Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has acknowledged a drift in trans-Tasman relations and promised to reinstate annual meetings with Prime Minister John Key to underscore her promise to usher in a new era.
Ms Gillard left New Zealand yesterday after her first prime ministerial visit, in which news about the death of a Kiwi soldier in Afghanistan broke as she prepared to deliver a historic speech to Parliament – the first foreign leader to do so.
In her speech, she drew heavily on a shared Anzac history and spoke about the special relationship New Zealand and Australia shared on the battlefield and elsewhere.
But she acknowledged the drift in recent years after a four-year gap since a full bilateral visit to New Zealand by an Australian prime minister.
We reckon that's a no-brainer. Australia is our most significant friend, on many levels. Our trade with Australia is our lifeblood. We love to take on the Australians on the sports field, and love it even more when we win! Australia is the favourite holiday destination for New Zealanders heading overseas. We've stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Australia in many spheres, but possibly none moreso than at Gallipoli in 1915; a tragedy which defined both of the emerging nations. Even our timezones are reasonably similar.
So it makes sense to us that the New Zealand and Australian governments have a strong relationship, starting at the top. As we join our West Island neighbours in the Trans-Pacific Partnership with the United States, it is important that there is a high level of accord between our respective leaders.
This week's visit by Julia Gillard seems to have been a great success. It was fitting that the ANZAC PM's were together when news broke of the tragic death of Private Kirifi Mila in Afghanistan; Australia has suffered significant losses there as well. Ms Gillard's address to Parliament yesterday was an historic moment and, we hope, a forerunner to a new level of partnership bteween New Zealand and Australia that will benefit all off us on both sides of The Ditch.