


1.Sustainable, inclusive and prosperous economies

Both our countries are grappling with multiple economic challenges at present – a softening global economy, rising protectionism and economic shocks as a result of climate change and other events.

Climate change is as much an economic, as an environmental challenge for us as we work to transform our economies to meet our mitigation targets.
For our part, Australia has legislated emissions reduction targets of 43% below 2005 levels by 2030, up from 26-28%.
The scale of the economic transformation we need is clear when you consider that that increased target is equivalent to eliminating emissions from Australia's entire transport or agriculture sectors, en route to Net Zero by 2050.
New Zealand likewise has strong climate targets in place.
So it’s unsurprising that we would want to work together.  In June this year, we held the world’s first-ever meeting of our respective Climate and Finance Ministers.  
The Ministers saw great potential for us to work together on decarbonising public services, climate-related disclosures, procurement and in joining forces to support the uptake of zero emissions vehicles, among other things.
A couple of months later, in August, our Trade Ministers released a Declaration committing to cooperation on sustainable and inclusive trade, in support of our transitions to net zero emissions.
And, similarly, we have placed a high priority under the Roadmap in supporting Pacific priorities on climate adaptation, energy security, disaster risk reduction, food security, biosecurity and fisheries management.

2.Security and resilience

Countries like Australia and New Zealand benefit from an Indo-Pacific region which is peaceful and predictable, that is governed by agreed rules and norms, where we and our peoples can cooperate, trade and thrive.

However, we now live in a region where those rules and norms are under threat.
Australia’s approach has been to deploy all our tools of statecraft and to balance deterrence with strategic reassurance, to strengthen our security and that of our region.
But we recognise that no country can face the scale and range of these challenges alone. Which is why we seek to work closely with trusted partners.
Australia and New Zealand have a long history of security cooperation. We are also formal military allies. So, New Zealand is a vital partner for us.  Interoperability between our defence forces is a crucial asset and one we are keen to preserve.
We have welcomed the recent release of security policy statements, including its Defence Review, which places a high priority on partnership with Australia.

3.Active partners in the Pacific

 The third pillar of the Roadmap commits us to active partnership in the Pacific.

We are both Pacific nations with long-standing and deep links to the region. And we have a long history of working together in the Pacific.
The Roadmap recognises that how we partner matters as much as what we deliver.
Central to our shared interests is the core regional institution, the Pacific Islands Forum.
As our Foreign Minister Penny Wong told the United Nations General Assembly three weeks ago, Australia, as a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, believes in Pacific sovereignty and solidarity.
And it’s important our Pacific counterparts see this in action.
Australia recently launched its new International Development Policy – the first in almost a decade – in which, as you’d expect, the Pacific is front and centre.
The policy reinforces the importance of starting with listening to the priorities and needs of our partners in the Pacific when we design our development assistance programs.
Part of this respect is a commitment to take action not just at home but regionally and globally.
Very clearly, climate change is the number one priority for the Pacific region, as is gender equality.
The new development policy commits to ensuring at least half of all new bilateral and regional investments will have a climate change objective from 2024-25. And we have reinforced our target that 80 per cent of all investments also meet a gender equality objective.
Perhaps drawing us a bit closer to New Zealand’s approach, the new development policy commits us to building genuine and respectful partnerships, supporting local leadership and embedding the perspectives of First Nations in our efforts.  
What this does is open up much greater scope for both Australia and New Zealand to partner meaningfully with and in the Pacific.

4 & 5 The ‘Foundational’ pillars of the Roadmap – Values and People

 The areas we’ve discussed so far -climate change, security and pacific partnership are each large and complex in their own right.

What gives me confidence that Australia and New Zealand can achieve this ambition is embedded in the final two pillars of the Roadmap.
It’s what I call the ‘secret sauce’ of the trans-Tasman relationship.  That is, our shared values and our deep people links.
On the first, both our nations have long been active supporters of the rules based order.  Those rules and norms that govern us and that have allowed both our countries to prosper, thrive and trade – and avoid a ‘might is right’ approach.
For our efforts to succeed in in the world, we need to continue our work to uphold and champion this system together, guided by international law, as it comes under increasing strain.
And we need to draw others in with us along the way. 
As a concrete example, New Zealand has supported Australia’s bid to host COP31 in partnership with the Pacific. Hosting COP 31 reflects not just our commitment to climate action at home and internationally.  It also reflects our support for Pacific engagement in the multilateral system – and helping, where we can, to amplify the Pacific voice internationally.
Which brings me to our people links, the fifth and final pillar of the Roadmap. 
Ours is not just a relationship between two governments. Ours is a relationship between two peoples.
This is beautifully captured in the Māori whakatauki which says:
He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
(What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people)
Around 700,000 Kiwis live in Australia, contributing their work, skill and ingenuity to our society.  Many Australians and New Zealanders have family or other links in the other country.  It is the backbone of the relationship.
Which is why in April this year our government announced a direct pathway to citizenship for New Zealanders who had been resident in Australia for four years or more, making it simpler for them to access the full range of benefits and rights available to any other Australian.
It is people along with their values and principles that enable the relationships that underpin our cooperation in the Pacific, including on climate and security.
We are both working to recognise and support the value our Indigenous peoples bring to the Trans-Tasman Relationship.
Australia is looking closely to New Zealand as we seek to develop a First Nations Foreign Policy, to reflect Indigenous voices in our national identity and be more inclusive of our Indigenous people in our trade agreements.
The appointment of Mr Justin Mohamed as Australia’s inaugural Ambassador for First Nations People is an important step towards elevating the perspectives of First Nations people – Australia’s first diplomats.
We recognise that strengthening our indigenous connection also has benefits further afield, enabling deeper engagement with many of our closest partners, including the Pacific family.


Prime Minister Albanese has described this as a “decisive decade for peace, prosperity, security and unity in the Indo-Pacific”.

Both our governments recognise that we face a world not just of increasing challenge, but also of increasing complexity.
Our task is to find a way beyond simple binaries to grapple with this complexity and, in the process, also find the opportunities it presents.
And each of us needs to do this in our own way.
We do not seek to be identical. Our unity of purpose does not mean uniformity of approach. What makes us different can also be a strength.
Thank you for coming today and for your time. I look forward to hearing from the other panellists and our discussion.
Nō reira,
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.