New Zealand Prime Minister John Key became the first New Zealand prime minister to address the Australian parliament earlier this week. He commended Australia on its loyalty and support.
He referred to the Pike River Mine explosion and the devastating earthquake that struck Christchurch in February.
“When an explosion ripped through the Pike River Mine in November last year you sent your specialist experts, your machinery and your hope,” Mr Key told parliament.
“When the devastating Christchurch earthquake struck us in February you came to our aid immediately, unreservedly and with open hearts.
“You have shown New Zealand a degree of loyalty and support that only family can.”
Earlier, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott used a welcoming statement for Mr Key to take a pot-shot Labor’s plan to introduce an emissions trading scheme (ETS).
Mr Abbott congratulated Mr Key for “watering down” the ETS his conservative government inherited.
But he said if the coalition in Australia inherited a trading scheme from the Gillard government it would be “rescinded” altogether.
“In this country your sister party will go further and do better,” Mr Abbott told parliament.
“Should we inherit any carbon tax we won’t just reduce it – we will rescind it.”
The opposition leader also congratulated Mr Key on formally re-establishing military ties with the US, once more making the ANZUS (Australia New Zealand United States) alliance fully functioning.
That followed the decision of former NZ prime minister David Lange in 1984 to ban visits from US nuclear-armed or powered warships.
Mr Abbott said Australia very much valued New Zealand’s military contributions to East Timor, the Solomons and Afghanistan.
“We are Anzac brothers in arms once more,” he said.
In welcoming her NZ counterpart, Prime Minister Julia Gillard spoke of the concern Australians felt for New Zealanders in the aftermath of the devastating Christchurch earthquakes.
“Our empathy was only heightened by the rawness of our own wounds from the summer of disaster here,” she told parliament.
“As New Zealand mourned, we mourned with you. As New Zealand held out hope for a miraculous rescue, we kept vigil with you.
“And as New Zealand recovers, we will stand by you.”
Ms Gillard said Australia and New Zealand must work together and pool their strengths to meet the challenges of the region – the rise of China, climate change, resource security, natural disaster management and people smuggling.
She pledged the cooperation of Australia during preparations for the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landings in 2015.
“What geography began, history has confirmed – our two nations are family, so here in this chamber and in this country you can never be a stranger,” Ms Gillard told Mr Key.
“We honour the nation you represent and we honour the people you serve.”
Mr Key, in his speech, told the members and senators crowded in the lower house that climate change was a challenge Australia and New Zealand were both facing.
“We can, and should, work together on the international aspects of climate change,” the NZ prime minister said.
Mr Key said he was glad both leaders “agreed to further the work of our senior officials as they join up our respective efforts to combat climate change”.
Mr Key said while his country’s population and resources were smaller than Australia’s, New Zealand’s commitment to a defence and security relationship with Australia was “absolute”.
“We place priority on fulfilling our alliance obligations to you above all other defence priorities – save for defending ourselves,” he said.
“We have no better friend and no closer ally than Australia.”
The NZ prime minister said both countries had distinct contributions to make in meeting the security challenges of the modern world.
New Zealand appreciated Australia’s enormous contribution to creating stability in Afghanistan and its hard-fought achievements in Oruzgan Province, he said.
“New Zealand, too, is committed to stabilising Afghanistan, through the contribution of our Special Air Services in Kabul and our Provincial Reconstruction Team, which will work through to 2014 to provide an effective transition in Bamyan.”
Mr Key acknowledged the 27 Australian soldiers who have lost their lives in Afghanistan while honouring two New Zealand soldiers who have also died there.
Mr Key noted the value of strong economic ties between the two countries, giving a nod to what will soon be 30 years since the Closer Economic Relations agreement was born.
As well as trade agreements, Australia and New Zealand are also working on joint science and innovation projects, starting with the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope.
“We should aim to showcase Australasia as an agile, nimble and creative hub,” Mr Key said.
The prime minister said New Zealand and Australia should try to get ever closer on all levels.
“The question now is, can we take our relationship to the next level?
“We have more to gain from closer integration.”