War with Australia – repost from 2008

With the Australian/NZ relationship back in the news, I thought I’d repost a piece I wrote in 2008 after John Birmingham, an Aussie whose works I revere, wrote a piece advocating invading New Zealand. I wrote this response, outlining the differences between our two great nations.  Some of it has dated a bit:   most of it, not. 

John Birmingham, a man mostly famous for killing flatmates with felafels, has responded to Australian cities doing rather badly, compared to New Zealand,  in an international survey of good places to live.

His solution: Australia should invade New Zealand.

At the outset, I think we need to note the Australian enthusiasm for invading countries is clear evidence they’ve been hanging out with the wrong crowd lately. But more importantly, Mr Birmingham makes a number of factual and strategic errors, as I’ve outlined in an open letter.


We appreciate you had a choice of countries to invade, so thank you for choosing New Zealand.

There are a few things you should have considered though.

Firstly, you’re wrong about us abolishing the New Zealand Defence Force. 

OK, we scaled it back a bit. Got rid of the RNZAF Strike Wing. We still have the aircraft though: you would think someone would want to buy a dozen Skyhawks but so far people have missed this opportunity of a lifetime. Even that bloke who came looking wearing an old nightshirt and a really overdone three-day-growth.

The Skyhawks are currently at one of our many secret air force bases, under tarpaulins. We can get them out again, you know, and it would please the New Zealand Army no end, because they’d get their tents back.

And the sheep jokes….bit behind the times there mate. We’ve still got a few sheep farmers, but most of them converted to dairy over the past decade.  They saw too many cow cockies installing new swimming pools to pay less tax.  

Pools, or as you Aussies quaintly call them ‘Poo-ee-walls’ (honestly, how does anyone get three syllables out of a five letter word?) are tax deductible if you claim they’re for irrigation purposes.   And as is well known, Kiwi Ingenuity can do anything with a piece of number-eight fence wire and a tax break. 

Yes, we have a few luxuries denied to Australians.

Things like water. We’ve got tonnes of it the stuff, pretty much everywhere, with the notable current exception of our hydro lakes – a mere temporary shortfall, I assure you.

And where you have the world’s biggest, flattest, driest sand dune, we’ve got bush. Yes, I know you Aussies talk about your ‘bush’ but when you do we just smile quietly to ourselves.

That’s the Kiwi Way, JB.

We’ve got real bush:   tall, thick, slimy stuff which covers a third of the country. It’s good stuff to hide in, JB, real good for launching guerrilla raids on invading forces, particularly invading forces who are not used to (a) real trees (b) real rain and (c) real hills.

But that’s minor stuff. You are overlooking a couple of crucial differences between our two brothers-in-Anzac.

Your mob got started when the Poms shoved their undesirables (I’m sorry, but it’s true)…their undesirables onto leaky, unsafe, disease-ridden barges and sent them across storm-tossed oceans to the other side of the world.

Notice the difference?  

NZ got started by a bunch of people who voluntarily got into leaky, unsafe, disease-ridden barges and voyaged across storm-tossed oceans even further than Australia.

Just to prove a point.

And when they got here they found the locals had voluntarily rowed here from Asia some centuries previously, around the time Marco Polo was looking for a publisher for the first edition of Lonely Planet.

Unless memory is pulling a foot fault, when your guys first arrived they had a big piss up.

When the first mob got to New Zealand to sign a treaty with the locals (yep, we did that too: we’re FAIR. OK, the small print left a bit to be desired, but caveat your own empties and all that)

…Anyway, when that lot arrived they had a prayer meeting. They then signed the Treaty.

THEN they got pissed.

This is why your little Antipodean Operation Sea Lion wouldn’t work. Yes, you’ve got the numbers. You’ve probably got the firepower, if Dubya lets you bring it all home from Mesopotamia (see, that’s another difference. We kept out of that little dust up, even though Dubya asked us real nicely. We might be a bit slow and bloody-minded at times, but we’re not DUMB. Unlike some countries we could name).

