The disgraceful conduct of Julie Bishop

A big nation or person should pick on someone their own size. Or so I was told at home and at school, but also that one should do unto others as they would have done by them.

Australia is much bigger than New Zealand in every respect, and for over 100 years the relationship New Zealand and Australia have had could almost be described as beautiful. Few other pairs of countries from their inception can claim to have had had such a close relationship as these two. We fought alongside each other in two World Wars, and A.N.Z.A.C. Day is the most solemn of all times on the New Zealand and Australian calendar.

Except that yesterday, the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop attacked the New Zealand Labour Party in the most disgusting way over two questions asked by Chris Hipkins in Parliament. The two questions related whether or not Australian Deputy Prime Minister had New Zealand dual citizenship – turns out he did. The questions themselves landed Mr Hipkins in hot water with his boss, Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party, Jacinda Ardern who fronted the media yesterday and told journalists what had happened, that she expects better from her caucus and not to ask such questions in future.

What made Ms Bishop’s comments so disgusting was that they were:

  • Considerably excessive given the nature of what caused them and the fact that New Zealand Labour Party made contact to say sorry, reiterate how much it values the Goverment of Australia
  • So inflammatory – Australia’s problem with migrants might be real and it is, but attacking a nation that has been Australia’s nearest and dearest since Gallipoli
  • Ignoring the fact that it was not of New Zealand Labour’s making – sure Mr Hipkins should not have asked those questions, but having assured Ms Ardern of the circumstances he was not demoted

I want to maintain as best as possible a relationship with Australia. New Zealand needs Australia for many obvious reasons, but also some not so obvious ones such as only it and New Zealand have the influence and resources to deal with a South Pacific emergency without calling on international help. New Zealand and Australia have a common interest in each others well being.

I do not want to see New Zealand having to take measures that would affect ordinary Australians living and working in New Zealand as Australia could hit back many times harder. That said, if Australia is going to continue making policy announcements that further erode the viability of New Zealanders living in Australia then perhaps it is time review the visa rules for Australians coming to New Zealand.

Something Julie Bishop and her boss Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would do really well to note.

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