Australia’s Ireland – What exactly is New Zealand’s relationship with Australia?



Australians who happened to be born in New Zealand are being rounded up, locked up in hard-core detention facilities, and marooned. What’s this about? What exactly is New Zealand’s relationship with Australia?

In short, New Zealand is Australia’s Ireland. Further, in British eyes, it always was.

Some history. New Zealand was called ‘New Zealand’ because of its discovery by Europeans in 1642 by employees of the Dutch East India Company (VOC); their captain was Abel Tasman. Australia had likewise been ‘discovered’ 36 years earlier, and had been named New Holland. There was a nice symmetry about this; most directors of the VOC were from Holland, with the remainder being from Zeeland. These were the early years of the Dutch United Provinces, one of Europe’s first ever republics.

In 1770 James Cook ‘discovered’ New Holland’s eastern coast. Initially named ‘New Wales’ by Cook, for reasons unknown this was revised to New South Wales. Before 1836, British-settled eastern Australia was generally known as New South Wales, and the remainder of Australia as New Holland. Then the colony of South Australia (never part of NSW) was proclaimed. New South Wales reached its greatest extent in the year 1840, when it incorporated New Zealand. In the 1850s, Victoria and Queensland broke away from New South Wales.

From Britain’s perspective, New Zealand as part of New South Wales was only a temporary expedient. Rather, the British thought of New Zealand as New Ireland, with Ireland being beyond Wales rather than of Wales; over a saline ‘ditch’. Unfortunately for the British there was already a New Ireland (in what is now known as the ‘Bismarck Archipelago’, and named in 1767 by a British sea-captain, Philip Carteret). Never mind, the British simply called our triple crown ‘New Ulster’, ‘New Munster’ and ‘New Leinster’; the ‘New Ireland’ was implicit. In the 1846 constitution some token realism took place. Stewart Island did not really compare with Greater Dublin. And Wellington was more connected with Nelson and Christchurch than with Auckland. So New Zealand was re-divided by the British into two New Irish provinces; New Ulster north of the Patea River mouth, New Munster south of that line.

The United Kingdom was formed as a union of England/Wales, Scotland and Ireland in 1801. The Union Jack is a blend of the crosses of St George (England), St Andrew (Scotland) and St Patrick (Ireland). Ireland was very much the subservient part of the Union, and was treated with much contempt by the English in particular, who saw the civilised world as being across the Channel to its southeast, not across its ditch to the northwest. Although much of industrial Britain was constructed with Irish labour, the Irish were always second-class citizens – really denizens – to English eyes.

Unlike the Irish, New Zealanders fortuitously averted their neighbour’s yoke after only 14 months of attachment, in 1841. The ‘troubles’ that occurred persistently between the Irish ‘home rulers’ and the English-dominated Westminster government were legendary, and will enter their penultimate phase soon if Britain votes to leave the European Union. (The final phase will be the resolution of the Northern Irish question in a post EU United Kingdom; or a post-EU England. Maybe Northern Ireland will be separated by a Hungarian-style fence erected by the Irish to close Ireland’s EU back door to England’s millions of resident denizens?)

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New Zealand averted a second opportunity for Irish-style ‘troubles’ by not joining the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. For 100 years, while Australia looked the other way (to its far northwest in the main, but also, from the 1950s, to its far northeast across the Pacific), we pretended to be a rivalrous sibling; equal though smaller. Australia, not able to govern us, simply ignored us. To Britain, New Zealand was literally eclipsed by Australia. To Britons, New Zealand exists ‘as if’ it was an Australian state. We reinforce this particularly English perception, by appearing through our symbols to be something like New Anglesey. To the British, Auckland since the 1950s has become the Holyhead rather than the Dublin of the south.

To Australia New Zealand became its Ireland in the late 1980s. (Or was it March 1946 when Australia played New Zealand at test cricket and contemptuously refused to play New Zealand again until 1974?) That was when gross national income (GNI, formerly GNP) per person in New Zealand fell by about 20% against that in Australia. Prior to that the two countries’ per capita incomes were close enough to the same. The legacy of Rogernomics, however, was to make the Tasman Sea crossing close to one-way traffic in labour; with a small offsetting flow of junior managers in Australia doing time in New Zealand to build their careers.

By 2001, New Zealand’s stereotyped role as Bondi crims and dole bludgers was well established. Air New Zealand bought the dying Ansett Airlines (because the Australian government had reneged on CER provisions to allow Air NZ to fly within Australia), and imported Australian managers. It was not clear who took over whom. When Ansett and its New Zealand parent became insolvent in September 2001, many Australians thought it was all New Zealand’s fault. The New Zealand Airforce had to rescue Helen Clark from Australia when her flight was picketed. “The Kiwi bashing generally has become very vicious,” Clark said. Earlier that year, Australia unilaterally disqualified New Zealand-born residents from rights to tertiary education support, and disqualified New Zealand-born participants in the ‘reserve army of labour’ from rights to unemployment benefits.

New Zealanders came to live and work in Australia as denizens, not as Anzacs; and were looked upon generically as the English looked upon the Irish. While I like Australia, and I like the Australians who know me, I also understand that Australia has become as much ‘another country’ as any other ‘other country’.

We are now seeing the full playing-out of this new ‘guest worker’ relationship. New Zealand-born Australians have become substantial victims of a process within Australia in which a clear divide is growing between denizen workers and citizens. The Saudi-isation of Australia.

New Zealand has to accept that it is not a much-loved bastard sibling of the former Australian colonies. Rather New Zealand is just another foreign nation dealing with an essentially xenophobic neighbour. We need to get used to this. It’s part of our journey towards actual independence within a world of Wilsonian nation states. (This ‘sovereign nation’ system may not be the best system of geopolitical organisation, but it’s nevertheless the system that became firmly entrenched last century, and is therefore what we accept as reality.)

New Zealand has to separate from its past attachments. Ireland has largely separated from its British attachments; generally for the better, despite the Eurozone crisis. While Britain may not be as ruthless today in deporting unwanted Irish-born Britons as Australia is at deporting unwanted New Zealand-born Australians, we accept that Australia sets its rules, and New Zealand should continue making other friends while learning to live with its neighbourhood bully. Australia is that bully, not Australians.

Ireland is a cool and welcoming place, even to the English; ‘New Ireland’ is cool and welcoming too, even to Australians.


  1. Sad as is, I look forward to the time when Australia firmly closes its doors to NZ migrants flocking to Australia every time our economy slumps.

    Only when that happens will those same NZers stick around here and actually work toward addressing the changes this country needs, instead of running away and leaving the problems to persist.

    NZ politicians, especially those of do-nothing conservative leaning, must love the safety valve of cross Tasman migration. It removes the discontented and the economically damaged from the electoral roll.

  2. The NZ government should be **screaming** at the Australian government for putting NZ citizens in concentration camps*.
    (From google –
    *What were the concentration camps?
    A concentration camp is a place where people are detained or confined without trial. Prisoners were kept in extremely harsh conditions and without any rights. )

    And they should be telling the Australian government that any person who went to Australia before the age of 13 and was educated in Australian society should be paroled and reformed in that society. They screwed up that person, they should be rehabilitating that person. It’s unconscionable to send that person away from their partner and children. (We should “screw up” and let them get a new passport under a new name via deed poll so that they can go back. It’s worked before.)

    That Key seems totally disinterested just shows he doesn’t care a flying fig about NZers.

  3. Come on people, John Key didn’t even know about New Zealanders in detention camps apparently but luckily in the best interests of all Kiwi’s Murray McCully went the whole hog on this and texted someone in Australia. Texts take a fair bit of thumb effort you know and David Farrar hadn’t told them waht to do next!
    So what more can possibly be done?

  4. Interesting evaluation @ Keith Rankin .
    So, The New Zealand Australia Free Trade Agreement then ? What about it?

    Why was NZ tied into that ? Is not Australia one of our serious competitors for EU/USA markets for our agricultural products ? So why then are we so closely and incestuously connected to AU, one of our most determined competitors ?

    Let me get this straight?

    AU . One large sand pit full of stinging things , it’s oceans full of bitey things and a post European people consisting largely of criminals and miscreants.

    NZ . A country with 4.3 million people but the size of the UK excluding the beastly Irish of which I am one ( Which makes NZ quite big versus people per square hectare ) and rich in resources . Including fresh water ! And we have grass too.

