New Zealand’s overall ranking of 5 puts us ahead of Australia on 8, a fact which has been immensely satisfying to New Zealand readers of this blog, especially as the mounting All Black injury list makes the outcome of Sunday’s semi-final less certain than many would like.
However, looking at the breakdown, New Zealand’s overall higher score has been achieved primarily through lower military spending, higher aid spending and a high peace ranking.
In fact Australia leads New Zealand in overall income equality, gender equality and narrowly edges ahead also on the Happy Planet Index. None of which is likely to come as a surprise to New Zealanders who constantly eye migration across the Tasman as potentially the quickest path to increase their own personal living standards.
Rhetoric concerning the gap between New Zealand and Australian incomes has become a familiar part of the local political landscape. Very different social legislation, especially concerning the ability of the poorest workers to bargain collectively, ensures that New Zealanders continue to be locked into a low-wage economy.
(My own family travelled the other way – we came to New Zealand from Australia looking for work in the aftermath of the 1975 constitutional crisis, in which government budgets were frozen and my father found himself without a job.) As an Australian living in New Zealand, I find myself uncomfortable with Australia’s lower ranking on our table, given the overall better income equality indicators for Australia.
Both Australia and New Zealand however share a shameful history in regard to indigenous peoples. We were also two of only four countries in the world to vote against the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, though both have since expressed formal support for it.
As the United Nations 2009 report State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/SOWIP_web.pdf explains clearly, indigenous people consistently lag behind non-indigenous populations in most indicators of wellbeing. The report quotes a study that applied the UNDP human development index to indigenous populations. In 2001, New Zealand was ranked 20th overall in the Index, but the position of New Zealand Māori was ranked at seventy-third. The situation was far worse in Australia, where the country’s overall ranking was third, but the position of Australia’s indigenous people was one-hundred and third.
In the end the indigenous issues are one of the reasons why I am proud to call myself Pākehā. Australia has no similar equivalent where the white population has adopted the indigenous language name for themselves. My extended whānau back in Australia have not even begun to question the role our ancestors played in separating indigenous people from their land. And no indigenous cultural symbols are used in any form in the Australian rugby team’s identity.
We’re a somewhat divided family – my mother has an Aussie rugby shirt hanging next to her TV, while my sons are proudly – even aggressively – dressed in black. But even if I can’t ultimately bear to watch the game on Sunday night, at the very least I will be there as the All Blacks perform Ka Mate, the Ngāti Toa haka which has become a symbol of Māori warrior spirit. And I will be looking for the day that the Wallabies are ready and able to respond with an Aboriginal chant.
Lisa Beech is Advocacy & Research Coordinator for Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand.