Joint statement: Prime Ministers Jacinda Ardern and Scott Morrison - Sydney, 28 February

  • Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister




1.       Prime Minister the Hon Scott Morrison MP and Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern met in Sydney on 28 February 2020 for the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders’ Meeting. The Australia-New Zealand relationship is a partnership marked by close bonds of friendship, and anchored in common history, shared core values and genuine fondness between our peoples. It is a relationship of family, of whānau. Trans-Tasman cooperation continues to deepen, to the benefit of our two countries and our mutual effort to support an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific region and deepen partnerships with our Pacific family.

National resilience

2.       The Prime Ministers commended the instinctive, immediate and united trans-Tasman response to a series of tragic events since their last annual meeting. They remembered the victims of the Christchurch terrorist attack, Whakaari/White island volcanic eruption, and Australia’s ‘black summer’, and their families. In response to each, assistance from across the Tasman had been rapid, seamless, and broad-based, involving respective governments, including at State and Territory level, emergency services and community organisations.

3.       The Prime Ministers discussed each country’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak and expressed appreciation for the coordinated way in which consular and other officials had worked to include Australians and New Zealanders in their respective evacuation arrangements from affected areas overseas. Both countries will maintain a high level of information sharing on each other’s domestic developments and responses to COVID-19. The Prime Ministers further agreed on the importance of collaborating actively and, where possible preventatively, in response to any COVID-19 related developments in our Pacific neighbourhood.

4.       The Prime Ministers committed to collaborate on strengthening mental health approaches and responses, including support for affected communities during recovery from natural disasters. Australia would engage with New Zealand in the development of Australia’s cross-jurisdictional mental health framework, led by Australia’s National Mental Health Commission. The framework will set out a shared state and federal approach to disaster response and disaster recovery, focused on accountability and transparency, which might be applied in future trans-Tasman responses to disasters in each other’s countries and internationally.

Trans-Tasman Cooperation

5.       The Prime Ministers acknowledged the long-standing and deeply integrated economic relationship between Australia and New Zealand, and its enduring benefit to our peoples. With their shared commitment to free and open global trade, they underlined that the partnership needed to remain agile and responsive. They reaffirmed the role of the Single Economic Market agenda (SEM) and Closer Economic Relations agreement (CER) in driving prosperity in both countries. Trans-Tasman economic cooperation would continue to focus on streamlining the experience for business, travellers and citizens, and keeping the SEM agenda ambitious, adaptable, and fit to seize the opportunities presented by the future of work.

6.       The Prime Ministers welcomed the progression of key SEM initiatives at the 2019 Single Economic Market Ministerial Meeting, held in Auckland in September 2019. As well as fostering a better operating environment, these initiatives will enable future economic activity, especially for small and medium sized business. Prime Ministers welcomed the activation of domestic and trans-Tasman e-invoicing in December 2019.  

7.       The Prime Ministers underlined the need to maintain high security standards for trans-Tasman travel, and welcomed the use of biometrics technology and timely data processing to increase efficiency. They welcomed New Zealand’s successful introduction of the Electronic Travel Authority in October 2019, for both air and cruise passengers, and noted its twin aims of improving border security and enhancing passenger facilitation. The Prime Ministers noted the world’s first 3D auto-detection algorithms for identifying biosecurity risk materials, developed from joint trials in 2019, which will increase border screening effectiveness and efficiency for both countries. Prime Ministers also welcomed joint efforts to improve the trans-Tasman movement of goods and border clearance processes for online purchases sent by mail. Prime Ministers committed to maintaining effective measures that protect the biosecurity of both countries while continuing to facilitate the smooth flow of horticultural goods between New Zealand and Australia, and encouraging all avenues to be explored to this end. They commended joint biosecurity cooperation to be prepared for the possible arrival of African Swine Fever, and directed officials to continue discussions and alignment of trans-Tasman biosecurity systems to counter any spread of the virus.

8.       The Prime Ministers welcomed the expansion of collaborative activities under the Australia New Zealand Science, Research and Innovation Cooperation Agreement. These include agreement to establish a shared Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) network to assist trans-Tasman trade and transport, exploring opportunities to collaborate on artificial intelligence, progressing potential areas of space cooperation under the Arrangement Regarding Space Cooperation for Peaceful Purposes signed in October 2019, and implementation of the trans-Tasman cyber security research program. Prime Ministers warmly welcomed the start of a bilateral dialogue on Women in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in November 2019.

