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Monday, 15 March 2010
Page: 2537

Mr RAGUSE (5:12 PM) —I rise to support the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Bill 2009 and the Trans-Tasman Proceedings (Transitional and Consequential Provisions) Bill 2009. Listening to the previous speakers, both of whom have some legal background, it is very good to hear that finally in this country we are getting to a point of being able to bring together a whole range of procedures and processes.

My contribution will be short today. It will be about some of the social implications that have driven the need for these changes. I will also reflect on some of our history. These two countries, Australia and New Zealand, are very close neighbours in this part of the world, yet our backgrounds and histories are quite different in terms of how we each were settled. While the Treaty of Waitangi, one of the early indigenous treaties of New Zealand, may not have been a total success in the first instance, treaties have moved on from that time. In Australia, it took nearly 200 years to resolve some of the issues of its first settlement.

While our two countries were established in quite different ways, the early settlers of both countries were of similar backgrounds and interests. Coming forward to the late 1890s and the constitutional conventions, New Zealand was very much part of that process. As the member for Fisher said, New Zealand could have been considered a seventh state. At that time, Western Australia was not going to be involved, and there was a last minute change. The reality reflects on the close association of that period of time. In the early sixties, when New Zealand had a booming wool industry, many thousands of Australians and their families re-established in New Zealand to provide labour to those very successful mills. At a time when Australia had a changing set of circumstances in terms of our rural industries and where we were positioned in the world, New Zealand was doing very well. In fact, some of my extended family went to New Zealand and are still there today as a consequence of their involvement at that time.

We talk about our close associations with New Zealand, but the legal concerns of people who want to re-establish in New Zealand are still of concern today. While there have been many treaties, arrangements and understandings between the two countries, I applaud the Attorney-General, who is in the chamber, for his work in considering our ongoing relationship with New Zealand. If you look at our history, there is the establishment of the Anzacs. We use the term ‘Anzac’ for so many things other than to denote our military defence and our involvement in skirmishes on behalf of what we then called ‘the mother country’. The reality is that on the battlefield we were one, and in so many social situations we have been one. We have shared labour between the two countries because by the early seventies, when global considerations tremendously changed the nature of international markets, there was a move back to rural industries in Australia and we needed New Zealanders to come to Australia. To this day, a large number of New Zealanders move freely between Australia and New Zealand. So it makes sense that our legal understandings should make it much easier for the two countries to do business. Despite the legal constraints and requirements of the two countries, with their different constitutions, it will be easier to work together within that legal framework.

I have an interest in and knowledge of New Zealand. I spent many years there in different capacities. I hitchhiked around both islands of New Zealand a couple of times. I got to know the locals and the local cultures. Even in the late seventies and early eighties, there were many differences between the two countries. In terms of who the two countries looked to as their nearest neighbour, we were just a few hours flight across the sea but in those days the US had a major influence on New Zealand, as it did on Australia. When you look at some of the early infrastructure—telecommunications, banking and finance—it was very much attached to the American dominated system. But the reality is that New Zealand has been very independent in this part of the world. When you consider its small population, it is a country that has done very well and given itself a place in the world. It makes sense to have a big brother like Australia working closely together in the region through all of the arrangements we are putting in place through these bills and in our ongoing relationship with New Zealand.

It is interesting to note that, with the changes to our understanding of our Indigenous background and past, Paul Keating, in his last two years as prime minister, showed a great interest in New Zealand. In fact, New Zealand influenced Paul Keating very heavily in terms of treaties and the way we arranged our own Indigenous issues, the way we structured our country and the way we recognised land rights. It was something that gave us a better understanding . New Zealand, as small as it is and with a completely different history, was able to help Australia and influence the way we looked at resolving many of those issues. Today we almost take that for granted, but it was not so long ago that we were in the position of not having resolved some of the issues of our long past.

I recognise the business and legal frameworks we need to put in place, which are supported by these bills. I recognise the social interaction and shared history of Australia and New Zealand in terms of the establishment of our countries and our military cohesion as Anzacs. I also recognise our ongoing relationship. To bring the countries closer together for business, with a legal framework that underwrites and supports corporations, is very important. For those reasons, I commend these bills to the House.