Aussies have long enjoyed a friendly rivalry with our neighbours across the Tasman, but now calls are heating up to make New Zealand a seventh state of Australia. Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce has joined the push to unify the two nations, saying it would create a "perfect world", but an Australian history expert has poured cold water on the idea.
"Logically, why do we have two defence forces and two different monetary policies?" Mr Joyce said on Tuesday during an appearance on Today. "They should be a single policy. New Zealand would, I think, fit into Federation well. It was initially thought that is what would happen. It would just make more sense on defence, on monetary policy."
Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie is also on board, adding that it would be a massive benefit to her home state. "We can stop doing all the heavy lifting with you mainlanders," she joked on the same Today segment.
Kiwi MP behind unification push
The fresh campaign to bring together the two countries came from within New Zealand, with a retiring Kiwi politician tabling the issue in parliament last week. "Every time I visit Australia, I often ponder the thought, 'Will we ever become one country, Australia and New Zealand?" James Strange said in his farewell speech. "My personal view, and it's only my personal view, is that New Zealanders shouldn't rule that out."
The outgoing Labour MP went on to outline numerous cost-saving measures that would result from unification, as well as Aldi finally reaching Kiwi shores. There is only one issue standing in the way, according to Mr Strange. "The main problem I foresee though is how do we integrate the Australian cricket team?" he said. "But we conquered Everest, so you never know."
Don't hold your breath
We've been here before, warns Dr Jane Hunt, a professor in Australian history at Bond University. "Historically, the idea was actually considered before Federation," she told Yahoo News Australia. "New Zealand was initially considered as one of the colonies that might become part of the new Commonwealth nation, but New Zealand withdrew during the process and the idea was rejected."
While Mr Joyce, who holds a New Zealand dual citizenship, insists that under the sixth clause of the Australian constitution New Zealand could be granted a statehood without a referendum, Dr Hunt has slammed any suggestion of unification as "pie in the sky".
"If there was not enough cultural synergy and practical benefits of going through with it during Federation, there's even less now because we've had more than 100 years of separate nationhood, along with a whole variety of different political trajectories and decisions," she explained. "I don't think any consultative process would overcome that history of distinctive state making."
But the biggest barrier of all, according the professor, is cultural. "At this point in time, we can't even find a way to imagine the nation of Australia with the First Nations people as part of the Constitution," Dr Hunt said, pointing towards resistance to the Voice to Parliament. "How likely is it then that Australians would be willing to accept people from across the ditch, as well as the Kiwis being willing to see their identity become part of whatever emerging community of Australia and New Zealand would be."
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