Gordon Campbell on our caving in to the Aussies

Much as New Zealand may brood over its links with Australia, they barely acknowledge our existence. On Anzac Day, when Kiwis make so much of our identity-forging mateship on the battlefield, we barely register in the commemorations held across the Tasman. This renders all the more precious, those sporting encounters when we do manage to imprint ourselves on their consciousness. Like any kid brother, we don’t expect to be appreciated, but a little respect would go a long way.

Of late, that respect has been in short supply. Hundreds of New Zealanders have been penned in dire conditions on Christmas Island. Kiwis who’ve lived in Australia for decades – and families whose kids have known no other home – have been uprooted and sent back to New Zealand. The protestations by our political leaders have been politely expressed – with no hint of tit for tat measures – and blithely ignored. Meanwhile, Australians here continue to have access to welfare assistance denied (for almost two decades) to Kiwis living in Australia.

The latest expression of this lopsided relationship has seen young Kiwis at Australian universities being hit with a trebling of their tuition fees. Without warning, Kiwis will henceforth be treated like any other foreign students, even while we continue to extend special concessions to young Aussies studying here. Prime Minister Bill English professed himself “pretty unhappy” at this change, but weirdly sympathetic: the Australians, he helpfully explained, need to balance their books.

Only last week, English had been discussing issues concerning New Zealanders living in Australia, yet Aussie PM Malcolm Turnbull hadn’t breathed a word about the upcoming policy change in education. According to English: “We want a serious discussion with them about where they’re headed with this policy.” That seemed odd, given that English had just answered his own question by deeming it a budgeting exercise. Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee, according to a headline in the Australian newspaper was going to “tackle” his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop on the issue. Less a tackle as it turned out, and more of a hug. Turnbull’s slight to Engish had only been a “one-off” Brownlee obligingly explained. Even before arriving in Canberra, Brownlee had backed off from our co-sponsorship last year of a UN resolution on Israel, a measure that Australia opposed.

In an interview Brownlee implied that the UN resolution should not have been passed until the Israelis had agreed with it, which is a perverse view of how to treat countries that defy international law.

Brownlee said the resolution had been “premature” and that the value of any resolution was in “the willingness of the parties who are having the resolution imposed upon them to accept what’s in it.”

What an embarrassment. Show us a little respect, New Zealand seems to be saying overall, if that wouldn’t be putting you to too much trouble.

As English has explained, he’d prefer a positive relationship with Australia instead of an “armed war to see who can treat each other’s citizens worse”. Which would be fine if Kiwis were getting a good deal across the Tasman – rather than a constant, one way shellacking while our government whistles Dixie. Labour leader Andrew Little has finally seen there’s political mileage to be won here in election year when Australians continue to treat a supine New Zealand government with contempt.

Blokily, Little has claimed that any policy friction between us and Australia can be readily resolved, once the centre-left holds power in both Canberra and Wellington. Why, he’d be able to sort this stuff out with his Aussie counterpart Bill Shorten ‘over a beer’ – just like good mates always do. Mate !

Comey In a Corner

FBI director James Comey could show Bill English a thing or two about how to respond after landing yourself in a political corner. Come out fighting! After all, as Harris the nerdy guy in the beloved Freaks and Geeks pilot episode once said, it’s always better to fight your bully. Yes, It will hurt. But your bully will then tend to go off and harass other people, now that they’ve beaten the crap out of you. It’s a journey to respect, through pain.

Comey came out fighting yesterday before the Senate grilling, with a preposterous argument that he had to, simply had to go public on the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton ten days before the election, because… well he just had to, and you would have felt the same way if you’d been in his shoes. Which is total bullshit, given that (a) the FBI investigation of Clinton had at the time and subsequently turned up nothing new to add to “nothing to see here” verdict it had arrived at back in July and (b) the FBI was simultaneously investigating the links between the Trump campaign and Russia, and Comey didn’t feel impelled to breathe a word about that.

The best and comprehensive take on Comey’s impact on the outcome of the November election has been by Nate Silver on the 538 site, available here. Read it and weep.

Tegan and Sara, political prophets

Who knew that the Canadian twins Tegan and Sara had their dead eyes on James Comey nearly a decade ago, well before we knew that he mattered?

Nobody likes me
Maybe if I cry

Encircle me, I need to be taken down (4x)
Nobody likes to, but I really like to cry
Nobody likes me
Maybe if I cry
Encircle me, I need to be taken down

And here are the first two tracks from the new album by the Haim sisters.

A few years ago at Laneway, Haim’s casual, seemingly unrehearsed but honed performance made the rock goddess posturing of Savages on the adjacent stage seem very, very dated. Here’s their more adventurous other track from the new album, and with a video directed by Paul Thomas Anderson- who has been a dab hand at this sort of thing ever since his time with Fiona Apple almost – eek ! – 20 years ago.