What ScoMo should have said to Jacinda
‘Thank you Prime Minister Ardern for those blunt comments just now in which you publicly indicated that deporting Kiwis from Australia is to your way of thinking ‘corrosive’ to the trans-Tasman relationship. I hadn’t realised this joint press conference was going to be used to make public criticisms of each country’s government’s policies. So let me reply in kind, bluntly and in public, and then perhaps I can air a few matters of New Zealand government policy that I think might also be ‘corrosive’ to our countries’ relationship.
‘On the deportation issue, people on visas who break any serious law will be deported, full stop. If they have under-age children then they will be sent back with their parents. That is our policy. We make no apology for it. Nor should we. You obviously disagree on that point, Ms Ardern, but my government thinks you are wrong. Who knows? If Mr Shorten wins our upcoming election you may get your wish granted.
‘And as you have thought it proper to indulge in the game of publicly denouncing the other country’s government policies, here are a few of New Zealand’s that I think are ‘corrosive’. You Kiwis are complete and total free-riders as far as defence is concerned. You take advantage of Australia and the US because you know that we will come to your aid even though you spend vanishingly little on defence. Worse, your country’s long-standing virtue-signalling on US naval ships – banning nuclear-armed US ships, which means all of them because it’s US military policy not to say whether they are nuclear or not – led to New Zealand being thrown out of the security obligations under the Anzus treaty. You first did this during the Cold War in the mid-1980s, undermining the Americans and with a seeming belief that unilateral disarmament is anything other than stupid. I disagree with that Kiwi move. In fact it was precisely that clear American intent to defend the democratic world, by spending heavily on defence, that led to the fall of the Soviet Union. In my government’s view that was a wholly good thing for the world. I realise that you, as a one-time socialist activist, might have a warmer view of Soviet communism. But you’re wrong. And when you first became Prime Minister back at the end of 2017 and called capitalism a ‘blatant failure’, let me just say that I think you were an idiot. Comments like that are very – how did you put it? – ah yes, they’re ‘corrosive’ to the relations between New Zealand and Australia because in Australia we recognise that capitalism has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty in the last few decades alone. Just look at China and India. Socialism, by contrast, has taken the once-wealthy Venezuela and turned it into an impoverished basket case. Frankly, on matters economic you are clueless, Ms Ardern.
‘I might also take this opportunity, given that you have decided that these diplomatic meetings are in fact an opportunity for you to show off for your home audience back in New Zealand, to make it clear that your public intervention into how we police our borders – I refer to your government’s offer to take a few hundred of those claiming to be refugees from Australia’s offshore detention centres – is making it harder for us to keep our borders secure. If you want to bumper-sticker moralise, do it about something else. Incentives matter and you are weakening the ones that we have put in place to stop the boats. This has resulted in the boats stopping completely, along with the hundreds and hundreds who died coming on those boats.
‘Perhaps a blunter way to make this point is to say that you and your government across the Tasman are not morally superior to me and mine. Indeed, you are classic free-riders whose geography has allowed you to avoid hard decisions. Fine. Lucky you. But have the good graces to shut up about it, at least in public, because Australia is differently situated. If we want your advice we’ll ask for it.
‘Which brings me to how it is that you are even in the position of being New Zealand’s Prime Minister and hence able to stand up here today and sanctimoniously posture and virtue-signal. Of course normally I wouldn’t comment on another country’s domestic affairs, certainly not a democratic one with which we have shared a long and friendly history. But as you have changed the rules of the game, I will play by the new ones. Because let’s be honest: in any sane voting system you wouldn’t be prime minister would you? Your main opponents the National party at the last election in 2017 garnered 44.5 per cent of the vote and your Labour party won 37 per cent. Even with the Green party votes thrown in you did worse. You’re only PM because an embittered former National party politician who set up the New Zealand First party – my fellow Australians can think in terms of Clive Palmer at this point – well, he opted to put you and the Left in power despite it being clear most of his party’s voters were much more conservatively inclined. I suppose we’ll see how that pans out for New Zealand First, or whatever it’s called, at the next election. But basically it required one of the world’s most virulently proportional voting systems to make you PM, a voting system the Americans imposed on Germany after World War II and one in which about half of MPs get into the New Zealand parliament simply because their own party has put them high up on some list drawn up by party insiders. You can even lose at the constituency level and still get a seat because you are good buddies with the insider class of your own party. Frankly, I think that’s ‘corrosive’ of democracy. But of course that’s something for Kiwis to decide and not for me to raise – well, that was what I took the conventions to be before you opted to use this joint press conference to air your views on what you think is and isn’t ‘corrosive’. Now you’ve heard what I think, maybe we can turn to questions from the press?’