Wednesday, December 06, 2006



No thanks

A group of Australian MPs thinks we should look at a trans-Tasman union. No thanks. For a start, it is difficult to see what it would achieve - we already have the benefits of free movement through the trans-Tasman travel arrangement, and of free trade (except in apples) through CER. What would political union add? While a case can be made for further economic integration, political integration clearly isn't necessary for that to go ahead. Meanwhile, on the minus side there's the fact that our "shared values" aren't that shared. Quite apart from the obvious point of difference on race relations, there's also our divergant foreign policies and differing stances on Iraq, climate change, refugees, human rights, and the Pacific. Political union with Australia would mean losing our voice on the international stage, and would see our policy stance dictated by Texas-over-the-Tasman. And that's something I don't want a bar of.

14 comments:

"Political union" along the lines of that within the EU mightn't be such a bad idea, and there are merits to a common currency too (which need to be weighed up against the downsides). Of course New Zealand will never exercise its right under the Australian Constitution to accede as a state. That would mean being subject to the supremacy of Commonwealth law, and we know how odious that can be.

"Increased harmonisation of legal structure" is the term they used for the most part, and that has obvious benefits that should go without question. The example the committee chair gave was that a power of attorney signed in one country should be valid in the other - there are plenty of other similar situations. They're really a separate issue to actual political union.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/06/2006 05:40:00 PM

NRT,
it isn't clear if you are really objecting to Australians or if you are objecting to the conservatives/national party.

Besides that remember not only would union give them a say in our politics it would also give us a say in theirs. so we might be able to take a stand on global warming that will actually make a difference - or help to fix their race relations etc.

Other than that your arguments apply similarly to the south island or any other area that is under the control of Aucklo-Hamilton and Wellington.

I suggest Political union is generally a good idea although less so in the case of the EU because they have much larger income/cultural differences.

Posted by Genius : 12/06/2006 06:17:00 PM

Having seen the snarl ups that having a joint State/Federal system can do, I'd object purely on 'money wasted in duplicate bureaucracy' grounds.

Also, having lived in the middle of bloody nowhere bits of australia on and off at various times since 1995, and having seen just how much the bulk of the eastern Oz body politic uses WA, NT and TAS as a resources cash cow and then rides roughshod over their regional concerns makes me fairly sure that NZ as a state of Oz would find itself in a similar condition.

Posted by Weekend_Viking : 12/06/2006 08:03:00 PM

Genius,

You vastly overestimate our ability to accomplish anything as a one small state in a large federation.

Idiot,

You've got it wrong: we don't have economic integration, we have something better. Oz has a protectionist racket for various industries. If we were part of Oz you'd find bananas were suddenly bloody expensive, and air fares would go up by a lot.

OTOH we'd get a lot of money from the federal govt as we'd count as being quite poor.

Posted by Icehawk : 12/06/2006 09:10:00 PM

"there are merits to a common currency too"

Nah. We'd lose our monetary policy. Look at how it's panned out in Europe: central banks lose their ability to fight unemployment and inflation. A common currency only makes sense if your economies are in synch. England's staying out of the euro for good reasons.

Posted by Icehawk : 12/06/2006 09:12:00 PM

Icehawk,

First aproach is simple maths.
We would have influence over the power of Australia proportional to our population. That would, all things being equal, be a net increase in our power, at least on issues relating to military, human rights, climate change etc - because australia would be more influential per head of population in these areas.

It is pretty easy to say an average african (just an example) in USA has more influence on world affairs than an african in the Congo. His vote might be spread over a larger number of people but it also goes towards making more global decisions.

Having said that - we are do as we say not as we do for climate change so we might actually make them worse.

>Look at how it's panned out in Europe: central banks lose their ability to fight unemployment and inflation.

NZ/Au I would think would be vastly more in sync than germany/portugal.

