What a surprise – Gerry Brownlee’s Aussie trip nothing but a fizzer
For a few days this week, the New Zealand Government hinted it would be taking a tougher stand on Australia’s approach to New Zealanders, apparently angered by the sudden and unexplained cutting of tertiary education support.
Throughout all its time in power, the National government had blamed the predicament of New Zealanders in Australia on Helen Clark, who it alleged had failed to defend New Zealand’s interests.
Now, confronted by a series of announcements that constituted the greatest attack on Kiwis in Australia since 2001, Bill English had the chance to demonstrate his government was made of sterner stuff.
He suggested that he wanted to take Australia to task, not only for the events of the last few weeks, but for its attitude to New Zealanders more broadly.
It was announced that Gerry Brownlee would be dispatched to express New Zealand’s displeasure and even the Australia media began to wonder how this might rock the relationship.
In the end, though, it was a fizzer. Arriving in Sydney on Thursday morning, Brownlee immediately folded.
During his press conference with Julie Bishop, the New Zealand Government’s flaccid response was on full display.
Brownlee just stood there, mouthing platitudes about how close the relationship was and how we were all such great mates.
There was no sign of any fight in the man. He didn’t even criticise Australia’s policy that would see Kiwis in Australia forced to pay university fees many times higher than their Australian classmates.
Audrey Young can’t bring herself to be quite so blunt, but oh dear – Gerry Brownlee’s debut as Foreign Minister not quite a triumph (Don’t worry people, the Nats have an answer for us! Want to study in Australia? Then become an Australian – Paula Bennett. Excellent.)
Comments by new Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee on New Zealand co-sponsoring a UN motion condemning Israel’s settlements in Palestinian territory are at odds with comments by Prime Minister Bill English.
However Brownlee broke the cardinal rule of any foreign minister – which is never to be out of step on any foreign affairs issue with the Prime Minister, who is ultimately the Chief Foreign Minister. Never ever, not even by a whisker.
So, pretty much as expected then. Such is the depth of National’s talent pool.