Creating a Union of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands
In the 1890s, when the Federation of Australian States was being fervently debated, there were seven negotiating parties at the table — five States on the Continent, plus Tasmania and New Zealand.
Just before referendums were held to determine whether the grand venture would go ahead, New Zealand withdrew. Their stated reason was that Australia was experiencing a major economic recession brought on by the bank collapses of 1893, combined with the worst drought of the century. New Zealand had avoided both of those disasters and was motivated to take the short term view that it would be wise to pull out. In hindsight, it was a bad decision.
So, Federation proceeded without them. Yet, the provision remains in the Constitution for them to change their minds at some time — but it is an option that has never been taken up.
Indeed, the only attempted change in membership of the Federation occurred when Western Australia voted narrowly against seceding from the Commonwealth during the recession of the 1930s. Their move to become a nation in their own right should have been achieved easily except for the fact that the ‘Yes’ campaign was an organisational disaster that was also poorly promoted, thereby enabling the rest of Australia to breathe a sigh of relief.
This short rendition of history is leading me to suggest that constitutional change is in the air again for a number of reasons, creating an opportunity to look once more at the grand intention that partly failed in 1901. Added to this is the fact that there is now a significant issue in the mix caused by the fragile economic and financial viability of the nations of the Pacific being under serious revue.
Being an Aussie, I will comment on Australia’s situation first.
Thoughts of amending our Constitution are no longer based on a Republic alone. That issue is sleeping quietly at present, but the need for a reduction in our chronic state of over-government from three levels to two is very much alive. State Governments have passed their use-by dates and the empowerment of local or regional governments is on the rise because they operate closer to voters.
This possible change to the government structure of Australia is important, as neither New Zealand, nor any Pacific Islands, will want to become States of Australia. However, if Australia has the courage to remove both State and Local Governments, we could set the ball rolling by creating 50 regional governments. Each capital city would become a regional government, with others based around the largest regional cities. Every region throughout the nation would provide only one Senator to the Federal Parliament, thereby making all Senators face the voters in a genuine contest where, for the first time in Australia’s history, they would not be guaranteed a seat just because their name is on the top on the ticket. Nor would ratbag parties ever again be able to get a Senate seat by a fluke of preferences.
In a rapidly changing world in which nations of growing power are challenging USA for world supremacy, small nations like New Zealand have a dormant future. Russia, China, Japan, India and Brazil will eventually reach economic equality with the United States, meaning that Australia needs New Zealand and vice versa if we are to hold our own in world trade and quality of life. As a combined nation, we will have 26 million people, one-tenth of the population of our neighbour, Indonesia, and will be competing with 1.5 billion in each of China and India.
So, New Zealand could have 10 regional governments in the Union, making a new nation of 60 regions at that point.
The Pacific Islands have no economic or social future at all on the world scene. I say this with a heavy heart, as I have enjoyed many holidays out there and find the friendly nature of their people to be refreshing, as are their cultural traditions. But, they can’t compete with the power and technology of nations like China and far too many of their people have left their shores to live in New Zealand or Australia or USA because they see no hope of prosperity in their homeland. They can sustain their culture and lifestyle as part of a larger nation and each one of them would become a regional government.
The nations that will be best candidates for union are Fiji, Tonga, Cook Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Niue, Kiribati and Nauru, while Norfolk Island and Lord Howe are already half way in union with us. This would increase the nation to a total of 70 regions.
Missing from my list is Papua New Guinea. There are many reasons for this, but the main one is that their future lies in achieving a union with West Irian.
Tahiti, New Caledonia and Vanuatu rule themselves out because of their allegiance to France, but a change of their status would be welcomed at any time.
What are the benefits of the Union?
Firstly, it will create a strong and sustainable nation of the Southern Hemisphere covering a vast area of the South Pacific. It would have the capacity to form powerful trading relationships with Indonesia, South Africa, Chile, Argentina and Brazil in expanding the economic power of the Southern Hemisphere. It will also have the scope, as well, to greatly develop trading relationships with Asia by being one entity.
Secondly, the existing economies of New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific are actually complimentary to one another and are capable of greater specialisation.
Lastly, all laws would be progressively rewritten to suit a new nation, meaning that vital economic reforms could be implemented at long last without the pointless procrastination that thrives now.
A name for the new nation will be a subject of hot debate. My choice — Pacifica.
Its flag can be the Southern Cross alone.
Parliament could be located on Norfolk Island with Government Departments spread throughout all major cities. Canberra would be reborn as a major regional inland city which could be fostered as the new nation’s centre of technology.
A national anthem would be determined after an international composition of composers.
This Union of Nations would create the opportunity for Pacifica to become a Republic with no relationship to the British Crown except one of goodwill. The way to make the change would be to invite Prince Harry to be the nominated President for the first decade, after which his successor would be elected by popular vote. By that time, we will be thinking nationally, not parochially, and won’t be overly concerned if a Samoan Chief is elected.
The concept of a Commonwealth of the South Pacific is not without parallels elsewhere. There is a fledgling movement afoot to start talks on a merger of Germany and Poland, a step that would create a mighty nation within Europe.
This means that we have nothing whatsoever to lose by starting some talks on the matter.
Could I conclude on a very serious note by stating that the new nation would be able to field the greatest Rugby Union team the world has ever known?