New Zealand-Australia Relations Plunge

By Marks, Kathy | The Independent (London, England), April 16, 2002 | Go to article overview
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New Zealand-Australia Relations Plunge

Marks, Kathy, The Independent (London, England)

"A DINGO stole my World Cup," read a banner waved by New Zealand fans at a recent rugby match in Auckland between the local team, the Blues, and the New South Wales Waratahs.

The slogan - a play on the words uttered by Lindy Chamberlain after her baby Azaria was snatched by a wild dog - expressed the widely-held fear that New Zealand is about to be robbed of the privilege of co-hosting next year's rugby World Cup with Australia.

If that nightmare comes true when a ruling is made by international rugby authorities this week, relations between the two former British colonies - already strained by disputes over defence, diplomacy, immigration and trade - could plunge to an all-time low. Rugby is akin to a religion in New Zealand.

The two neighbours have enjoyed close ties while being fierce rivals in the sporting arena, but increasingly Wellington and Canberra see the world through different eyes.

Yesterday, following Zimbabwe's one-year suspension from the Commonwealth, New Zealand announced a travel ban on President Robert Mugabe. Australia, which hosted last month's Commonwealth summit in Queensland, is opposed to sanctions.

It was the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, who brokered a compromise in Queensland that saved Zimbabwe from suspension before the election. He was snubbed by his New Zealand counterpart, Helen Clark, who voiced disgust at the summit's failure to act.

Relations are now so poor that Ms Clark recently went so far as to ask Australian ministers to stop interfering in her nation's affairs.

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