Mr Key is off in Australia this week promoting further measures to bind the two countries into a single economic market, and slash red tape on trade, investment and business, and to shape the two economies into a force that can team up to position themselves for the world after the global economic crisis.. Well at least that is the rhetoric. So far the only detail we have on the table is a nice, but ultimately cosmetic offer, to put trans-Tasman travel on a domestic basis.
There is of course a real merit and benefit for both nations to continue down the path of closer integration. The total NZ economy would the equivalent of adding a component just a little larger than State of Victoria to the Australian Federation, and there are many opportunities for the two economies to gain synergies from each other. We are different, but that would bring strength to the relationship if we build on them constructively.
It’s also often forgotten that the Australian Constitution still has an inactivated provision to include NZ in the Federation, and ultimately that is the goal we should be aiming for. If we are going to snuggle up even more intimately with the Aussies, we should be armwrestling a ring and a trip down the aisle out of them. We’ve been a defacto couple since CER, but in many ways that’s left NZ on the back foot, with Australian business and investment gaining far more from access to NZ than the other way around.
Yet previously Key appeared to reject the critical element of any true partnership, the need to properly and openly share our finances.
Mr Key said New Zealand needed to retain its fiscal independence in case of an economic catastrophe, such as an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.
Only then could there be an enormous correction in currency to try to offset “economic carnage”, he said.
“As an example, you’ve seen in Ireland at the moment the challenges that they’re having where they’re part of the European Union, the currency’s the Euro and they really can’t get the currency depreciation that they need to kick-start their economy.”
A very ironic argument, given that NZ has been hurting its exporters with an overvalued dollar all this year, and Mr Key’s govt has been umoved to do anything about it. But worse still it sends a message to the Australians that we still aren’t really serious about the relationship, that we want to play the field with them, but we don’t trust them enough to make a real commitment.
Mr Key said he wanted to achieve a seamless business environment in which a company in Melbourne could do business in Auckland as easily as it could in Sydney. Herald
Note how Key has framed this in terms of an Australian company coming over here to do business, and not the other way around. Effectively he’s spruiking off NZ as a good place for big Aussie companies to come and do business. While there some examples of Kiwi business doing well over the Tasman, the overall record is a very poor one. And won’t get better until the Australians are prepared to give us some respect. I recall years ago my father returning from a business trip to Melbourne and declaring, with some real feeling, over dinner, “Those bloody Aussies treat us Kiwis like we treat the Cook Islanders!”.
This must be our next step up in the world. Its time we mustered the confidence in our own identity as a people, as a nation, to step up to full political unity with the Australian Federation. Until then our big brash Aussie cuzzies will cheerfully shag us on the side, but never take us seriously.