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Monday, 10 November 2008
Page: 10264

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) (2:08 PM) —Mr Speaker, I seek to make a statement on indulgence.

The SPEAKER —Indulgence is granted.

Mr RUDD —On Saturday night I had the privilege of telephoning Mr John Key on his victory in the New Zealand general elections. Mr Key will become the next Prime Minister of New Zealand following those elections. Furthermore, I would also like to place on record this government’s and, I believe, the parliament’s appreciation of the contribution of Helen Clark, the Prime Minister of New Zealand who was defeated in those elections. Prime Minister Clark was a strong friend of Australia’s throughout the Howard government’s tenure in office in Australia and has been a strong contributor to trans-Tasman relations, and we wish her well for the future.

Australia and New Zealand have a strong bilateral relationship. It is one which is of great significance to us politically. We share common economic interests through the Closer Economic Relationship, and of course we have a common aspiration to establish a single economic market. Beyond that, we have common interests in the South Pacific, where New Zealand and Australia often find themselves together doing much of the heavy lifting when challenges arise. New Zealand has been a constant, continuing and reliable partner of Australia in very difficult circumstances, ranging from East Timor through to the Solomons and elsewhere as well.

I would say to the new Prime Minister of New Zealand that our relationship, like our relationship with the United States, is one that generally transcends party political boundaries and therefore we welcome the opportunity to develop a new relationship with his government. I have extended to the Prime Minister an invitation to undertake a state visit to Australia at the earliest opportunity. We believe that is the right way in which to initiate a relationship with his government once his cabinet is sworn in. We look forward to doing good things with the new government of New Zealand in the future and we wish them well in our common aspiration for a peaceful region and our common contribution to greater prosperity in both our countries.