Tuesday, May 21

Lowering the IQ of one country…

The announcement of the new direct pathway citizenship change for New Zealanders in Australia has been hailed as step forward on both sides of the Tasman. Or at least by the politicians who made it. Yet if we think a bit more carefully through this, has Australia just pulled a swift one that will end up costing New Zealand?

The Prime Minister evoked every cliche of the ‘bread and butter’ Chippy from the Hutt reset of politics with a reported statement:

“I’m absolutely confident that New Zealanders living and making a life in New Zealand want to continue to stay with the home of the All Blacks, the true home of the pavlova and the lamington. There’s plenty of reasons for them to stay back home in New Zealand.”

Prim Minister Hipkins

For those of us of a certain age this has the populist echoes of the infamous statement of Prime Minister Rob Muldoon in the 1980s that “New Zealanders who leave for Australia raise the IQ of both countries”.

Yet Hipkins’ romanticization is of a provincial New Zealand outlook and expectation. Hipkins’ ‘New Zealand’ is really one of the small town, small minded New Zealand of the 1950s. It’s food, focus and values that are increasingly out of step with most urban, educated, ambitious , entrepreneurial New Zealanders living in a multicultural society. 

It’s as if the past 40 years never happened. 

We can’t even call it cultural nationalism; rather it is provincial populism. Hipkins’ sausage roll scoffing small town social democracy is one many New Zealanders increasingly want to leave behind, figuratively, societally and increasingly, literally. 

As such this provides a problematic correction to Muldoon’s claim. Those who choose to stay in this country for Hipkins’ reasons probably lower the 1Q of New Zealand – while we lose the best and brightest, the entrepreneurial, the innovators, the trained and talented, the ambitious, to Australia.

To put it another way, if this is Hipkins’ vision of New Zealand then the old tourist cliche of ‘Welcome to New Zealand, put your watches back 20 years’ is sadly true, or rather, actually now out of date. It’s ‘put your watches- and your expectations and ambition back 50 years.’

Working in the New Zealand tertiary system I can tell Hipkins that his vision of New Zealand and his idea of what will make people stay in this country has no resonance with the bright, ambitious, educated young people it is a privilege to teach. All such rhetoric and attitudes do is increase the sense that our universities are just ‘adding value for export’.