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Gillard's historic speech urges closer ties with New Zealand

 
 
 
 
 
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New Zealand Prime Minister John Key meets Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Auckland.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has used an historical speech to New Zealand’s parliament to boost trans-Tasman ties with a pledge for more leader talks and greater economic unity.

Ms Gillard jetted home to Canberra on Wednesday having made history as the first foreign politician to address the NZ parliament.

It was an honour her Kiwi counterpart John Key was keen to bestow on his “special friend” on her first trip across the Tasman as prime minister, a visit that is being heralded a success for tightening bonds between the neighbours and pushing forward the shared economic agenda.

At its centre was the signing of a new protocol which promises freer investing opportunities on both sides of the Tasman.

It will allow Australians to invest up to $NZ477 million ($A363 million) in New Zealand without screening, while Kiwis will be able to invest about $NZ1 billion ($A761 million) in Australia.

Ms Gillard said the deal was a considerable milestone for the nations, and the most significant since the signing of the original Closer Economic Relations (CER) agreement almost 30 years ago.

“The protocol will make investment simpler and cheaper, creating employment and opportunity on both sides of the Tasman,” she told the packed house of more than 100 MPs.

The shared economic agenda made progress on other fronts, with a promise of more regular talks between the two leaders into the future.

She said work was continuing on streamlining air travel across the ditch and cutting red tape for the businesses operating in both countries. However, she stopped short of promoting passport-free borderless travel and a common currency, saying they were not priorities.

Warmly received, her speech was punctuated with talk of mateship and the regional “family”, the countries’ shared ANZAC history and acknowledgment of the NZ Pike Mine disaster in November, which left 29 men dead.

She also thanked the Kiwis for their efforts in helping with the flood recovery in Queensland.

“When natural disasters hit Australia this summer, New Zealand didn’t need to be asked to lend a hand, you just did.”

Ms Gillard used the address to offer Australia’s condolences over the death of Kiwi soldier Private Kirifi Mila, who died in a vehicle accident in Afghanistan on Tuesday. It was New Zealand’s second death in the war-torn country.

With a toll of 22 so far, Australia was well placed to sympathise, the prime minister said.

“We grieve for these men and their families as we grieve for our own, because the Anzac stories speak for both our nations an imperishable trans-Tasman bond.”

The death cast a sad shadow across the day spent in the capital, with Australian and NZ flags flown at half-mast on the forecourt as Ms Gillard arrived at parliament.

Despite this, the prime minister appeared relaxed and happy, enjoying a Maori welcome by scantily-clad Maori “warriors” brandishing wooden spears.

She and Mr Key shared jokes, Ms Gillard laughing when he made the typical trans-Tasman dig that Australians claim pavlova, Phar Lap and Split Enz as their own.

She also disrupted her busy schedule to chat with welcoming Kiwi bystanders.

“She’s very, very impressive, isn’t she?” local man Daniel Van Kessel said.

Australian tourists Noel and Norma Mudford, from the NSW town of Gilgandra, were shocked to see their prime minister while waiting for a parliamentary tour.

“We’re Australian and we think she’s alright,” Mr Mudford said with enthusiasm.

“She’s got a tough job and she’ll be going back to tough times at home so it was nice to see her looking so relaxed and happy.”

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  • Hebrew Geldrush

    If we gave women the right to vote wouldn’t we have a problem with dykery?

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