Australian High Commission
New Zealand

High Commissioner: A Roadmap for the future: Taking the Trans-Tasman relationship forward

Address to New Zealand Institute of International Affairs

H E Harinder Sidhu, Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand

17 August 2023, Christchurch

A Roadmap for the future: Taking the Trans-Tasman relationship forward



E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā karangataha maha,

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

Good evening to you all.

It’s a pleasure to be here this evening. I’d like to thank the NZIIA for hosting this event and inviting me to speak.


I’m delighted to be back in Christchurch. This is my third official visit to Christchurch as High Commissioner, though I have enjoyed visiting the garden city over many years.

It’s an exciting time to be an Australian diplomat in New Zealand. 2023 has so far been a significant year for the Trans-Tasman relationship.

This year, our two countries celebrate a trifecta of anniversaries - 40 years of the Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (CER), 50 years of the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement and 80 years of diplomatic representation.

We have celebrated these anniversaries in different ways throughout the year, culminating in the visit by Prime Minister Albanese to Wellington just two weeks ago.

Remarkably, this was the fifth meeting of our Prime Ministers in the past year. I don’t need to tell this audience, but it is quite something for two leaders to invest in a relationship to this degree.


Beyond Prime Ministerial contact, nine different Australian ministers have visited New Zealand since May 2022[1] and countless New Zealand ministers have travelled across the Tasman.  

In June, our Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Hon Chris Bowen, visited Christchurch on the back of the inaugural dialogue between Climate and Finance ministers, to learn about some of the innovative work underway in this city on making the transition to net zero.

Of course, there is more to the trans-Tasman relationship than official exchanges, important as they are.

What’s been great about this year has been the success of our collaboration on sport.  Our co-hosting of the FIFA Women’s World Cup has been a wonderful example of what we can achieve on the world stage when we join forces. And I’ve been heartened by the many Kiwis who have supported the Matildas in the Quarter and Semi-finals of the Cup.

Like the anniversaries we celebrate, we tend to go to our shared history when we think about our relationship.

But any dynamic relationship must also look to the future.

And that’s where I would like to focus my address to you all this evening.


A Roadmap for the Future


When the CER was created 40 years ago, we faced significant trade hurdles and headwinds.  In response to that, we came up with the audacious idea of unilaterally removing the trade and economic barriers across the Tasman.

It not only drove stronger efficiencies in our economies, it also gave us the basis to argue credibly for trade liberalisation elsewhere in the world. This one act has paid off many times over in the decades since, creating significant economic prosperity for our people.

Today, Australia is New Zealand’s second-largest trading partner, and largest source of foreign direct investment by a large margin.

New Zealand is likewise a significant economic partner for us – our 8th largest export market and fourth largest destination for investment.

In 2022, our relationship was worth over $NZD 29billion in trade value alone.[2] Two-way investment between Australia and New Zealand now stands at $243 billion (NZD).[3]

In short, the CER was a triumph of collaboration over competition.

But the world we face today is very different to 1983. Where economic risks were paramount then, our risks today are strategic as well as economic. This is a critical juncture for our relationship.

I’m sure this audience will be more than aware of the issues we face.

Growing geostrategic competition, economic coercion, and challenges to the rules based system all pose risks to the basis of Australia and New Zealand’s liberty, security and prosperity.

Recognising that we do better when we work together, our two Prime Ministers in July launched a  Trans Tasman Roadmap to 2035.

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”.

In a relationship as broad and deep as ours, it’s important to articulate where we will focus our efforts. 

The Roadmap identifies five pillars where we believe New Zealand and Australia can work together to make a positive difference, both to the welfare of our own countries and to our region:

  • Economic cooperation, trade and climate change
  • Stronger collaboration on security and defence
  • Working together in the Pacific
  • Upholding our shared values and principles; and
  • Strengthening our people-to-people links.

Allow me to briefly step through each of these in turn.

1.Sustainable, inclusive and prosperous economies


The economic pillar recognises that the global economy, and the economic challenges we now face, are far more complex than those in 1983.

Protectionism is on the rise.  It is getting more difficult to secure gains under free trade agreement negotiations.

Today, our economic interests extend well beyond trade.  They span investment, regulatory environments, business conditions, immigration and labour policy, infrastructure and the movement of people.

Gender equality and growing links with indigenous businesses are all now important features of economic relationships.

We will continue to extend the Single Economic Market and facilitate a seamless business environment under the CER.

But modernising our economic relationship also means incorporating all these broader elements. And we’ve already taken a step forward here - just last Friday, our Trade Ministers issued a Declaration on Sustainable and Inclusive Trade.

Today, climate change is as much an economic, as an environmental or moral imperative. So it is up front as a key part of our economic partnership under the Roadmap.

To illustrate what this looks like, in June, we held the world’s first-ever meeting of our respective Climate and Finance Ministers. 

At that meeting, our Ministers agreed to coordinate efforts to produce and supply electric and zero emission vehicles into the Australasian market, and to work to align sustainable finance networks across the Tasman.

It is by joining our forces together in this way that we can generate benefits for both our countries in ways that address the demands of modern economies.\


2.Security and resilience


The second and security pillar of the Roadmap recognises that our partnership is also a strategic asset.

Fundamentally, there is no other country that Australia trusts as much as we do New Zealand. This is because we know each other so well. 

When we speak of our shared history and values, what that means in reality is that we each see the world in a similar way. And we both aspire to the same things.