Posted by Genius : 12/06/2006 09:36:00 PM

There are certainly downsides to a common currency. Those were the main ones I was thinking of, but there are subtler potential issues. It's a matter of weighing them up against the potential benefits, which are obvious. It might turn out the balance lies either way, but it'd be good to examine it.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/06/2006 10:17:00 PM

Anon: I'm quite happy with "legal harmonisation"; as you point out, its bloody useful. But we don't need even an EU-style political structure to do that - we can do it simply by having our governments sit across the table from one another and hash out the details.

(There's some further thoughts on this issue in a wider pacific context here).

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/06/2006 10:47:00 PM

Genius: its not just about Howard; these are differences between our societies, not just our governments. New Zealand is multilateralist by instinct; we see ourselves as a small country at the bottom of the world which isn't and doesn't want to be a threat to anyone (and likewise isn't threatened by anyone). We seek our security in international law and encouraging people to be nice. Australia is a larger, more powerful country, and it has neighbours which it isn't particularly comfortable with. It has more of a national ego (for want of a better term), and seeks its security through military force. It is less afraid to throw its weight around (look at the way it treats Timor, or the Pacific), which comes across as bullying to people from smaller countries.

Australia looks at the Pacific, and it sees instability and threats. We look at the Pacific, and we see our relatives. To riff on Colin James, Australia looks on the Pacific; New Zealand is of the Pacific. That's a pretty big difference - and joining up means we effectively lose the ability to act on it.

Make no mistake, I thik we have a lot in common. But we have a lot in common with the US and UK as well, and I wouldn't want to be a part of them either. At the moment, we have many of the benefits of political union, without any of the drawbacks. And I prefer to keep it that way.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/06/2006 10:48:00 PM

Being a member of a EU type body would be a good thing. Unfortunately being a member of one with Australia as the only other partner would not.

If they abolished "Australia" and replaced it with an EU style union of sovereign states, that might be a bit better - NZ would be the third largest nation.

We could of course try and join the European Union - they already have various French overseas territories.

Posted by Rich : 12/07/2006 10:23:00 AM

Joining the EU would benefit us more than joining a political union with Australia. Imagine: no more butter or sheepmeat quotas, free access, travel, working rights and domiciliation in all EU countries, free access for all Europeans to live and invest here, a say in the affairs of the EU (now we're only takers of their rulings, regulations and quotas). Union with Australia would never give us that much leverage and as I/S said, apart from apple access, there'd be no economic gains.

Posted by Hans Versluys : 12/07/2006 10:55:00 AM

I dont think joining the EU is on the table. rather like union with Japan ;)

Posted by Genius : 12/07/2006 07:41:00 PM

New Zealand is multilateralist by instinct; we see ourselves as a small country at the bottom of the world which isn't and doesn't want to be a threat to anyone (and likewise isn't threatened by anyone). We seek our security in international law and encouraging people to be nice.

NZ lives in the dream-world of security free-riding and general wishful thinking about the avoidability of conflict that its location allows for.

Australia is a larger, more powerful country, and it has neighbours which it isn't particularly comfortable with. It has more of a national ego (for want of a better term), and seeks its security through military force.

Australia doesn't (because it can't).

Australia looks at the Pacific, and it sees instability and threats. We look at the Pacific, and we see our relatives.

Our unstable threatening, burdensome relatives... (our stable, unthreatening, self-reliant relies are all in Aust.)

To riff on Colin James, Australia looks on the Pacific; New Zealand is of the Pacific. That's a pretty big difference

This adds only its own conclusoriness. Stop it.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/08/2006 03:07:00 AM

Because of our atrocious savings record we are being bought up by Australia anyway so we are losing defacto control of our economy anyway. We freeload off their defense spending, and frankly who in the world cares about our foreign policy. I think we seriously kid ourselves about our 'sovereignty' and would definitely prefer that we took our values into the Australian confederation and possibly tip the balance the right way on the issues where we diverge.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/08/2006 06:19:00 AM