Show us some re­spect, if it’s not too much trou­ble


As the re­cently re­leased regis­ter of MPs pe­cu­niary in­ter­ests has shown, our elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives live a long way away from Strug­gle Street. Hous­ing pol­icy has left home own­er­ship sim­ply un­af­ford­able for many New Zealan­ders. Cur­rently, our rates of home­own­er­ship sit at their low­est level since the early 1950s, but the MPs them­selves seem to be do­ing al­right. A

Ac­cord­ing to the regis­ter, Na­tional’s 57 MPs col­lec­tively own 135 res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties – or 2.2 homes each, on av­er­age - and seven out of 29 Labour MPs own rental prop­er­ties.

On for­eign pol­icy, we ap­pear to be do­ing no bet­ter at pro­tect­ing the in­ter­ests of Ki­wis abroad. By cour­tesy of the Aus­tralians, hun­dreds of New Zealan­ders have been penned in dire con­di­tions on Christ­mas Is­land. Ki­wis who’ve lived in Aus­tralia for decades – and fam­i­lies whose kids have known no other home – have been up­rooted and sent back to New Zealand. The protes­ta­tions by our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers have been po­litely ex­pressed – with no hint of tit-for-tat mea­sures - and blithely ig­nored. Mean­while, Aus­tralians con­tinue to have ac­cess here to wel­fare as­sis­tance de­nied (for al­most two decades) to Ki­wis liv­ing in Aus­tralia.

A fort­night ago, the lat­est ex­pres­sion of this lop­sided re­la­tion­ship saw young Ki­wis at Aus­tralian uni­ver­si­ties be­ing hit with a tre­bling of their tu­ition fees. Hence­forth it seems, Ki­wis will be treated like any other for­eign stu­dents, even while we con­tinue to ex­tend spe­cial con­ces­sions to young Aussies study­ing here. Prime Min­is­ter Bill English pro­fessed him­self ‘‘pretty un­happy’’ at this pol­icy change. Why, only the pre­vi­ous week, English had been dis­cussing is­sues con­cern­ing New Zealan­ders liv­ing in Aus­tralia, yet Aussie PMMal­colm Turn­bull hadn’t breathed a word about the up­com­ing pol­icy shift in ed­u­ca­tion.

For­eign Min­is­ter Gerry Brown­lee, ac­cord­ing to a head­line in the Aus­tralian news­pa­per, was go­ing to ‘‘tackle’’ his Aus­tralian coun­ter­part Julie Bishop on the is­sue. Less a tackle as it turned out, and more of a hug. Brown­lee was in full ap­pease­ment mode. Even be­fore ar­riv­ing in Can­berra, Brown­lee backed away from our co-spon­sor­ship last year of a UN res­o­lu­tion on Is­rael, a mea­sure that Aus­tralia had op­posed. Show us a lit­tle re­spect, New Zealand ap­pears to be say­ing to the Aussies, if that wouldn’t be putting you to too much trou­ble.

As English has ex­plained, he’d pre­fer a pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship with Aus­tralia in­stead of an ‘‘armed war to see who can treat each other’s cit­i­zens worse.’’ Which would be fine if Ki­wis were get­ting a good deal across the Tas­man – rather than a con­stant, one way shel­lack­ing while our gov­ern­ment whis­tles Dixie. For his part, Labour leader An­drew Lit­tle has sensed there’s po­lit­i­cal

As English has ex­plained, he'd pre­fer a pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship with Aus­tralia in­stead of an "armed war to see who can treat each other's cit­i­zens worse".

mileage to be won here in elec­tion year when Aus­tralians choose to treat a New Zealand gov­ern­ment with con­tempt.

Blok­ily, Lit­tle has claimed that any pol­icy fric­tion be­tween us and Aus­tralia can be read­ily re­solved, once the cen­tre-left holds power in both Can­berra and Welling­ton. Why, he’d be able to sort this stuff out with his Aussie coun­ter­part Bill Shorten ‘‘over a beer’’ - just like good mates al­ways do. Such at­tempts at mate­ship may rule our for­eign pol­icy, while at home… the help­ing hands into home own­er­ship ap­pear to be prov­ing al­most as in­ef­fec­tual.

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