9.       The Prime Ministers recognised the importance of the trans-Tasman food regulation system, which has been in existence for almost twenty-five years. They emphasised the value of modernising the system, as endorsed by the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation in November 2019, to ensure the system remains at the forefront of best regulatory practice.

10.   The Prime Ministers agreed that SEM priorities for 2020 should also include work towards mutual recognition of digital identities and business identifiers. They directed officials to develop options for their consideration at the next Leaders’ meeting on influencing international standards and norms for emerging technologies. Prime Ministers also underscored the importance of the SEM agenda remaining forward-looking to meet the future economic needs of both countries. Promoting streamlined government services, removing barriers across the digital economy, and building productive, well connected and liveable cities, were areas to which the SEM agenda should make practical contributions.

People-to-people ties

11.   The Prime Ministers discussed measures to improve the unique Pathway to citizenship for New Zealanders living and working in Australia. Australia will reduce the number of years in which applicants must meet the minimum income threshold, and will publicise the scheme and its rules to New Zealanders. The Prime Ministers agreed to review the Pathway in 2022 when more data becomes available, to determine whether further improvements should be made.

12.   The Prime Ministers welcomed the signing of an Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand Indigenous Collaboration Arrangement recognising the ancestral and spiritual connections of indigenous peoples to traditional lands and waters, and their unique contributions to our nations, cultures and economies. The Arrangement is a natural culmination of our close, long-standing and mutually beneficial relationship on Indigenous matters. The Prime Ministers expressed support for the two countries’ collaboration on culture, leadership, well-being and economic development, including through a joint Indigenous business mission to promote trade with Asian markets.

13.   The Prime Ministers remain committed to the initiative of reuniting people with their lost retirement savings. Australia will progress amendments to extend this initiative to New Zealanders who worked in Australia as part of its broader retirement income legislative program.

14.   The Prime Ministers welcomed the joint Australia-New Zealand bid to host the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023. The bid is the first proposal for co-confederation hosts, and if successful would lead to a FIFA Women’s World Cup being held in the southern hemisphere for the first time. They agreed this tournament would help amplify the work to encourage more female participation in sport in Australia and New Zealand, and support football development around the Indo-Pacific region.

Regional Economy, Security and Environment

15.   The Prime Ministers reiterated their shared commitment to support an Indo-Pacific region of sovereign, resilient and prosperous states, with robust regional institutions and strong respect for international rules and norms. To this end, they recommitted to close coordination and cooperation, as allies and partners, on current and emerging economic, security and environmental challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.

16.   The Prime Ministers reaffirmed the benefits of open markets and inclusive regional economic integration in the Indo-Pacific. They undertook to work constructively together to finalise all outstanding negotiations relating to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) ahead of signature in late 2020, as well as negotiations to upgrade and modernise the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) and to support early conclusion of commercially meaningful negotiations with the Pacific Alliance. The Prime Ministers expressed their commitment to promoting full and timely ratification and implementation by all signatories of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) as well as the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus. They recognised the importance of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in supporting the expansion of trade, economic integration and prosperity in the region and welcomed the opportunity presented by New Zealand’s hosting of APEC in 2021 to pursue shared interests and share SEM initiatives with other APEC economies.

17.   The Prime Ministers agreed on the importance of strengthening regional institutions in the Indo-Pacific that promote habits of cooperation on shared challenges, reinforce respect for international law and ensure that all countries, large and small, have a voice on regional issues. They acknowledged in particular the central role played by ASEAN and the forums it convenes in supporting the rules and norms that have underpinned regional security and stability for more than 50 years. They reiterated their strong commitment to the ASEAN-led regional architecture, particularly the East Asia Summit. They welcomed ASEAN’s adoption of its Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and reaffirmed their commitment to supporting its practical implementation.

18.   The Prime Ministers expressed serious concern over developments in the South China Sea, including the continued militarisation of disputed features, and destabilising behaviour at sea, and urged all claimants to take meaningful steps to ease tensions and build trust, including through diplomacy and dialogue. They reaffirmed the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight and urged all claimants to resolve maritime disputes peacefully, in accordance with international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). They underscored the importance of UNCLOS dispute settlement mechanisms and called on all parties to respect and implement any decisions rendered through these mechanisms. The Prime Ministers noted negotiations towards a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea and reiterated the importance of any Code being effective, substantive, and consistent with international law, particularly UNCLOS; not prejudicing the interests of third parties or the rights of states under international law; and supporting existing, inclusive regional architecture.

