Australia and NZ forge closer ties

14 August 2000

James Gruber – ABC PM Archive

A transcript from PM, the program is broadcast around Australia at 5 pm on Radio National.

James Gruber takes a look at trans-Tasman ties.

James Gruber: There’s nothing like the New Zealand harker in a traditional rugby clash to fuel the Aussie/Kiwi rivalry. But to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, Australia and New Zealand are two countries divided by common sporting pursuits. And the similarities don’t stop on the sporting field.

A few months’ back, of course, there was the proposal for a common currency between Australia and New Zealand. Some 80 per cent of businesses surveyed in New Zealand actually favour a common ANZAC currency.

The idea of forging closer business ties isn’t a new one. Since the early 1970s the Australia/New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Agreement has largely created a single trans-Tasman market. But it isn’t just business which ties the two countries together. There’s more obvious things, as well.

We share a common language, we’re working towards more uniformity in things like commercial and corporate law, and we have a mutual recognition between the States and New Zealand on food and other matters.

And let’s not forget the ANZAC tradition. We fought side by side with New Zealand during the ill-fated Gallipoli Campaign, and in later conflicts.

Last week New Zealand went as far as to propose reciprocal citizenship rights for migrants across the Tasman.

The country’s Finance Minister, Michael Cullen.

Michael O’Connor: All I’m suggested that we should put on the table is, if you like, mutual recognition of citizenship so that New Zealanders in Australia are treated as if they’re Australian citizens, Australians in New Zealand would be treated as if they are New Zealand citizens.

James Gruber: But the relationship isn’t all snugly. Politically it’s stable, without being warm. Australia’s Liberal Government is ideologically very different from New Zealand’s Labor Party led by Helen Clarke and this is unlikely to change, at least in the short term.

And current defence ties reflect a certain tension between the two countries. On the one hand Australia and New Zealand have been at one on the issues of East Timor, the Solomon Island’s crisis and the need to punish Fiji with sanctions for its overthrow of democracy.

But on the other hand Australia is very worried about New Zealand’s determination to cut its defence spending, and partially withdraw from regional responsibilities.

Michael O’Connor from the Australian Defence Association says the ANZAC tradition will mean little while defence ties between Australia and New Zealand slowly drift apart.

Michael O’Connor: Australian planners will just write New Zealand out of their considerations. If New Zealand does provide something that will be a bonus but it’s not something we can count on.

Compare: Michael O’Connor from the Australian Defence Association ending that report by James Gruber.

[Read the ABC News article].

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