What a difference a sea makes

Amy Thomasson
Insights Newsletter
15 September, 2017

New Zealand, you’ve done it again. You’ve one-upped Australia, and not even on purpose this time.

While you’ve been experiencing a relatively respectable and sane election campaign, the Australian Parliament has been plagued by so many political upsets I can barely keep up. To be honest, I’ve been avoiding telling people that I’m from Australia just to save myself the looks of incredulity and suspicion.

Of course, the major parties have trotted out their fair share of ill-considered policies. ‘Jacindamania’ has swept the nation, and perhaps retreated. But no matter how hard Winston Peters tries to derail the election by announcing a policy that somehow connects prostate health checks to tax refunds, New Zealand cannot rival the silliness of Australian politics.

At least neither Bill nor Jacinda saw fit to rock up to the leaders debate wearing a burqa, which is how Australia’s resident parliamentary pot-stirrer (to put it lightly), Pauline Hanson, chose to dress herself for the Senate recently.

While the stunt baffled most of Australia, myself included, Senator Hanson insisted that donning a burqa in the Federal Parliament was the best way to facilitate a high-level commentary on national security. The more you know.

Then you have the postal survey on same-sex marriage. Sure, same-sex marriage was legalised in New Zealand in part thanks to the luck of the biscuit tin ballot. But at least you had the good sense to allow a conscience vote, which isn’t even being entertained by the Turnbull Government across the Tasman.

Ultimately, a party room deadlock on the issue has forced the Government to innovate in all the wrong ways. The High Court last week dismissed two challenges to the legality of the postal survey, so it is definitely going ahead. But there’s still no denying that this is a totally unprecedented approach to legislating that should not be repeated.

Speaking of the High Court, it turns out eight of Australia’s parliamentarians may have flouted section 44 (1) of the Constitution, which excludes dual citizens from holding office in federal Parliament, when they stood as candidates.

What was originally a crisis facing one Greens Party MP has now gripped the Parliament, endangering the Turnbull Government’s one seat majority.

All this just goes to show what a difference the Tasman makes. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the election, one of them being sticking it to Australia with some sensible politics.

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