The Kiwi is a dowdy, rather dour bird, JB, but be warned. A country which chooses rugby as its national game and all-consuming passion – a game which involves blood, mud,  and the total impossibility of winning unless you break the rules and  – this is the important bit – not get caught, is not to be under-estimated.

And once we’ve sent our version of the press gang around the P labs to hoover up all the psychopathic nutters, and we’ve given them some bayonets, told them about Galatos and Minqar Qaim and Chunuk Bair and them loose…well, I wouldn’t want to be in your imitation Doc Martens.

Ever read the Winnie the Pooh stories as a kid, JB? It was an analogy of the British Empire, as it then was. You guys were Tigger.

We were Eeyore.

So take note and be warned, JB. Yes, you’d probably win, initially. But your hedonistic, happy-go-lucky natures would not enjoy the experience. We would de-bounce your Tigger-ish nature and send you home a sadder and – OK this is a bit of a stretch – wiser Tigger.

We’d hate it too, of course. But we’re used to that. 

You would hate hating it.

We’d get a sort of grim satisfaction out of it.

So stay where you are, JB. And in a few years, when that all-enveloping sand dune you call ‘the bush’ has reached downtown Brisbane, we’ll see if we can get you a ‘mates rates’ deal on water.

Leaps and Bounds


Australia Day.

Scanning my CD collection recnelty I noticed there’s a disproportionate number of Aussie artists: Cold Chisel, the Cruel Sea, Hunters and Collectors and Paul Kelly being the main ones, but also a few outriders like the Black Sorrows and Tex Don and Charlie.

Paul Kelly captures my mood best today, so here’s “Leaps and Bounds”, off the ‘Gossip’ Album.

There used to be an actual clip of this, filmed on the top of the MCG, but its been taken down.


The song has a fantastic warmth and a love of place. Especially that bit that goes ‘down past the river, and across the playing fields….’

While we’re at it: off the same album, a live version of the much blacker ‘Adelaide’.

Great opening line:

‘The wisteria on the back verandah are still blooming
And all the great aunts are either insane or dead.’

The man’s a poet.

On stimulus packages and the like…

…good line from the great Patrick Cook in this week’s Spectator [Down Under edition]:

“Male Self Employed thought that people in shiny suits flinging other people’s cash around while shouting ‘trust me’ and ‘put it on the slate’ was how we arrived up this creek, in that canoe, with both hands free, in the first place.”

Trans Tasman relations

Looks like a Labor win in Australia later this year. The news that goody-two-shoes ex-Bible Class boy Labor leader Kevin Rudd went to a strip bar in New York is going down a storm (for all that our own PM has, in her lemon-mouthed way, deemed it “inappropriate”.

As my favourite Aussie columnist, John Birmingham, has put it so well,

of course, there’s pride too. Pride in a country where, it seems, a goodly number of voters have decided they’re more likely to vote for the Ruddinator now that they know they might finally get a PM who understands the only poll that counts is the only The Fabulous Tina is humping to a fine shine up there on stage in perfect time to ‘Honky Tonk Woman.’

Full article here

Personal declaration: never been to a strip club. Not my cup of tea. Besides, they don’t open until after my bed time. If other people want to, well, each to their own…

Aussies and drugs

The redoubtable blog consultant Cathy Odgers has posted some advice to Australians taking drugs to Asia.

Just say no, is the gist of it. The Asian nations don’t like it and they don’t muck around

From what I’ve seen that’s dead right. I saw a local arrested for trying to sell marijuana to a tourist in Nepal a few years back. They’re not big on reading the prisoner their rights in Nepal. In any case, from what I saw these seemed confined to the right to lie down and bleed a lot. It was pretty ugly.

But I have a theory about the Australians, drugs and Asia. They’re acting out a kind of innate genetic throwback to their convict ancestors, except its gotten warped.

instead of getting convicted and then being transported, they’re transporting themselves and then getting convicted.

At this rate, in about 300 years, Indonesia will have a cracker of a cricket team.