19.   Prime Ministers shared their concerns over North Korea’s continued development of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. They reaffirmed their commitment to enforcing sanctions, and encouraged North Korea to make a sustained commitment to dialogue and to take concrete steps towards complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation.

20.   The Prime Ministers agreed that working closely with our Pacific partners remained a top priority for New Zealand and Australia. Both countries shared a fundamental commitment to supporting a stable, secure and prosperous Pacific region, which underpinned Australia’s Pacific Step-up and New Zealand’s Pacific Reset. The Prime Ministers agreed to closely align their respective efforts in the region, in support of Pacific island country needs and priorities. This includes in infrastructure partnerships, labour mobility, timely ratification and implementation of the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus), negotiation of maritime boundaries and on closer regional security engagement. The Prime Ministers reiterated that regional security engagement will continue to reflect the broader definition of security articulated by the Boe Declaration and through various regional initiatives, including the Pacific Fusion Centre and Australia Pacific Security College. They welcomed the coordination of Australian and New Zealand responses to the measles outbreak in Samoa, and directed officials to continue coordination of humanitarian assistance in future outbreak responses.

21.   The Prime Ministers agreed on the need for strong support and cooperation in regional architecture in the Pacific, particularly the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) as leaders appoint a new Secretary-General. They commended the Papua New Guinea and Autonomous Bougainville governments on the successful conduct of the Referendum on the future political status of Bougainville, and agreed to continue to support the peace process.

22.   The Prime Ministers welcomed the Kainaki II Declaration agreed at the Pacific Islands Forum in 2019, the strongest statement the Pacific Islands Forum has ever issued collectively on climate change. They acknowledged the strong history of collaboration between Australia and New Zealand on climate change. It included supporting the Pacific in agricultural and oceans research, in climate negotiations, through exploring cooperation in green hydrogen energy and ensuring the integrity of UN rules for implementing the Paris Agreement. The Prime Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the protection and the sustainable use of the world’s ocean and to developing opportunities in Pacific fisheries, including through countering illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, which damages the environment and economies. The Prime Ministers agreed to strengthen collaboration in the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA) to promote sustainable agricultural production in the Indo-Pacific. They looked forward to Australia assuming the Chair of the GRA Council in October 2020 and undertook to support participation of Pacific Island countries and territories.  

23.   The Prime Ministers directed officials to share lessons and collaborate on transitioning to a circular economy, in particular on waste management – both to tackle similar domestic challenges and to influence the region and supply chains.  They recognised achievements in continuing capacity building in Southeast Asia and the Pacific for the implementation of vessel biofouling biosecurity measures, through the delivery of regional workshops and taskforces as part of the International Maritime Organization’s GloFouling Partnerships Program.

Global Trade

24.   The Prime Ministers emphasised their longstanding commitment to the multilateral trading system and underscored the importance of a well-functioning World Trade Organization (WTO) in promoting global economic growth and prosperity. They recommitted to working closely to advance WTO reform efforts, including with respect to the dispute settlement system, and to secure ambitious outcomes at the forthcoming 12th WTO Ministerial Conference in Kazakhstan in June 2020. They committed to work together to achieve a successful conclusion of multilateral negotiations to prohibit harmful fisheries subsidies. They welcomed progress in the Joint Statement Initiatives on electronic commerce and services domestic regulation and expressed support for ongoing multilateral efforts to cap and reduce trade-distorting agricultural subsidies.

International Security

25.   The Prime Ministers recalled their shared commitment to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, and acknowledged the valuable work of the joint Australia-New Zealand Building Partner Capacity mission in Iraq, through which Australia and New Zealand have trained more than 47,000 Iraqi Security Force personnel since 2015. They also acknowledged the Australian and New Zealand Defence Forces’ continued contribution to coalition efforts to secure peace and stability in Afghanistan.

26.   The Prime Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to advancing the Christchurch Call to Action, and encouraged digital industry to continue driving reform of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism. They directed officials to continue working together with industry and civil society on online crisis response coordination, including the Christchurch Call to Action Shared Crisis Response Protocol, and with the OECD too on developing the Voluntary Transparency Reporting Protocol (VTRP). The VTRP brings together industry, governments, academia and civil society to establish a common protocol for online platforms to implement regular and transparent public reporting on what steps they are taking to prevent, detect and remove terrorist and violent extremist content.