    So , I guess my question might be … What the fuck do we need Australia for again?

    Don’t get me wrong. I love Aussie . I love Australians . I love their weirdy animals and even weirder plants . Aborigines ? What are they about ? Dream Time ? An ancient culture steeped in amazing shit? And here we are ? Fucking around with the minutiae of existence while we sport 305 k hungry kids . I mean WTF ?
    Australia is being asked to get tough with us Kiwis there to bring us home again?

    Australia was used to swindle NZ farmer money away on the pretext that we needed to see Australia as a market for our agricultural product in return for them supplying us with a fleet of shitty old cars like Holdens, Fords and Chryslers ? When we Kiwis used to get our shit from the USA, the EU and the UK ? Smell a rat yet ?? What does the word duplicitous mean ?
    I’m beginning to think that ‘ history ‘ is little more than a work of fiction. If the last few years of toxic NZ politics has taught me nothing else it’s taught me to not believe one single fucking thing I’m told . No disrespect intended.
    Aussie’s a vast, vast land of sand and minerals with a fringe of sheep and cows.

    New Zealand . Beautiful NZ / Aotearoa’s filthy rich in foods , water , forests , and nothing, nothing bitey apart from a wee spider that’ll get pissed if you sit on it while at the beach.

    The NZ/ Australia thing ? A swindle.

  5. There is no ‘special relationship’ between NZ and Australia if you are a member of NZ’s public. That is, other than some (now) romantic notion of an ANZAC spirit that’s trotted out for a few days each year when we all feel good about each other. In recent times and starting with Howard, the relationship from a citizen’s point of view, it’s become more and more like a one-way street. If you’re a Kiwi crossing the ditch, you’d better be prepared to line up behind any other immigrant, and preferably be WASPish (unless of course you’re a CEO, high profile sportsman, or established professional in the media – musicians don’t count – especially when their popularity wanes).

    I offer the following (a comment made on Ryan’s Nine to Noon this past week) when she covered the issue:

    Over the past 50 years, the transTasman travel and citizenship relationships have got tougher.

    In the ’60s and early 70s I lived in Australia – went to school there.
    NZ was as much seen as just another State as a separate country (in keeping with that ‘ANZAC brotherhood’)

    No passport was required. One simply jumped on a P&O liner and 3 nights and 2 days later, one was there. Any benefit entitlements in NZ would be picked up in Australia. Travel was no different to inter-Australian State travel. Indeed I recall being stopped at the NSW border when driving from Melbourne to Sydney to have the boot of the car searched in case we were carrying fruit.

    There was as much NZ-Australian rivalry as there was inter-state rivalry.

    The tightening of restrictions seems to have come entirely from the Australian side. The only time ‘NZ’ exists in the ANZAC relationship (and one assumed formalised by the CER agreement) is a few days either side of the 25th)

    I’m not quite sure how it occurred that my first passport was Australian, around 1970 despite never having gone through any formal process that I can remember. I still didn’t have to show it at an airport when returning to NZ in 1972 on a TEAL/Air NZ Electra.

    It really is time that NZ and Australia worked out just what this ‘special relationship’ is between the two nations – it is very one-sided. However I doubt any current politician is willing to take the issue on in any meaningful way, but IF they don’t, we should forget about flags and ANZAC relations and wat exactly it all means.

    It seems to me that conservatives (and worryingly from many who purport to be on the ‘left’) always need to have someone or some demographic to denigrate and penalise in some way. At the moment, Kiwis are an easy target – although those bloody Abboes and Lebboes are still proving a bit pesky. They seem to have eased off a bit on those Spiks and Greckoes over the past 50 years. (sarc)

  6. You started with two errors in the first sentence when you said:

    “Australians who happened to be born in New Zealand are being rounded up, locked up in hard-core detention facilities, and marooned.”

    1/ People born in NZ are New Zealanders. If they never bothered to apply for Aussie citizenship, that’s their own fault.

    2/ Nobody is being “rounded up”. They’re just sending back our garbage: People who have been convicted and imprisoned for serious criminal offences.

    I’d do exactly the same.

    • 1/ People born in NZ are New Zealanders. If they never bothered to apply for Aussie citizenship, that’s their own fault.