What do we aspire to?

For our part, Australia seeks an Indo-Pacific region which is peaceful and predictable, that is governed by rules and norms, where all our countries and peoples can cooperate, trade and thrive.

However, we now live in a region where those aims are under challenge.

The Indo-Pacific region is home to the largest military build-up anywhere in the world, with limited transparency and reassurance. Across the region, defence spending has grown by 33% in the past 10 years.

Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine – which both our nations have vehemently condemned – illustrates what can happen when larger powers seek to exercise their power against smaller ones in defiance of international law.

Australia is responding by using all levers of our statecraft to positively shape our region, and to deter aggression and coercion.

This means striking a careful balance between investing in our defence capability to strengthen deterrence as well as engaging in active diplomacy to provide strategic reassurance to our partners in our region.

We recognise that no country can face the scale and range of these challenges alone.

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.

To this end, we welcome the recent release of New Zealand’s defence review which places a high priority on maintaining our interoperability.

Beyond defence, the Roadmap identifies where we will cooperate with New Zealand across the entire suite of security concern.  It includes collaboration between our national security agencies, and working together on transnational threats including terrorism, violent extremism, foreign interference, mis/disinformation and cyber attacks.

3.Active partners in the Pacific


Our economic and security cooperation extends beyond the Tasman to our region in the Pacific.

Both Australia and New Zealand are Pacific nations. It’s where we live. Our future success is tied to that of our region.

The Roadmap spells out the many ways in which we both work together with partners in the Pacific. 

It also recognises that how we partner matters as much as what we deliver.

Australia and New Zealand already do a lot together in the Pacific. 

For example, we both are members of regional organisations, and we have a long-standing commitment to providing swift and effective responses to emergency and disaster situations.

Over many years we have also provided support in specific situations on where needed, for example to the Government of the Solomon Islands to preserve security and stability.

Despite this, we can and should do more together to leverage our assets and resources to respond to Pacific priorities. This includes, for example, in supporting climate resilient infrastructure or supporting economic resilience of Pacific countries.

Just last week Australia launched its new International Development Policy – the first in almost a decade – in which, as you’d expect, the Pacific is front and centre.

I spoke earlier about defence and diplomacy as core elements of our statecraft – our development program, is another critical component in building the stable, secure and resilient region we each seek – 3 ‘D’s if you like.

While I’d encourage you to read the new policy, let me just draw out a few salient points.

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.


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


Each of the areas I’ve spelled out so far, whether it is climate change or pacific cooperation, is large and complex in its own right. 

Translating this ambition to meaningful action and delivery will take serious commitment on both sides.  It will reshape our relationship in new ways into the future.

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.

We will continue to support multilateral forums, such as the U.N and WTO, and we will continue to promote respect for human rights globally.

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.

It is the personal connections which provide the truly unique character to our relationship, and bind us family. Today, nearly 700,000 New Zealanders call Australia home.

So many Australians and New Zealanders have experience working, doing business, holidaying, studying, living, visiting family and friends in each other’s countries.

These links are what makes our relationship so strong and dynamic. We are committed to nurturing our people links on the basis of mutual respect and reciprocity.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Albanese announced a direct pathway to Australian citizenship for those New Zealanders who already call Australia home. As of July 1st, New Zealand citizens living in Australia have had a direct pathway to Australian citizenship.

In response to New Zealand’s concerns, the Australian Government also amended our regulations to take a ‘common sense’ approach to 501 visa cancellations, taking into account how long someone has lived in Australia.

Increasingly, we are both working to recognise and support the value our Indigenous peoples bring to the Trans-Tasman Relationship.

In Australia, when we speak of our people, we speak of a nation that is home to the oldest continuous civilisation in the world – our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – and over 300 ancestries that link us to every corner of the earth.

The Australian Government has committed to holding a Referendum later this year on the principle of recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution through an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

The government is also developing a First Nations Foreign Policy, to reflect Indigenous voices in our national identity.  

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.

As I read with keen interest the various foreign and strategic policy documents issued by the New Zealand Government in recent weeks, I recognise that you, like us, are working to map a path that works for your country in articulating and responding to the challenges we face.

Like us, you also place a strong emphasis on working with partners. We welcome and share your view on the importance of close alignment between Australia and New Zealand.

Today, the trust between our two countries is more than a feature of our relationship. It is also a strategic asset. Just as we did with the CER 40 years ago, we are now entering a new phase of the relationship.

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.

But what will be key is a sense of common purpose, and a spirit of collaboration.

The Roadmap is one key document that provides us with this common vision.  It is a recipe for collaboration. And it is a recipe for the future.

I look forward very much to working with our New Zealand colleagues to translating that vision to reality, for the benefit of all of us.

Thank you.


No reira,

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.


  • [1] Senator the Hon Penny Wong, Minster for Foreign Affairs, June 2022; Senator the Hon Don Farrell, Minister for Trade and Tourism, October 2022’ Hon Anika Wells, Minister for Aged Care and Sport, October 2022; Hon Clare O’Neil, Minister of Home Affairs, November 2022 and June 2023; Hon Richard Marles, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence , April 2023; Hon Chris Bowen, Minister for Climate Change and Energy, June 2023; Hon Dr Jim Chalmers, Treasurer, June 2023; Senator the Hon Tim Ayres, Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing, July 2023; Assistant Minister Kearney will travel for a Food Ministers’ Meeting 27-29 July.


[2], year end 2022, Australia.