Australia

Australia reminds Kiwis of Five Eyes value

Australia has reminded New Zealand of the importance of the Five Eyes alliance during a meeting of trans-Tasman foreign ministers.

Marise Payne met with her New Zealand counterpart Nanaia Mahuta in Wellington on Thursday.

Ms Mahuta raised eyebrows ahead of the diplomatic trip by arguing the Five Eyes group should focus solely on intelligence sharing.

She does not want the network straying to other matters, such as speaking out against China for human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

Senator Payne stressed the importance of the Five Eyes alliance during the bilateral meeting.

“Australia will continue to emphasise the vital nature of the Five Eyes alliance in security and in intelligence,” she told ABC radio ahead of the meeting.

The foreign minister refused to say whether Ms Mahuta’s comments had placed a strain on the coalition.

“There is a depth of commitment in the relationship between Australia and New Zealand that is very significant,” she said.

“In terms of the Five Eyes, what I have found in the last year in particular and certainly in the last little while, is a very significant level of engagement across counterparts.”

However, during a joint press conference after the meeting, Senator Payne played down the starkly different approaches to the alliance between Australia and New Zealand.

She did not criticise New Zealand for its unwillingness to support moving Five Eyes “out of the shadows” and expanding its remit into public diplomacy.

“What we see in Five Eyes, which I think is very much shared across the members, is a vital strategic alliance that is key to our security and intelligence interests,” Senator Payne told reporters.

“A lot of issues with which we deal are dealt with in the shadows, but not all, and some have been able to be dealt with openly and publicly through the Five Eyes process.”

Ms Mahuta said while the five countries shared common values and principles, the alliance was primarily focused on intelligence and security.

“It’s not necessary all the time on every issue to invoke Five Eyes as your first port of call in terms of creating a coalition of support around particular issues in the human rights space,” she said.

Senator Payne said the allies could address issues of concern in whatever forum they deemed appropriate and consistent with their national interests.

“But our respect for each other – Australia, the United States, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Canada – is enduring and continuing.”

At a separate media conference, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country’s relationship with the alliance had not changed.

“Five Eyes remains our most important security and intelligence partnership and that has not changed,” she told reporters.

“New Zealand also has an independent foreign policy, and that equally has not changed.”

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