“Who Are You Calling ‘Mate’, Mate?”

By   /   August 3, 2018  /   12 Comments

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Right-wing Australia would like nothing more than to close its borders to these damned annoying Kiwis. Unfortunately, that would involve tearing up the Australian-New Zealand Closer Economic Relationship and toppling New Zealand into a full-scale economic and social crisis.

NEW ZEALAND’S RELATIONSHIP with Australia is under considerable strain. Though they have yet to state their position openly, Australia’s leaders are clearly less than enthusiastic about the tradition of “automatic entry” for New Zealand’s economic migrants. It is certainly difficult to read the Australian Government’s denial of non-emergency health care, higher education and social welfare benefits to Kiwi citizens as anything other than a pretty strong signal of Australia’s rising impatience with the ANZAC myth of eternal “mateship”.

Indeed, if the programmes currently featuring on Sky TV’s “History Channel” are anything to go by, there is a concerted effort underway to attach the “mateship” label to Australia’s relationship with the United States. Under the rubric of “One Hundred Years of Mateship” Australian documentary-makers are advancing the far-from-convincing argument that the Commonwealth of Australia – one of the British Empire’s most important economic and strategic “dominions across the seas” – and the United States of America have been bosom buddies from the moment they clapped eyes on each other across the battlefields of the Western Front in 1918.

It is rare in the English-speaking nations of the twenty-first century to witness such a blatant attempt to re-write history. Up until the Second World War, elite Australia’s attachment to British imperialism was as fervent as it was unquestioning. The Aussie working-class, much of it Irish and Catholic, may have had little cause to love the English and the Scots-Irish Orangemen from Ulster, but its dangerously radical opinions were vigorously rejected by the “respectable” settlers of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. For these sons and daughters of the Empire, “Mother England” was the source of all economic, military and cultural power. The USA and its teeming millions were impertinent upstarts – not “mates”.

That all changed, of course, when a squadron of Japanese navy bombers, almost nonchalantly, sank the two great British battleships, HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, off the Malaysian coast on 10 December 1941 – just three days after Japan’s surprise attack on the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour. The fall of “impregnable” Singapore, which followed soon after on 15 February 1942, brought home to Australians just how far away Mother England really was and forced them to shift their strategic gaze eastward to the United States. Every Australian understood that if the Japanese were going to be defeated, it would not be by the British, who had proved to be a busted-flush, but by the Americans. For most Aussies, therefore, the Yanks weren’t their “mates” – they were Australia’s bloody saviours!

Post-World War II, however, the case for US-Australian “mateship” grows progressively stronger. The two countries have fought alongside each other in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. The view from Canberra is unequivocally that of a steadfast ally upon whom Washington can rely without the slightest hesitation or doubt. The Liberal Party Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, confirmed this subaltern status by describing his country as America’s “deputy-sheriff”.

Howard’s Liberal successor, Malcolm Turnbull, has developed this relationship to the point where Australia now sees itself as a geostrategic bridge between the Pacific and Indian oceans. The Australian landmass is thus being presented to Washington as not only an unassailable thoroughfare for American power, but also as a barrier against the further extension of Chinese influence into either ocean.

It is this, Washington’s new “Indo-Pacific” strategy, that is, almost certainly, driving Foxtel’s “100 Years of Mateship” propaganda exercise on the History Channel. Australia’s foundation and development as a collection of British colonies is being barefacedly elided in favour of the Orwellian contention that: “Australia and the United States are mates. Australia and the United States have been mates for 100 years. Australia and the United States will always be mates.”

Which just leaves us, Australia’s former “mate”, New Zealand, positioned strategically alongside the lucky country’s eastern seaboard like an unsinkable offshore aircraft carrier which has, unaccountably, pushed all its fighter aircraft into the sea. An unreliable aircraft carrier, whose unreliable crew was for nearly 20 years bloody rude to Australia’s best mates – the Americans. A crew which insists on taking shore leave in Brisbane and Sydney and Melbourne where it spreads its downright subversive views about the rights of indigenous people and nuclear disarmament and practical feminism and need to do something big and meaningful about climate change among Australia’s dangerously persuadable citizens.

Right-wing Australia would like nothing more than to close its borders to these damned annoying Kiwis. Unfortunately, that would involve tearing up the Australian-New Zealand Closer Economic Relationship and toppling New Zealand into a full-scale economic and social crisis.

Now, there are some Aussies who’d like to say “tough luck, Kiwi” and walk away. Fortunately for New Zealand, however, there are wiser heads in the discussion who warn that a New Zealand in the grip of an existential crisis might feel it had no choice but to extend the hand of “mateship” to its largest trading partner. That if Australia goes on mistreating Kiwis, then it just might wake up one morning to discover that unsinkable aircraft carrier across the Tasman Sea bristling with Chinese bombers.

 

 

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12 Comments

  1. Sam Sam says:

    Interesting read. I’m amused by the implication that all of the world’s geopolitical problems are caused by the US’s Victory Disease and overall apathy with anything outside their borders.

    Bill Clinton set the ground work for the post Cold War problems and made a few critical failures (not killing Bin Laden being a big one) but most of his activities would have worked out fine with reasonably competent successors.

