Hobson Article - April 2016
Starting my political journey in public meetings round Auckland in 2005, the number one issue nagging at most people was the massive outflow of Kiwis to Australia. It was unnerving that so many young Kiwis were leaving. I regularly encountered bewildered parents lamenting that all three of their children lived offshore and they didn’t think any would return. Starting my own family at the time, it was a real motivation for me entering politics.
It’s enormously satisfying, a decade later, to be in government at a time when that distressing narrative has largely disappeared. Young people continue to head off overseas in great numbers, but there’s a reasonable confidence that a fair proportion will return. And, as is well known, we now have a net inflow from Australia.
Of course our Government can’t take credit for all of the transformation. The Australian economy is facing ‘headwinds’ and the dark clouds looming in many parts of the world have made staying in New Zealand relatively more appealing.
But by providing stable, competent, fiscally sustainable and predictable government for New Zealand for more than seven years, this National government has contributed significantly to our country’s relative attractiveness. Regardless of commodity cycles or trading conditions, good government increases confidence, which leads to more investment, which leads to more jobs and greater opportunities.
Another dynamic at play has been the growth of Auckland. Our city is starting to gain critical mass. And more young Aucklanders are concluding that they can achieve their dreams in this city. That’s why, notwithstanding all the problems that come with growth, I’m strongly in favour of Auckland continuing to expand. A lot of people want to live in dynamic, globally connected and diverse cities that can provide a wide range of lifestyles and opportunities. And you need size and scale to achieve that.
Getting back to Australia, our relationship has ebbed and flowed over the decades, much as the relative performance of our rugby and cricket teams. I’m proud to see our Prime Minister well regarded in Australia and successful in achieving real progress on the difficult matter of the treatment of Kiwis over there since 2001.
At the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders’ meeting in Sydney, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that New Zealanders who arrived in Australia between 2001 and February 2016 would be eligible for permanent residence, then citizenship, if they meet certain criteria.
Right now, fewer Kiwis might be leaving to go to Australia, but at least we can be sure that those who have left in the past 15 years have a pathway to citizenship, so that their contribution in that country can be recognised.
Meantime, I caught up with the Australian cricket team while they were in New Zealand. Though it pains me to admit it, I’ve always admired their irrepressible confidence (exemplified by opening batsman Dave Warner. That’s long been a general Aussie trait. The exciting thing is that more Aucklanders and New Zealanders, generally, are starting to share that confidence.