Recently we had A.N.Z.A.C. Day. Australians and New Zealanders put aside the rugby, the netball and other rivalries for 24 hours to remember the baptism of fire we experienced at Gallipoli. At national level we treated each other as if we were family. All was cozy and the rest of the world were shown Aussie and Kiwi mateship at its finest. But when it was all over, things continued their slow but gentle downhill glide.
It is unfortunate to say, but Australia is slowly but steadily drifting further into the orbit of the United States. Less and less do Australian politicians seem able or willing to create policy that addresses the needs of Australia without running it past an American Congress member, Senator or even the President of the United States himself.
In terms of security, Australia is considered a close and loyal ally of the United States. It has been permitted to purchase F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and exercises readily with American forces. It hosts and plans to host more American forces on its soils as tensions rise around the Southeast Asian and Pacific regions. No thought though seems to be given to securing the South Pacific nations whose minerals make them a tempting area of exploitation for China, whose weak justice systems mean that militants could potentially slip through unnoticed.
This poses a problem for New Zealand as it is something of an open back door, but one that New Zealand cannot fully close without Australia’s help and the cooperation of the South Pacific island nations.
In the respect of foreign policy, it seems that Australia has all but given up on the South Pacific. It refuses point blank to acknowledge that climate change is a very real and pressing concern for many of its small island neighbours, be they Vanuatu or Tonga. The lowest lying islands in these little countries are barely above sea level at their highest points of altitude and even a mild tropical depression or king tide can cause significant problems. It is quite reasonable to expect that Kiribati will be submerged in the next 25 years, and that other atoll nations will follow in the next 50-100 years.
This is where New Zealand’s input becomes essential. There are a host of sovereignty, environmental and socio-economic issues that will come into play the further the well being of these nations degrades because of the encroaching seas. We cannot stop its advance, but we can push the case of these peoples who will soon be stateless in places like the United Nations and when dealing with Australia.
The lack of regard for the South Pacific also seems to be extending in terms of their security, and law and order. In 2003 Australia and New Zealand undertook a joint police/military operation to disarm gangs and other criminal factions and reinforce the Solomon Island police. The operation was largely deemed a success, and showed that the two countries can work together on regional security issues.
Australia’s disregard also extends to New Zealand and New Zealanders itself it would seem. Despite the coziness of being the first A and the N.Z. in A.N.Z.A.C., it would seem that Australia is happy for New Zealanders to be at significant disadvantage living in Australia to other nationalities. It is true that we enjoy certain advantages that all of the others do not have in that we can just fly over, clear customs, find a job and start working. But they all have something that New Zealanders in Australia do not: a clear path to Australian citizenship.
Prime Minister Bill English is apparently less than impressed by the recent Australian policy announcement that visa rules are going to be tightened and that New Zealanders will not be exempt. Mr English has asked new Minister of Foreign Affairs Gerry Brownlee to convey the concerns, to Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop. Whether this is election year manoeuvring or a genuine concern, I am not yet sure, but any punitive actions such as announcing similar actions with regards to the many Australians here would be a risky move.
With Australia’s Liberal Government slowly being warped by the far right, non-Australians are finding out first hand how (un)welcome many of them really are. Whilst New Zealanders seem to be okay at this point, the recent announcement about subsidies for New Zealanders studying in Australia being withdrawn show Australia does not value its nearest and – one time – dearest neighbour so much anymore.