Australia Drifting Further From NZ
The relationship between New Zealand and Australia has deteriorated to the point that if nothing is done to repair it, it will dissolve altogether, National's Defence spokesperson Max Bradford told the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs today.
"Recently we have seen the relationship splutter and fade in several key areas, with increasing tension as the economic pressures on Australia and New Zealand mount, and our views on important strategic interests diverge.
"It is difficult for the public to see the drift because it occurs incrementally, where each divergence can be explained away as nothing to worry about - like a marriage that takes a while to break down completely.
"A changed perception of the Closer Economic Relationship agreement illustrates the drift. Despite CER being recognised on both sides of the Tasman as a success, there will be difficulties resolving the remaining issues as Australia looks more towards Asia and the United States markets rather than New Zealand.
"This was clear at the New Zealand Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee inquiry into the state of CER when it recently heard evidence in Australia.
"The greatest drift between the two countries is in defence and security. Australians perceive that New Zealand is not pulling its weight in defence and they are upset and angry at this.
"The Clark Government shattered a key element of a long-standing New Zealand-Australia relationship when it cut significant parts of the New Zealand Defence Force in its May announcements.
"There is also potential further divergence in the immigration policy between the two countries because of a lingering resentment in Australia.
"There are more factors pushing us apart than are pulling us together at any time since I have been in politics," Mr Bradford said.