It’s easy to confuse the flags of New Zealand and Australia. Both feature the British Union Jack and stars on a dark blue background. Now, in the latest eruption in a war of words between the two old allies, New Zealand’s acting Prime Minster said Australia had copied New Zealand’s flag, and ought to change it.
Australia adopted its flag more than 50 years after New Zealand, but flag facts aside, the provocative charge is just the latest broadside exchanged across the Tasman Sea.
The heart of the dispute lies in an immigration law adopted by Australia four years ago, which allows deportation of foreign nationals of questionable character without charge. More than a thousand New Zealanders have been sent home, much more than any other nationality.
By contrast, New Zealand deported nine Australians. After a 17-year-old New Zealander was detained in an adult facility without charge, Acting Prime Minster Winston Peters bluntly described the case as a clear violation of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. “I’m just reminding the Australians, you’re a signatory, live up to it,” he said.
Earlier, in an Australian ABC television show, Andrew Little, New Zealand’s Minister of Justice, said that Australia no longer looked like New Zealand’s best friend. Little has gone back and forth with Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, who told radio station 2GB “I was really disappointed in Mr. Little’s comments . . . I hope he doesn’t repeat them.”
There has always been a big brother-little brother aspect to the relationship, but experts say this dispute goes well beyond the usual spats. In a column, John Armstrong, the celebrated political correspondent of the New Zealand Herald, wrote “New Zealand is no longer going to play the role of doormat” and he detected evidence that the previously close relationship is over.