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Howard’s End: NZ, Seventh State Of Australia

Howard’s End: New Zealand, Seventh State Of Australia

Earlier this week I wrote on Scoop that we should drop the charade about monetary union with Australia and focus of the real debate - New Zealand the seventh State of Australia. The column created widespread public and media interest - so let's consider the final jump. John Howard writes.

Over the next five to ten years New Zealand's ability to stay independent and prosperous will be the big issue.

Economic blocs being formed in other parts of the world, such as the European Union and the Northern American Trade Agreement, are threats to New Zealand's trading prospects and hence to our prosperity and the standard of living of our population. APEC is just a talkfest.

Quick New Zealand political fixes, such as increasing immigration to bolster our economy and standard of living, are flawed - what vibrant economy is there for these people to immigrate to, and what real sustainable jobs would be created because of it?

Already we have customs union with Australia and the debate now about the next logical step - monetary union - is a charade.

We need to jump one of two hurdles - either join in a Pacific Federation of Nations or join politically with Australia. I favour joining with Australia.

We are already very close to Australia through earlier negotiated agreements such as CER and there is also our common heritage and history particularly through ANZAC.

And on Australia's federation in 1901 the preamble to their constitution allows us - and still does - to become a state of Australia.

Indeed, the father of the Australian federation, Sir Henry Parks in 1889 insisted that New Zealand be invited to participate in the Federation Conventions.

When the federationists met in Melbourne and agreed on an Australasian Convention for 1891, New Zealand sent three delegates.

Our delegates were instructed not to bind us to anything and it was Premier Richard Seddon who was the significant obstacle to serious discussion of terms under which New Zealand could join an Australasian nation.

Seddon saw our future in joining the Pacific to the east.

In 1900 the New Zealand Parliament decided to set up a Commission to investigate New Zealand's relationship with an impending new Australian Commonwealth. But Seddon, sensing the prospect of Prime Ministership of New Zealand for himself, expressed outright opposition against any alliance.

The Parliamentary Commission rejected federation but, nevertheless, Seddon with 14 Ministers, MP's and other dignitaries, 73 men of the volunteer forces, 5 Maori chiefs and the Southern Pipers, attended the Australian Federation ceremonies. They witnessed it, but they were not part of it.

Today, CER is more than just a free trade agreement. It has brought fundamental changes to trade practices, tariffs, competition, commercial laws, taxation, customs, and quarantine arrangements.

Laws are molding together. Provision has been adopted for the courts of each nation to take evidence and for that purpose to sit in the other country.

Our Chief Justice regularly attends the meeting of the joint Council of Chief Justices.

There are other agreements directed at removing barriers to the movement of goods and occupations between countries and there are also specific provisions between the two countries about privacy.

Then there is the ruling that CER means equal rights in the Australian television market for our producers as Australian producers had in the New Zealand market.

So, there is already common ground in business, culture, entertainment and media.

If we were to become an Australian state perhaps the pot could be sweetened and made more palatable by admitting New Zealand as two states of the federation and providing specific guarantees of respect for our local institutions.

Much the same way as existing Australian States have a wide degree of autonomy over the Federal Government.

We would still be called New Zealand, still have an identity, Kiwi sports teams, and a much smaller yet basically autonomous state Parliament with a Premier instead of a Prime Minister.

In this modern world of fast moving political and economic events, I think it's way past time for the real debate to begin - Should New Zealand take the next logical step and become the seventh State of Australia? A viable future for us could well depend on that decision.

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