    Bush’s big mistake was Iraq. Afghanistan and the rest of the War on Terror was pretty much required by domestic political pressure in response to 9/11 dragging UK and Australia in and isolating New Zealand’s UN mandate excuses putting a wedge in.

    And then we had Obama who was so two faced with a large number of issues (in large part thanks to his predecessors and larger geopolitical issues) and spectacularly failed in his handling of every single one of them. Most of the problems that he faced were the result of his predecessors actions but his astounding ability to consistently pick the worst possible response to those problems has resulted in a President who will go down in history as the most incompetent President on foreign policy in the past century contrary to what CNN will say about Trump.

  2. David Stone says:

    We could sink beneath the waves. Apparently we have done so before.
    But let’s not have anyone else’s fighter jets aboard. We surely don’t need to be anyone’s enemy.
    D J S

  3. Rickoshay says:

    6 months in a leaky boat (split endz), one word, xenophobia, our version Tribalism!!
    You think the PLA wants any fuckin part of NZ, NO what they want is security in the south china sea, what they want is protection from the great war mongers in the world, Aussy and the U.S.A.
    its America that wants our Island as a air craft carrier, and our politico,s that want that to happen, they will be mining for minerals and drilling for oil in Antarctica first chance they get, why would you want to go to a desert and pick fights with the locals? OIL

  4. Johnnybg says:

    Nice one mate. We’ve always been, in all but name only, a colony of our big bouncy brother. Most of Godzone is mortgaged to Aussie banks, they own us. We’ll have the last laugh though, as when the lucky country drys up completely & morphs into a dust bowl they’ll all be climbing into little boats & heading in our direction. We can then enslave them & put them to work in our tropical plantations, as we’ll once again be the source of nourishment for an impoverished UK.

  5. WILD KATIPO says:

    Nice wee read, there, Mr Trotter…. and that’s an interesting perspective…

    [ ” Now, there are some Aussies who’d like to say “tough luck, Kiwi” and walk away. Fortunately for New Zealand, however, there are wiser heads in the discussion who warn that a New Zealand in the grip of an existential crisis might feel it had no choice but to extend the hand of “mateship” to its largest trading partner. That if Australia goes on mistreating Kiwis, then it just might wake up one morning to discover that unsinkable aircraft carrier across the Tasman Sea bristling with Chinese bombers ” ] .

    Though I’m not sure if we could use that as a bargaining chip,… I’m not even sure Kiwi’s would want it…. however, we can say that around 95% of ‘NZ’ banks are Australian owned, and much of the huge profits they make goes directly offshore into their coffers. They do quite nicely out of the Kiwi’s gullibility’s , thank you very much…

    Now,… if we were to nationalize those banks,.. perhaps even mint our own coin… and maybe even re nationalize former SOE’s…

    Nice idea methinks,.. and I wonder how many bluffs we could call… I’d say about every last one of them when it came to the ultimatum. You know those Aussie capitalists,… threaten em with taking their lolly’s off them and they tend to gentle down somewhat…

    • Sam Sam says:

      By 2022/2025 China will have 4 aircraft carriers, 2 super carriers over 72,000 tons with all the bells and whistles. All they say is China will no longer be bullied by uncle Toms or hucksters or who ever. For every billion dollars China spend on defence the USA spends $7 billion and that seven of $700bln US defence budget singed off today doesn’t even garrantee a US victory.

      Because the U.S. Navy patrols New Zealand’s sea lanes of commendations the U.S has effectively subsidised New Zealand’s defence budget by about 30% or $300 million dollars underfunded every year. So about a third under weight militarily. So that means we should have 4 frigates or 3 frigates + an Air Combat Force.

      We can no longer maintain the illusion that New Zealand is the poor weak kid at school. Our bigger colonial brothers the U.S, UK and Australia have been taking the punches for us and it’s time for us to harden up.

  6. Draco T Bastard says:

    Unfortunately, that would involve tearing up the Australian-New Zealand Closer Economic Relationship and toppling New Zealand into a full-scale economic and social crisis.

    If it does that then it can be said that we’ve got major problems as we’ve become far too dependent.

  7. Historian Pete says:

    A very well done thought provoking piece Chris.

  8. William Smith says:

    I wouldn’t fret I doubt the Liberals will be in office too much longer.

    • Andrea says:

      If you’re counting on a core of Aussie decency beneath the political scum – please don’t.

      Although their political ways are far more volatile than ours, that’s just fizz on the top of the kool-aid.

      Australia has neo-liberal xenophobic rot just as we have.

      A change of government won’t fix that rot any time soon.

  9. david in aus says:

    I don’t think removing the freedom of movement clause will automatically be the end of CER or result in NZ’s socioeconomic collapse- hyperbolic to say the least.
    If anything it may prove an economic blessing. The loss of highly skilled NZers to Australia will be reduced to 10% of current levels. Resulting in the reduced need for immigration.
    The main issue is that NZers do not like the option of living in Australia taken away. But prepare for it, it is inevitable.
    As time passes there will be divergences in population mixes and outlook. 50% of Australians were born overseas or are descended from 1st generation immigrants from continental Europe or Asia, the bonds of mateship from the days of Empire are becoming threadbare.