The stoush between New Zealand and Australia this week brings to mind the "Little People" song Gavroche sings in Les Miserables.

The lyrics include "we may look easy pickings but we got some bite".

We have long been easy pickings for Australia.

Until this week.


The little people are on the verge of bringing down the Australian Government if the High Court decides Nationals leader and Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce is not eligible to remain in Parliament. That is because he had New Zealand citizenship without realising it or wanting it.

Even New Zealanders did not know we were that cunning.

We are now basking in being described as a "power" and "Australia's most important ally" - neither of which are true, although Australia is our most important ally.

All of this comes as some surprise given Australia has traditionally viewed us as akin to an Oxford comma - appreciated by some but ultimately dispensable.

We have Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop threatening fire and fury will rain down upon us if a Labour Government is in place after the election.

We have Labour's Jacinda Ardern joking about being caught between a rock and hard place - "in my case, it is Ayers Rock and New Zealand."

The rock issue is getting rather confusing given just last week, Ardern's deputy Kelvin Davis had declared Prime Minister Bill English was the rock.

There was also some confusion about the Nationals in Australia and their Joyce with the National Party here and our Joyce - Steven (no relation as far as anyone can tell). So many Nationals, so many Joyces, so many rocks.


We should not get over-excited about all the attention. When push comes to shove we are simply a prop, useful for a domestic stoush in Australia.

Bishop stands accused of imperilling the New Zealand-Australia relationship, but it is not as fragile as all that.

One television commentator pointed out Bishop would hardly make such a comment about another country such as the US, Indonesia or India.

We have been likened to "family" rather than friends.

That might help explain why Bishop felt she was at liberty to wade in, make a pointed remark about a looming election in another country and say she would not be able to trust one of the parties in that election.

It has afforded some fun on both sides although it was disturbing to discover the outdated view Australian MPs had of the New Zealand economy.
Barnaby was greeted in Parliament with baa-ing as if the milk rush had never happened.

By day three things were calming down with a series of semi-apologies that nobody would admit were apologies.

Labour MP Chris Hipkins had apologised to Ardern for putting in questions about the citizenship issue after a chat with his mate in Australian Labor Party senator Penny Wong's office. His reckoning may yet await if he is found to have been less that fulsome in his disclosures of what he and that friend discussed.

Ardern had not apologised to Bishop but had accepted wrongdoing was done.

Labour MPs were wandering about boasting that kicking the "dingoes" in the slats had only ever been good for a New Zealand political party's polling - although Ardern had hardly kicked them in the slats and it is debatable whether it will make a jot of difference to the polls at all.

Prime Minister Bill English decreed "this will pass" as if it was simply a bout of flatulence.

But Bishop's pronouncement did prompt some thinking on how Australia might exact its revenge on New Zealand should its voters opt for a Labour Government.

Was the myrtle rust just a pre-emptive strike? Would it send over an armada of Queensland fruit flies as well?

Would it refuse to come to our rescue in the event of an attack of an actual foreign power?

Fortunately our cunning does not end with the citizenship plot. We have an escape plan for that too and again that comes courtesy of Australia's Constitution.

There is a provision in that Constitution for New Zealand to become a state of Australia. The United States is not required to come to the aid of New Zealand if we are under attack, but the Anzus Treaty does require them to go to the aid of Australia. Should the invasion commence, we need only activate that clause of the Constitution and Americans on tap will flock to our aid.

There is an added benefit for Australia too - it would end the days of unwitting New Zealand citizenship for any other MPs in the Australian Parliament.