Australian High Commission
New Zealand

High Commissioner: The Trans-Tasman relationship – an Australian perspective

'The Trans-Tasman relationship – an Australian perspective’


Address by:

H E Harinder Sidhu, Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand

to Epsom Community Meeting, Remuera Club


22 June 2023



Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

It’s a genuine pleasure to join you all today.

I want to thank David for the invitation to speak and for bringing us together.

And to everybody here – members of the community, interested observers, perhaps a dual Australian-NZ citizen or two – thank you for being here.

Since I arrived here just over a year ago, one thing has stood out loud and clear, and that’s the power of the deep connections between our communities.

Everywhere I go, almost everyone has a story that connects them – personally – in some way to Australia.  This might apply to many of you in this room too, and I look forward to speaking with you later on.

Overwhelmingly, the personal connections are deeply positive ones –of working, studying, living, holidaying or having family in Australia.

And it’s little wonder.  Around 670,000 New Zealand citizens live in Australia, and around 70,000 Australians live in New Zealand.

Our geography, proximity and shared history and values form the foundation of a truly unique and enduring relationship. 

The trans-Tasman relationship is in a class of its own. It transcends the formalities I often see between two countries. Indeed, it transcends friendship because Australia and New Zealand are family. 

As with any family, we are not necessarily the same.

But as with families, we are there for each other.

We are the first to lend each other a hand in times of need. 

New Zealand sent its best to help us through the 2019-20 Australian bushfires.

Last year I had the great privilege to present over 400 Australian National Emergency Medals to New Zealand Emergency Services and Defence Force personnel who, without giving it a second thought, came to help us fight those fires.

The award of those medals – and an Australian Chief of Defence Force Commendation to NZDF personnel – was a mark of our deep gratitude for your contribution.

And in the same spirit, Australia sent ours to support you in the wake of the destruction of Cyclone Gabrielle earlier this year.

Because, in the end, that’s what family does.


2023 marks a milestone year in the trans-Tasman relationship.

50 years ago, we agreed the Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement, which enabled the free movement of citizens between our two countries.    

In June, Qantas launched another trans-Tasman travel route – creating the first ever Australian flight to New York via Auckland. Instead of transiting in Los Angeles, passengers can now fly from Sydney, through Auckland, and on to New York.  The tourism benefits for both countries are substantial.

Prime Minister Albanese reflected the special bond Australians and New Zealanders share – and the spirit of the Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement –when he announced in April a direct pathway to Australian citizenship for New Zealanders who already call Australia home. 

From 1 July 2023, New Zealand citizens living in Australia will have a direct pathway to Australian citizenship. All Special Category Visa holders will be able to apply directly for citizenship without becoming permanent residents first, as long as they meet a four-year residence and other eligibility requirements.

These changes will mean the many Kiwis already living and working in Australian communities can enjoy the benefits of 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.

These changes are backing words with actions. It’s about mutual respect and reciprocity.


And 40 years ago, we signed the Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement, now recognised as one of the closest, broadest and most effective in the world. It’s a gold standard FTA.

As we celebrate 40 years of the CER this year, I know we’re doing something right when over $13 billion Australian dollars are invested in NZ each year – making Australia New Zealand’s largest investor by a wide margin.

And when almost three times as many Kiwi firms export their goods to Australia than to the next market (the United States), this makes Australia a place for NZ firms to cut their teeth on the international market.

Support for investment and ease of doing business across the Tasman bring material benefit to peoples’ lives. 

We will be celebrating this anniversary at the Australia-New Zealand Leadership Forum, which will bring together business and government in Wellington next month.


And finally, 80 years ago we established formal diplomatic representation, creating the foundation for our genuine partnership today.

That milestone is prompting us to reflect on our bilateral relationship and to look to the future.  To where we want to be headed. And ask ourselves, what we need to do – together – to get there?

The world today is a very different one to 1943, when we first exchanged High Commissioners.  We now face very different, but equally profound, challenges. 

And we, too, have changed.  We are both now diverse, multicultural societies.  Our economies are more complex and we operate more independently and with more confidence, than perhaps we did in the 1940s, where our relationships with the UK dominated our international outlook.


What does this mean for Australia and New Zealand?

As High Commissioner, I am a steward for the Australia-New Zealand relationship.

I do spend time thinking how we can shape our relationship for the future.  Areas where we can learn from each other to share experiences and ideas.  And areas where we can work together to meet common challenges.

Looking at the world today, I would nominate four areas where we might focus over the next decade and beyond..


Let me turn first to the economy. This is, after all, the backbone of our relationship, but one which is now facing headwinds.

As the Australian Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, told an Auckland audience this month ‘this decade will be a defining decade for all of us’. [1]

Outside of the pandemic and the Global Financial Crisis, the next two years are expected to be the weakest for global growth in over two decades [2]

Inflation remains stubbornly high for us both. We’ve seen persistent interest rate rises on both sides of the Tasman. Rising costs of living are taking their toll in both countries.

At the same time, shifts in global power dynamics is having a direct influence on our economies and prosperity. 

Trade, investment, and industrial policy are increasingly being used as tools of statecraft. The global trading order, which has served us both so well, is now under challenge.

As open trading nations, we have a stake in safeguarding the rules of the road that give predictability and certainty to small and medium countries like ours to do business with the world.   

As trading and maritime nations with the 3rd and 5th largest EEZs in the world, our prosperity relies on international trade routes staying open and unhindered.

We each have a stake in improving our own economic resilience and energy security, through more robust supply chains, our own industrial capabilities, and more diversity of trade partners.

