Australian PM unfazed by New Zealand snub

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard Tuesday shrugged off a New Zealand decision not to let her address a session of the country`s Parliament during an official visit this week.

Updated: Feb 15, 2011, 15:03 PM IST

Wellington: Australian Prime Minister
Julia Gillard Tuesday shrugged off a New Zealand decision not to let her address a session of the country`s Parliament during an official visit this week.

Gillard, who arrived in New Zealand today, was
originally scheduled to become the first foreign leader to
formally address parliament on Wednesday but the plan was
scrapped after objections by the Green Party.

Instead, the Australian leader will make a speech to
politicians in the parliamentary debating chamber on Wednesday
before the legislature opens.

A spokeswoman for parliamentary speaker Lockwood
Smith`s office said Gillard`s speech would not be recorded as
part of parliamentary proceedings.

"MPs have been invited to the address, they can attend
if they want to but they don`t have to," she told AFP.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman said the ban was not
intended as a personal slight against Gillard, whose country
is New Zealand`s largest trading partner, but was aimed at
avoiding setting a precedent.

"In New Zealand, no head of government or head of state
has addressed a session of parliament and that`s a principle that we`re quite keen to keep," he said.
Norman said allowing Gillard to address a parliamentary
session could open the way for future governments to invite
speeches from "all sorts of unpleasant people, like (former US
president) George Bush, for example".

Gillard was unconcerned at the snub and expressed
satisfaction at the compromise reached by her New Zealand
counterpart John Key.
"I`m absolutely honoured to have the opportunity to
speak to members of the New Zealand parliament in their
parliamentary chamber," she told reporters after arriving in
Auckland.

Gillard said her two-day visit was aimed at tightening
economic ties between the neighbours, which have a two-way
trade relationship worth around USD 21 billion a year.

PTI