Australian MPs suggest Australia and New Zealand unification

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Wednesday, December 6, 2006

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A committee of Australian MPs have suggested that Australia and New Zealand become a single nation in the future. The suggestion follows an investigation into harmonising the countries' legal systems.

The two countries are separated by 1900 km (1200 miles) of sea. Australia has a population of 20 million, while New Zealand has a population of 4 million.

Prior to 1901, New Zealand was considered one of the seven British colonies of Australasia, six of which united to form Australia in 1901.

The committee, which had representatives from both sides of Australian politics found that there were close ties between the two countries. People are free to move between the two countries without visas and there is a high-degree of co-operation between governments. The committee's report said "While New Zealand ultimately chose not to join the federation, it is still included in the definition of the states in the Australian constitution.

"This historical context forms a backdrop to the closeness and breadth of the relationship between Australia and New Zealand today.

"While Australia and New Zealand are, of course, two sovereign nations, it seems to the committee that the strong ties between the two countries - the economic, cultural, migration, defence, governmental, and people to people linkages - suggest that an even closer relationship, including the possibility of union, is both desirable and realistic."

Chairman of the committee, Peter Slipper said Australia now wished for another committee to be established to look at integration between the two nations in the future. Such a committee would be poised to look at monetary and national union.

The committee acknowledged that despite legal harmonisation being relatively easy, the merger of the two countries could be difficult. "The committee is also mindful that the harmonisation of laws is very much the art of the possible. Thus the merger of Australia and New Zealand or the progression to a unitary system of government in Australia, however desirable, might not be easy to achieve," the committee's report said.

The suggestion has received a cold reception in New Zealand. New Zealand's citizens have regularly rejected suggestions that their country be part of Australia, a sentiment echoed by Prime Minister Helen Clark. Mrs Clark said she had no intention of placing the proposal on the government's agenda.

"It won't be on our agenda 105 years later", she said.

New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Winston Peters dismissed the proposal calling it a case of "parliamentary adventurism". He said despite the two countries close relationship, the two countries were too geographically separated. "New Zealand is 1200 miles (1900 km) away from Australia and that's 1200 reasons why I don't go along with that committee, nor will New Zealanders," Mr Peters said.

Sources