Prof Bill Harris
Several recent concerns, including over alleged pressure
tactics by Australian-owned supermarkets, show there clearly
are ''limits'' to New Zealand's special relationship with
That is the view of Prof Bill Harris, of the University of
Otago politics department.
The New Zealand Commerce Commission is investigating
allegations this week by Labour MP Shane Jones that some
suppliers to Australian-owned Countdown supermarket chain in
this country had been unfairly pressured to make
Countdown management has denied the allegation but said there
were robust negotiations with suppliers in the best interests
of the New Zealand customer.
New Zealand food exporters have also voiced some concerns
that many supermarkets in Australia have been excluding some
New Zealand products from sale through support for a wider
''Buy Australia'' campaign.
Such supermarkets include the Australian Woolworths chain,
which owns Progressive Enterprises, which in turn owns 168
Prof Harris said recent concerns showed there were ''limits''
to the special relationship.
He acknowledged there had long been problems about exporting
New Zealand apples to Australia, and that the collapse of
Ansett Australia after it was bought by New Zealand interests
also showed some earlier difficulties in transtasman
Concerns had also been voiced about the apparent lack of
welfare support for most of about 500,000 New Zealanders who
were living in Australia, a majority of whom had not become
Prof Harris, who strongly opposes any suggestions of merging
with Australia, said there should be ''reciprocity'' and New
Zealanders living in Australia should enjoy the same rights
as Australians living here.
If the Australian Government was not prepared to provide
this, ''don't talk about special relationships'', he said.
''They're fairly tough-minded and we tend to be a bit
An Australian-based lobby group, OzKiwi, is pressing for New
Zealanders living in Australia, but who are not Australian
citizens, to have the same welfare and other rights as
Australians living in this country.
The group says that since the start of European settlement,
there had ''effectively been free movement of people''
between the two countries, and the right to live and work in
either country had been formalised in the 1970s through the
Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangements.
Over the years, conditions had varied, but had always ensured
people moving across the Tasman ''would gain access to
government services, the right to vote, and the right to
become citizens'' either immediately, after reasonable
waiting periods, or after a simple application process.
This had changed in 2001, when the Australian Government
''imposed harsh restrictions on New Zealand citizens arriving
to live in Australia''.
This move cut off access to certain government services,
including unemployment and several other benefits, regardless
of how long people had lived in Australia, and made it much
more difficult to gain Australian citizenship.
Several hundred thousand New Zealanders had become
disenfranchised and were ''denied Government assistance in
times of need''.
By contrast, New Zealand continued to treat Australians
fairly, giving them the right to vote after one year, to
receive government services after two years and to become
citizens after five years.
Prime Minister John Key recently raised the question of
support for expat New Zealanders in talks with his Australian
counterpart, Tony Abbott, and Australia agreed to extend
student loans to the children of long-term Kiwi expats.
But Australia declined to revisit the wider issue of support
for New Zealand expats, and Mr Abbott said they should be
''lifters not leaners'', in terms of working and welfare
Prof Harris said yesterday Closer Economic Relations (CER)
with Australia was a good idea, and it was sensible to reduce
bureaucratic impediments to trade and travel between the two
In 2001 Australian political scientist Prof Bob Catley- at
that stage based at Otago University- published a book,
titled Waltzing with Matilda, which suggested New Zealand
unite with Australia.
Prof Catley argued that New Zealand could become just another
poor South Pacific outpost unless it united with Australia,
given the continuing loss of its young people abroad, mainly
Prof Harris took issue with the book at the time, saying New
Zealand was a fully viable country with a different outlook
and history, including a different approach to nuclear-free
issues and to other Pacific nations.
He said yesterday that it would still be a mistake to
integrate too closely with Australia.
New Zealanders should not be treated unfairly in Australia,
but New Zealanders who moved there ''have to be aware of what
they're going in to'', he said.
''I'm actually a bit concerned about the scale of the flow
from here to Australia.
''They can always come back. They can always come home.''
Highs and lows of CER
Closer economic relations (CER) with Australia.
• Free-trade agreement between New Zealand and Australia,
• Many achievements, including SmartGate automated border
processing system, now expanded to New Zealand, allowing
quicker entry for transtasman travellers.
• But several bumps in the journey, including long-running
ban on entry of New Zealand apples to Australian market,
officially because of fire-blight concerns. Ban lifted in
2011 after appeal to World Trade Organisation, but
difficulties for exporters remain, including high biosecurity
• Collapse of Ansett Australia airline in March 2002, after
bought by Air New Zealand in 2000, leaving questions about
increased regulatory compliance challenges faced by the New
• Changes introduced by the Australian Government in 2001
meant many New Zealanders shifting to Australia no longer had
access to Government support services, including unemployment
benefits, and it became harder to become an Australian