      No it’s not. Since the early 2000s, gaining citizenship has become much harder, with one report stating the cost is over $6,000.

      2/ Nobody is being “rounded up”. They’re just sending back our garbage: People who have been convicted and imprisoned for serious criminal offences..


      One could say the same thing about right-wingers who display a lack of compassion for their fellow man and woman.

      And yes, they are being rounded up, according to this media report ;

      About 200 New Zealanders are reported to be in the detention centres, rounded up since Australia changed its immigration laws in December.

      “For the past week we have heard harrowing stories of New Zealand-born Australian residents, who have served their time, being shipped off in the dead of night to detention centres hundreds of miles away from their families”, he said on Monday.


      You’re out of step with what’s happening, Andrew. (A necessary prerequisite for right-wingers, to maintain Black & White situations.)

      • I suppose it depends on ones perspective.

        If I was an Australian taxpayer and citizen I would want criminal non-citizens to be taken directly from their cells to the departure lounge at the airport upon completion of their sentences.

        As a New Zealand citizen and taxpayer I would like the same here too!

        I suspect this whole Easter Island detour thing is an attempt by the Aussie government to avoid lengthy and expensive appeals against deportation. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re busy amending the law right now, so the current situation is probably only temporary.

  7. An interesting article Keith. The historical details make reference to present day New Zealand attitudes, some of which are new to me.

    You have, however, overlooked one detail which most Kiwis overlook.

    In my experience Kiwis do not really consider themselves as a nation.

    They are Aucklanders, Wellingtonians, Cantaurians, Southlanders, Coasties, Mainlanders, Pig Islanders, or any of a thousand parochial names.

    My father and I both noticed this inherent Kiwi parochialism when we first arrived here back in the 60s and it really has changed very little since then.

    And along with that also is an odd, very peripatetic, element. A significant proportion of the population lives “elsewhere” not in New Zealand. You’ve even got a name for it: OE…

    My own observation of your relationship with Awstralia is that you are more like the Mexicans than the Irish.

    I guess once you get to the stage of thinking of yourselves as a soveriegn nation rather than part of a double act, you’ll act towards the Aussies AS a soveriegn nation.


    • Hmmm JS, you use the second person plural “you”, your” and not “us” “our” to describe your countrymen. Yet it appears that you’ve been here 50 odd years, do you still feel unassimilated?

      • Still just another Pom. Part observer, part participant…

        And since this is the thinking person’s blog I shall assume you were NOT going to go the the “why don’t you bugger off if you don’t like it here” way. 🙂

    • “In my experience Kiwis do not really consider themselves as a nation……”
      In a way @JSB, that’s very true, and its something Okkers used to do, although they still cling to the idea of being a ‘Queenslander’ or a South Awstralian.
      The surprising thing is though, that with all that parochialism, how is it that we’re so ready to embrace the one world order, American and/or British imperialism? It befuddles me

      ….and just btw, that Andrew pillock above merely serves to prove my previous point. Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi.

      If anyone on this site monitors the Australian media, can they show me where coverage of ANZAC day celebrations deigns to mention the NZ contingent? Now I think about it, that ANZAC spirit actually means sweat fuck all and is only relevant to those wishing to commemorate the losses in war once a year. If you followed the OZ MSM, you could be forgiven for thinking NZ was not involved.
      One or two token symbols – a statue at the end of a bridge, an occasional crumb or two to feed the ego of a NZ Proim Munster from his bigger brother (Malc Turnbull to John Key), an MSM salute from Cruella de Ville (I’ll remember her actual name in a minute) to the wonders of the Nu Zill konamee that okkers should embrace. I remembered – Amanda? de Vine

      The NZ response to all this dismantling of the ‘special relationship’ is bloody pathetic. As I understand it, NZ attends COAG meetings and has done since its inception. There goes one forum, quite apart from picking up the telephone, or stating the bleeding obvious. Anyone remember Tampa btw? Or Apples and CER? Or Ansett/Air NZ and the actual reasons for its demise.

      Fortress Australia

      • You’re absolutely right about that one world order thing ex-Tim.

        My response would be along the lines of if the sense of nation is as weak as I posit it to be, that would make the one world order thing almost inevitable wouldn’t it? A strong sense of self or national identity acts as a severe stumbling block to the idea of globalisation.

