No Australia pushback over China jibe: NZ

Ben McKay
·2-min read

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has laughed off suggestions of a damaged trans-Tasman relationship from her trade minister's lecturing comments on China.

Last week, Damien O'Connor sparked fury when he suggested Australia could be more successful in its dealings with China by adopting a Kiwi approach.

"Clearly if they were to follow us and show respect, I guess a little more diplomacy from time to time and be cautious with wording, then they too, hopefully, could be in a similar situation," Mr O'Connor said, after signing a trade deal with the Asian superpower.

Ms Ardern said she "didn't necessarily agree" with Mr O'Connor, 63, and called to remind the long-serving MP of her diplomatic expectations.

"Look, (Australia and New Zealand) each have independent foreign policies," she said.

"We're going to manage our own relationships our own way and that's only right.

"So in the same way, we wouldn't expect Australia to give too much commentary on our relationship and we shouldn't be giving commentary on theirs."

Sino-Australia relations have plunged to new depths in recent months, with China hitting Australian exporters and responding with fury to the government's calls for a investigation into the source of COVID-19.

Mr O'Connor's comments might have hit a nerve in Canberra, but Ms Ardern said her government had not received pushback from Australian officials.

The Labour leader said the trans-Tasman relationship was robust enough to withstand the comments, recalling a dark moment in relations from last century at the MCG.

"But this is an opportunity to raise we've just had the 40th anniversary of the underarm incident," referring to Trevor Chappell's infamous last-ball denial of New Zealand in the 1980-81 World Series.

"Lest we forget," Ms Ardern said, to laughs.