Ah, New Zealand, we love you like one of us
A couple of weeks ago I had a night to kill in a foreign capital and took myself to see “This Is It”. The film starts with the dancers speaking about the amazing opportunity of performing on stage with Michael Jackson.
One began by announcing he was Australian. Out of country and a little homesick, my patriotic heart leapt. To my amazement, the rest of the audience greeted his declaration with warmth and cheers suggestive of collective ownership.
It reminded me how much Kiwis and Aussies love to own each others successes. Take Russell Crowe, Crowded House and Phar Lap - all dinky-di Australians.
I also reflected on my time at the ACTU. There we enjoyed a special relationship with the NZCTU, representing each other at international forums and exchanging policies and ideas.
So when I arrived in NZ to spend a few days looking at research and innovation in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, I knew our countries were close. But even I was surprised by the extent of that closeness.
In Auckland I met Auckland Plus – a group dedicated to the promotion of the Auckland region. They saw themselves as sharing the same space as Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and talked less about being the largest city in New Zealand and more about the position they held within Asia.
It left me wondering about the nature of sovereignty.
As I met with one agency after another the deepness of the relationships was extraordinary. In all cases there was extensive collaboration. In many cases they articulated the aim of forming a single trans-tasman entity with one set of rules.
For close followers of the relationship this comes as no surprise. The Joint Statement of Intent: Single Economic Market Outcomes Framework sets as a goal that: “Persons in Australia or New Zealand should not have to engage in the same process or provide the same information twice.”
The Single Economic Market is setting an agenda which will see real progress toward the integration of our nations.
Australia’s Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, recently characterised the relationship as: deep and comprehensive.
The friendship is particularly strong under the Rudd and Key Governments. The two leaders clearly share a strong dynamic. Some commentators have described it as being at its best in more than 70 years.
What is also clear is that the relationship between the two governments is leading our nations toward the closest bi-lateral relationship on earth.
The New Zealand public servant assigned as my escort – Ben – will spend next year in Canberra on secondment to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
He told me one of his few experiences of Canberra involves catching a cab to Manuka. Being a suburb spelled the same as a native New Zealand tree he asked to go to Mah – NOO – ka. The bewildered cab driver explained there was no such place until eventually realising Ben wanted to go to MAH – na – KA.
That a Canberra suburb and a New Zealand tree should share a name got me googling. Burley Griffin wanted Canberra’s major roads named after capital cities and the streets running off them reflecting that state’s flora. Telopea Park, for example, runs off New South Wales Crescent.
Manuka in Canberra is named after Manuka Circuit which runs off Canberra Avenue. But, when the roads were named, there remained a hope New Zealand would form part of the Federation, and the original name proposed for Canberra Avenue was actually New Zealand Avenue. It changed but Manuka remained. In light of this history, Ben’s pronunciation was more correct than his cabbie’s.
Manuka is just one example of New Zealand’s place in the DNA of Australian history. We have fought wars together. We have shared the antipodes and we have shared a determination to forge our own ways in the world.
In a global village where Australia and New Zealand must compete on global terms it makes sense to work together as a team.
The ANZAC bond is becoming stronger by the day and that can only be a good thing.
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