New Zealand and Australia: Moving Together or Drifting Apart? Gary Hawke Reports on the 36th Foreign Policy School Held in Dunedin in July 2001 and an NZIIA Seminar Held in Wellington Shortly Afterwards on the Anzac Connection

Article excerpt

Sibling rivalries are seldom quiescent for long, not at least for the junior member. Discussions in New Zealand of the bilateral relationship with Australia are therefore not rare. Even so, there was a feast in 2001. The annual Otago Foreign Policy School dealt with `New Zealand and Australia: moving together or drifting apart?' A little later the NZIIA's National Office sponsored a seminar in Wellington with the same title but the more wide-ranging sub-title, `Where are we going?' Later in the year, too late for this commentary, the Institute of Policy Studies and the Stout Research Centre organised an even more wide-ranging discussion of cultures and minds under the heading of `States of Mind, New Zealand and Australia 1901-2001'.

In the mid-year functions, we were reminded several times that the New Zealand-Australia relationship is not entirely unique. There is an obvious parallel with Canada and the United States, and also less recognised analogues such as Lebanon-Syria. There was, however, no need to look to other sibling rivalries for suggestions of new and possibly exotic lines of discussion. Australia and New Zealand provide plenty of material. We are not in the position of the mid-Westerner seeing the Atlantic for the first time, `At last there is enough of something.' Geography and history guarantee that the Australia-New Zealand relationship will remain a live topic for the foreseeable future. Even those who took a long view and argued that geologically the two countries are certain through Continental Drift to move together found themselves in a debate about whether that was true for all of New Zealand.

The Otago and Wellington events had similar but not identical structures. There were ministerial openings, discussions focused on economic and defence aspects of the relationship, and recognition that the relationship extends across the whole range of policy, and beyond to cultural and personal interactions. The ministerial statements, by Phil Goff, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and by Jim Sutton, Minister of Trade Negotiations, were determinedly optimistic. Goff noted both that there are 540 services and 106,000 seats crossing the Tasman each way each week (although the numbers will have been reduced somewhat in the second half of the year) and that Australia was complaining about New Zealand's defence effort in 1924. Jim Sutton explored the potential of two sovereign countries operating as one economy. The speakers on the economy and business relations included Neville Gibson, Gary Hawke, Tim Hazledine, Murray Horn, and Roger Kerr; John Wood and Paul Cotton added a specific discussion of migration. The defence relationship was explored by Max Bradford, Dave Dickens, Ron Huisken, Dennis McLean, Terence O'Brien, and Hugh White. The wider policy settings were exemplified in the field of research and innovation by Tricia Berman and Grant Ramsay, while Lydia Wevers took the discussion wider with an account of literary relations between Australia and New Zealand. History in the broad sweep or as personal experience was brought to bear by Tom Brooking, Bob Catley, Gerald Hensley and Richard Teare.

The proceedings of the Foreign Policy School will be published in 2002; (1) those of the Wellington seminar are already available. (2) Most of the content will be found to be essentially foreign policy as conceived in the Australia division of MFAT. If the agenda had been constructed through any of the international institutions division, the environment division, or the disarmament and arms control division, we would have got at least Gary Hawke is Professor of Economic History at Victoria University of Wellington. While he directed the Institute of Policy Studies, trans-Tasman relations were always on its agenda. He is the deputy chair of the New Zealand committee of the Pacific Economic Co-operation Council. different emphases. However, sibling rivalries are seldom conducted with equal attention to all aspects of a family and its setting. …