It's good to have Australia as our neighbour. Australians make us look good.

Take, for example, this week's same-sex marriage referendum. Welcome to the club, Australia. We joined it five years ago.

Also this week, the developing humanitarian crisis on Manus Island. How good do we look coming to the rescue and offering to take 150 boat people? How bad does Australia look saying no?

Those are both rhetorical questions. Of course we look better. Australia deserves the judgmental side-eye we're casting across the ditch.

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This week, former Wallaby turned author Peter FitzSimons rubbed Australia's collective faces in it even further, penning an opinion piece on how New Zealand is "lapping" Australia.

New Zealand's record is better, he reckons, because of our vastly superior race relations, refusal to join the invasion of Iraq, embracing of same-sex marriage donkey's years ago, attempt to ditch the Union Jack and, finally, election of a young woman as Prime Minister. Eat dirt, Straya.

Except, the truth is New Zealand is not as progressive as we like to think.

Sure, if you cast your mind back through the years, there is plenty of reason to feel proud: giving women the vote, protesting against South African Apartheid, going nuclear-free, refusing the US request to join the Iraq invasion.

But, as time has gone on, there are fewer reasons. What have we done in the 14 years since our last big stand, when Helen Clark told George Dubya Bush to take a running jump over Iraq? Not a lot. In fact, we've started doing the United States' bidding again. We've since been in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

We were hardly at the vanguard of legalising same-sex marriage. By 2012, when we did it, more than a dozen other countries had. We came to the party 11 years after the first.

Plus, if we were so progressive, we would have changed the flag. Forget all the excuses about the disappointing designs. If we were really into the idea, we would've demanded something worth backing and pushed it through.

Finally, while we're making all the right noises about the Manus Island refugees, it looks a lot like empty talk. It's like making promises when everyone is 10 drinks deep. You know you won't have to follow through.

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We seem to have no intention to follow through on our offer to take 150 refugees. It looks more like a political play by Jacinda Ardern, who knows it resonates well with her core voters without upsetting anyone other voters, because it'll never happen.

If Ardern meant to take those 150 refugees, she'd appeal directly to Papua New Guinea and to hell with what Australia thinks. But she hasn't.

As smug as we may feel in comparison to Australia, I'd wager we'd be no better if we were in their shoes. If we had boat people arriving on our shores, we'd turn them away, too.

Our hands aren't clean of the Manus Island debacle as it is. We have just pledged $3 million towards keeping the refugees there, perhaps in better circumstances, but still there.

And we may dislike Australia's treatment of Kiwi immigrants, but we have our own chequered history of bullying the citizens of smaller nations. The Dawn Raids are a case in point.

Australia's difference is that it's bigger and closer to the world. Perhaps, as our population grows in size and as international travel and technology make the world smaller, we're becoming more like Australia. Perhaps that explains why it has been 14 years since we did something truly progressive.

So, sure, feel smug about much better we are than our Aussie neighbours. Enjoy it while it lasts.