        • The late, lamented Bruce Jesson made a similar contention according to Brian Easton. He wrote that New Zealand lacked a solid social basis, because aside from Maori cultural institutions, its social architecture was basically a State construction or introduced from Britain. It hadn’t organically developed over centuries like it had in Europe.

          “Bruce summarises the thesis as:
          New Zealand was a state-created society in that the state did not emerge from some already-existing social order, some civil society, but instead created it. The state was responsible for creating the infrastructure of the country – the social infrastructure, as well as the economic infrastructure. And while this was unavoidable, it meant New Zealand was a society without texture. New Zealand might without exaggeration be thought of as a hollow society.2

          (To begin with a scholarly disavowal. The notion of a textured society is intimately linked to that of civil society, it is a way of discussing rigorously the social capital, and I have also linked it to the writings of Joe Stiglitz, who has just shared the 2001 Nobel prize in economics.3 Tonight I do not have time to explore these connections, because there are the particularities in their application to New Zealand which much of our colonial discourse ignores. Tonight’s presentation is in a New Zealand context.).”

  8. Just get bored with hearing about how much money people have made in Australia, I suspect a lot of these expats are scab labourers who undermine local labour conditions.

  9. The actions of a developed nation such as Australia, in making undesirables disappear into isolated detention camps, devoid of rights, to be held indefinitely – has not been seen on this scale since the Nazis, during the ill fated attempt to cleanse their society, which didn’t end well. Ya’ vol, it seems Australia is no longer the lucky country, but is now the tricky country, that has learnt nothing from its own convict history, when a person could be deported for as little as stealing a loaf of bread.

    The retrospective detention policy applied to kiwi’s, damages the Anzac spirit. A kiwi who may have been incarcerated 10 years ago, now risks being rounded up, detained and deported. You could just imagine the outrage, if any aboriginal group suggested imposing this same regime on ALL immigrant descendents in Aus.

    Just as Australia gets a lot of residents from NZ, it gets a lot of profits from Australian owned assets in NZ. Australia is given special treatment in many respects. For example, direct investment from Australia is allowed for up to $800 million per year, before OIO approval is needed.

    Australia changed its deportation policy setting from 2 years incarceration to 1 year. To use the same logic, NZ could change its foreign investment policy setting, from $800 million to $100 million per year, applied retrospectively like the harsh deportation policy. So any Australian owned assets such as banks for example, worth more than $100 million, would have to obtain OIO approval if they don’t already have it, or face being nationalized.

    If our PM started making these types of noises, Malcolm Turnbull would be jumping into action, as if he’d just sat on an electric fence, because when it comes to dealing with a fellow neo-lib, our PM has to use the language that is guaranteed to be understood, which is the money dialect. Time for the PM to start turning the screws on the Australian 1%, to get better treatment for some of the NZ 99%. Will our PM prefer to use his spine, or some focus group’s weasel words? And why on earth are Australians still able to get social security benefits in NZ, can Malcolm Turnbull answer that?

    The PM is right that this is not sustainable, but for how long will it be sustained? It’s ok for the Balmain blue rinse set, to look down their noses at undesirables in detention. But if a disaster befell Australia, causing hoards of desirable Australians, to head for our shores, would they want to be told to turn around and head for Nauru or Papua instead? Would that be dinkum? Would they be prepared to take, what they happily dish out? Would that be in the Anzac spirit?

    • Karen

      I’m not going to attempt to defend the current Australian policy of detention, however much of the criticism by New Zealanders is just plain hypocritical.

      The number of refugees that NZ resettles is neglible compared with Australia, even on a per capita basis, so Kiwis are welcome at any time to take the inmates of the Australian detention centres and accept them in their country. Of course NZ doesn’t have to deal with unauthorised ‘boat people’ either.

      The ‘special relationship’ between Australia and NZ is a myth, the only ‘special relationship’ NZ had was with the U.K. and that didn’t go well, did it?. As to the Anzac spirit, as far as I understand New Zealanders rejected the idea at first, and during WW2 most of the NZ army was in Europe, not in the Pacific with their Australian ‘cousins’.

      Kiwis should get over their collective tantrum and accept that NZ is not a quasi state of Australia and it is in reality a sovereign nation.

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