Is New Zealand better than Australia?


Over recent days there’s been something very unusual happening in the Australian media. You see, the Ocker press pack has been pondering a rather unpalatable question and it’s a weta-sized quandary that they clearly haven’t experienced before.

For the first time ever Aussie media is wondering: Is New Zealand better than Australia? Indeed, one media outlet pontificated whether it’s better being a Kiwi than an Aussie in the year 2015. They must’ve almost felt blasphemous writing that.

According to The Australian newspaper, “with the pesky New Zealand dollar trading near parity with the Australian peso, our brightest minds being poached across the ditch and an economy sliding into the Tasman, the unthinkable has arisen… there’s an uneasy feeling that our New Zealand cousins are doing better than we thought, or hoped, is being borne out by the cold, hard numbers.”

When it comes down to the crunchy, Red Delicious numbers, the Land of the Long White Cloud (my homeland) has certainly got the financial edge over their big Aussie brothers. According to reports, banks in New Zealand are dishing out billions annually to small and medium-sized businesses, and they are eyeing Australian scientists, researchers and tech entrepreneurs to lure across the Tasman. Unemployment and growth are better there, resulting in a reversal of traditional migration figures — headed east. And the New Zealand dollar has traded near parity with the Aussie and may break through $A1 as early as today – the best result in some 30 years.

In my opinion, another reason why this turn of fiscal events has occurred is that New Zealand also has something curious that Australia hasn’t had since John Howard was defeated in 2007 – a stable government. A year after Howard was unceremoniously dumped after three mostly successful terms as prime minister, a youngish, financially successful man by the name of John Key was elected prime minister of New Zealand. And, blow me down with a Kiwi bird feather, if he isn’t still the prime minister all these years later.

Conversely, since Key was elected back in 2008, Australia has had four different prime ministers (one of them was twice – thanks again for that, Kevin) and at least two changes of government at federal and state levels (don’t even get me started on the over-government of a country which has a population the size of Australia and not America – a system on which it was modelled). Queensland has swung from Labor to Liberal and back to Labor again all in the space of three years. No wonder the electorate has whiplash. Plus there is likely to be another change of government next year given the current (but for how long?) prime minister Tony Abbott is about as popular as smoking.

A salient quote from Key in one of the “NZ is (gulp) better” stories of late also says that he tries to be open and honest with the electorate and isn’t trying to push through unpopular policies for purely political reasons. While I don’t live in New Zealand and therefore can’t vouch for the accuracy of his claims, I do live in Australia and know that a succession of federal politicians cannot claim the same ethos here.

While supposed decision-makers and economic masterminds in Australia flounder and flip flop about how to fix the economy without raising the GST from its original 10 per cent – a rate set some 15 years ago – you have to give big high fives to Key for upping the GST in NZ to 15 per cent and still getting re-elected two more times.

Every country has its time in the sun and during the GFC it was Australia. The resources sector underpinned the economy and we were lauded across the globe for not sliding into recession. Aussie interest rates were higher during the GFC than they are now, because the economy was chugging along quite nicely, thank you. All the different prime ministers we had took credit for our good financial fortune, but it had nothing to do with them. It was all about China’s demand for our resources combined with high mineral prices – a beautifully-timed economic double-act. And just like New Zealand being Aussie’s perpetually poor second cuzzie-bro, times can and do change. You could even say, that in New Zealand today, it’s business time.

Sitting here in my office in Australia, I must admit my chest swells with pride at the awestruck-tone of the local media commentary. It’s almost like, apart from the All Blacks, The Flight of Conchords, Russell Crowe, Lord of the Rings and of course sheep, the Aussie media never really thought there was much to New Zealand at all. It was pigeonholed as an economic backwater that was losing citizens to anywhere else in the world at a rapid rate. I was one of those people who left more than 20 years ago, but with things on the up over there, and on the down big time over here, I think it’s important to never say never, eh bro?