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Barry Soper: Jacinda and Scomo catch up across the ditch

Author
Barry Soper,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Thursday, 18 July 2019, 9:05AM
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo / AP
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo / AP

Jacinda Ardern wings her way to Melbourne today to meet with her Aussie counterpart Scott Morrison tomorrow who's known on the other side of the ditch as Scomo.

A few months ago she would have been quietly hoping that this catch-up would have been with Labour's Bill Shorten who looked to be a shoo-in for the job if the opinion polls were to be believed. Trouble is no one believes them these days and there are many reasons for that, not the least that few people under 50 have a landline in their homes.

But it's worth looking at where relations are with our closest neighbour and the country our leaders always refer to as our closest friend.

At Prime Ministerial level there has generally always been a bit of friction, if not downright dislike.

Going back over our 10 Prime Ministers who've engaged with the Ocker shockers, relations on a personal level are today certainly more genteel than they used to be.

Rob Muldoon came up to big Mal Fraser's belt buckle - when the latter had his trousers on that is - and they never got on. They were constantly bickering at each other and never made a secret of their disdain.

Things didn't improve much when David Lange took over and had to suffer boozy Bob Hawke who saw his Kiwi counterpart as a teetotalling Methodist lay preacher. There was hope for Jim Bolger with Paul Keating, a fellow left footer, but the Aussie always gave the impression he felt, and certainly acted, as though he was a cut above the King Country farmer.

It was only when John Howard made it to The Lodge in Canberra that things started to improve, on a personal level at least. Howard and Bolger were buddies with the Aussie almost being moved to tears when Jenny Shipley shafted her political boss when he was in Europe. Shipley wasn't there long enough to establish a rapport with Howard but Helen Clark did, even though they were on the opposite sides of the ideological fence.

But it was these two who agreed to the unequal treatment of Kiwis living in Australia, even though they pay their taxes, they're treated worse in terms of welfare than their fellow Australian colleagues. Clark argued she had no choice, if she didn't agree, our automatic access to Australia would have been curtailed.

The subsequent political leaders have got on well, blossoming into a bromance between John Key then Bill English with Malcolm Turnbull. But like Howard before him, Turnbull was part of a Government that came up with the insidious policy of exporting "Kiwi" criminals, many of whom had learnt their bad habits living in Australia since they were toddlers. They have no association with this country other than parentage but are expected to live here anyway with the Aussies showing no sign of budging on that one.

Jacinda Ardern was seen by Turnbull as an irritant over her constant harping about Manus Island refugees, whereas in fact the bigger issue is Kiwi crims which she at least raises, even though it would appear to be a lost cause.

So there'll be no shift on that when she meets Scomo in Melbourne tomorrow. Perhaps though she could suggest a turning of the tide in at last one case though.

If the Australian who is alleged to have carried out the Christchurch terror attacks is convicted she could insist he serve the rest of his life in a jail in his home country.

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