So it is great to see Australia and NZ working individually and together to support the trading order – highlighted by NZ’s chairing of the CPTPP this year.


A key driver of economic challenges is rising strategic competition including in our region. This is the second area where we can work together.

One only need to see the effect of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on fuel prices, food security and supply chains to know that, even though Australia and New Zealand are far from the fighting, geopolitics has a direct and immediate impact on us.

Geographic distance is no longer a safeguard.

Technology is shrinking the barrier of distance. Global power is shifting to the East, with the rise of India and China.

We can no longer assume we live in a benign strategic environment, if we ever did. 

These rules and norms that have kept the peace since the Second World War are now under strain.

We are seeing the increasing use of coercive trade measures, unsustainable lending, disinformation, cyber attacks, political interference. 

The strategic contest we’re seeing in our region is now happening across several domains – economic, diplomatic, strategic, military. [3]

In reality, what we are seeing is a contest over the type of region in which we live, travel and trade.  A contest over what and whose rules will apply. 

Australia and New Zealand, together with other countries in the region have to consider how we should respond.  And in making that consideration, we should recognise that we have choices. We have agency.

For Australia’s part, we are working to support and defend the rules-based order by building our own resilience across the board. This is a whole-of-nation effort.

This means investing in the resilience of our economy, acting on climate change, expanding our diplomatic reach and relationships, and supporting our people. All these matter as much as the investment we make in tools of hard power such as defence.

We see New Zealand as a core partner with whom we share values, similar outlooks on the world and shared aspiration for peace and stability.

We each bring unique strengths and perspectives – together, we are stronger.


Nowhere is the power of our partnership more relevant than in the Pacific.

Australia and New Zealand are both Pacific countries. This is a region we call home. 

Increasingly, we have a shared endeavour in the region. Top among these is climate change – the greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of our Pacific family.

We are committed to being reliable and dependable partners to our Pacific family, just as we are to each other.

Like New Zealand, Australia is deepening its investment in the Pacific. This is where action and partnership really matters. 

We know we need to listen to and respond to Pacific priorities. To be present and to deliver.


Climate change will be key to our contribution.

Australia and New Zealand know only too well, climate change is no longer a distant problem but an immediate and pressing issue. It has certainly been the experience of all of you here in Auckland in recent months.

Nowhere is the impact of climate change clearer than in the Pacific, where the power of our Trans-Tasman partnership is at its strongest.

Australia and New Zealand are in and of the Pacific. We are in lock step on climate change, recognising that for our Pacific whanau, it is their single greatest security threat.

Australia has bid to co-host the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP31, in 2026 with the Pacific. This would catalyse climate action in our region and amplify Pacific voices on this existential issue.


What we are doing at home also matters. 

Australia has set an ambitious target for ourselves and are on track to meet it. We will reduce our emissions by 43% by 2030.

The Government enshrined this target in law last year. This was a clear signal of our serious intent, but also to provide certainty for business and investment.

Challenges can also bring opportunity. The task is to identify and act on them. Climate change is no different.  

We in Australia want to be the renewable energy superpower of our region. We’ve always been an energy-producing and energy-exporting country, and we will continue to be so. But that energy will change, to be increasingly renewable.

Climate change can be a collective effort between Australia and New Zealand.

Two weeks ago, in Wellington, Ministers held the first Australia–New Zealand Climate and Finance Ministers’ meeting.

At the meeting, our Minsters agreed to:

  • Co‑ordinate efforts to produce and supply electric and zero emission vehicles into the Australasian market
  • explore potential to collaborate on vehicle manufacturing and charging infrastructure.
  • work together on financial flows across the Tasman to support emissions reductions; and
  • provide cohesion and clarity for businesses and investors operating across the Tasman.

We have much to learn from and share with each other. We are both at the far end of global supply chains, so joining forces offers opportunity for security and diversification.

We are also looking to each other for knowledge and experience of adaptation and responding to climate emergencies, like Cyclone Gabrielle.

In the words of Australia’s Climate Change and Energy Minister Bowen, together, ‘we are fighting the good fight’.



Lastly, as we move to the future, we can continue to deepen the connections between our people.

When we speak of our people, in Australia we speak of a nation that is home to the oldest continuous culture 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 and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

The Voice will have a practical impact for First Nations people by giving them a direct say in laws, policies and programs which affect their every day lives, driving change to close the gap.

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

As both of us well know, even as we make progress, we have much work still to do.

We share a common view that what is good for our First Nations peoples is good for us all.

There is much for us to learn from New Zealand on your journey. As we go forward, we will look to you for lessons and guidance. 



So it is no surprise that as we navigate the decades ahead, Australia looks to New Zealand to walk alongside us. 

Australia and New Zealand are formal Allies – in the military sense, yes.  And interoperability between our defence forces is a key asset we share, and one Australia is keen to preserve.

But our alliance goes much deeper and broader. It is founded on a long history of partnership, every day personal connections and stories that bind us together, and mutual trust, respect and reciprocity.

The partnership across the Tasman matters now more than ever.  It is an asset for both of us, one that we can’t take for granted.  

The Australian and New Zealand communities play a vital role, including in shaping how Governments respond to the challenges ahead.

Thank you for coming today, for your time, and for your ideas.  I look forward to our discussion.

No reira,

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.



[1] Treasurer Jim Chalmers, speech to NZ Institute of Economic Research and Auckland Business Chamber, 9 June 2023

[2] Treasurer Jim Chalmers, speech to NZ Institute of Economic Research and Auckland Business Chamber, 9 June 2023

[3] Foreign Minister Wong speech to National Press Club Canberra, 17 April 2023