It Is Inevitable That New Zealand Will Join The Australian Federation
by Vince McLeod
Many New Zealanders were pleased by the recent news that Kiwis living in Australia . This marks a significant change from the status quo, under which a Kiwi could live in Australia for 20 years without being able to vote or access healthcare. Few realise, though, that the move is another step towards federalisation.
The last time I travelled overseas was some years ago. While in the Auckland Airport departure lounge, I saw some t-shirts for sale that said simply “Yeah nah”. This phrase – yeah nah – is seldom used in Britain or North America and is therefore an iconic expression of Kiwi culture. Or so I thought.
The next leg of the journey saw me in the Sydney Airport departure lounge, where they were also selling t-shirts that said “Yeah nah”. It turned out that this phrase is used so frequently in Australia that it’s considered by Australians to be an iconic expression of their culture.
New Zealand culture is Australasian culture. There are aspects of culture that are unique to New Zealand and not shared with Australia, but those are as minor as the aspects of culture unique to, say, California and not shared with Ohio. For the most part, idiosyncrasies that Kiwis consider uniquely Kiwi are in fact shared across Australasia.
These idiosyncrasies are set to become even more shared with the new citizenship protocols. Until now, Kiwis had endured a kind of second-class status with several restrictions. Now they will be first-class citizens after only four years – a privilege not afforded to most nationalities, who will have to slog through the permanent residency process.
Some have complained that the new Australian citizenship rules will lead to an intensification of the brain drain from New Zealand. This is probably true. Some claim that this will lead to the Third Worldification of New Zealand as our productive workforce all leaves for higher wages. This is possibly true – but it depends on the future of Trans-Tasman relations.
The new citizenship rules will reduce the legal distinctions between Australian and New Zealand citizens. Eventually people will ask themselves: if Kiwis can freely move to Aussie and can become citizens with a minimum of effort, and vice-versa for Aussies, why even bother having separate systems? Why not just become one Anzac Republic – Anzacistan?
It’s already the case that many young Kiwis studying in New Zealand intend to move to Australia as soon as they are qualified. This is fine from Australia’s point of view, as they get educated additions to their workforce. It’s very bad from New Zealand’s point of view, as their taxpayers pay for 13-18 years’ education only to miss out on any benefit from the greater productivity.
If New Zealand became a state of Australia, it would mean that Australian tax money would also be used to pay for the education of Kiwis. No longer would Kiwi taxpayers fund the Australian workforce to their own detriment. If the Third Worldification of New Zealand can be prevented through federalisation, then both sides would be foolish not to agree to it, given the strategic considerations of New Zealand’s impoverishment.
Such a move is possibly inevitable anyway, given that we are only separate countries due to a historical fluke: The Mistake of 1901. The decision to even be separate countries in the first place was the result of erroneous thinking, in particular the belief that the 2,000km between New Zealand and Australia represented a vast gulf, akin to the distance between Italy and Tunisia.
In reality, the cultural difference between New Zealand and Australia is minuscule. A person can fly from Christchurch to Perth, a distance of over 5,000km, and will find most things in their new city familiar. Dress, mannerisms, architecture, popular brands and culture: all very similar. They can even find a thriving rugby union scene.
Few countries in the world have this degree of cultural homogeneity among regions at their opposite ends. Yet Australia and New Zealand have this, and are not one country. Why? Without referring to The Mistake of 1901, no logical explanation can be given. It seems to have been assumed that we would grow apart, like England and Ireland perhaps, but instead we grew together.
It’s time to accept that our forefathers, who predicted divergent evolution, were wrong. The cultures and peoples of New Zealand and Australia have, in fact, evolved convergently over the last 120 years. To understand this is to accept that federalisation is inevitable.
There are already . Now that this cohort can easily access Australian citizenship, and given that dual Kiwi-Aussie citizenship is already possible, the thin dividing lines between Kiwis and Aussies will get even thinner.
If federalisation is inevitable, it’s time to stop worrying about what rights Kiwis should have in Australia, and it’s time to start worrying about the terms under which New Zealand would accede to Australian statehood.