Paul Little at large

Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: We're just not BFFs any more

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Alison Mau.
Alison Mau.

We were just the width of a wobble board away from becoming a state of Australia at the time of that country's federation in 1901. So closely were our island and their continent linked in every way except geographically that it seemed to many on both sides of the Tasman that this was a logical step, although we went off the idea before they did and ended up with - basically - just their naff flag.

And look at us now. A classic big-little sibling relationship, which is turning increasingly sour. We have their market for our exports, they have our population to keep their economy going.

In other words, we have a special friendship. Anzac and all that.

But when short of other amusements, Australians like to complain about the number of New Zealanders in their country. Such whines follow the usual lines of those against minorities anywhere. They range from the trivial - the funny way we talk (a little rich coming from them) - to the dangerous and untrue - over-representation in the prison population and in welfare statistics.

Their government, with fires to fight on other fronts, has seized the opportunity for a diversion and, with an arrogance that even a French president would envy, started chipping away at the favours afforded by our special friendship, such as welfare rights. Yet if all the New Zealanders disappeared overnight, Australia would cease to function. Areas where we are over-represented include the professions, commerce and the arts. There's even a few of us in their public service.

If all the Australian natives were to vanish from here, Willie Jackson would probably be able to muddle on in the afternoons on Radio Live without Alison Mau, and the Greens would still have at least one leader to keep things going.

In this climate, the revelation that Australia actively campaigned against an anti-nuclear initiative at the UN was news but not a surprise. It's not hard to find a historical precedent to help us see what to do here. It's what happened when Britain said "yeah, nah" to our special relationship when it wanted to join the European Common Market and withdrew our trade privileges.

It doesn't suit our big brother having us hang around when he's got a hot date with the US lined up. Let's accept our friends are no longer going to do us special favours just because we're us, and proceed from there. Because Anzac, let's face it, now means as little as Anzus.

Newspapers on the other hand, are run by humans, especially those further south.

It's often observed that the further south you go the less - shall we say - multicultural awareness is to be found. Evidence to support this appeared in a newspaper story this week that included the following:

"A heated honeymoon disagreement resulted in a newlywed Indian tourist couple [Indians? Notorious hot-heads. Especially on honeymoons - it's those arranged marriages] being escorted from an Air New Zealand flight at Queenstown Airport ...

"Cabin staff became concerned about a 'verbal dispute' between the Indian [See - what did I tell you?] husband and wife.

"The man (23) had been speaking aggressively in Hindi [What? The devil's own tongue! How dreadful for the other passengers!] ..."

Also mentioned in the story were a police sergeant, an airline pilot and other crew, none of whose ethnicity was noted.

Writer and editor, I'm sure, would say there was no racist intent. If not, the question must be asked, then why was it mentioned at all?

- Herald on Sunday

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