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New Zealand exacts revenge on Australia

In a week in which New Zealanders are still smarting from the defeat of the All Blacks in the Bledisloe Cup (during which a South African referee officiated), they do get to at least enjoy something approaching revenge.

The Gruen Transfer is a popular TV show about advertising, featured, somewhat ironically, on the entirely ad-free ABC1 channel. A month or so ago, the show featured a couple of spoof ads in which Australians were persuaded that invading their neighbour across the Tasman Sea was a good thing.

The first ad pointed out that invading New Zealand would be a doddle, that a public holiday would be declared, and everyone would have an extra day to enjoy the beach and the barbie. The second argued that New Zealand had no defence force and, in a play on New Zealand’s advertising slogan, was “100% there for the taking”.

New Zealanders were mightily offended and vowed revenge. Now we get to see the result of their efforts, a spoof ad set to be broadcast tonight. As with “100% there for the taking” they’ve taken the controversial slogan “So where the bloody hell are you?” and offered their own twist on it.

New Zealand and Australia have long been both allies and rivals. They share a history of allegiance to the British crown, and much of their sense of national identity was forged through the experience of the ANZACs through war. Gallipoli, the defining event in the Australian psyche, also involved troops from New Zealand.

The rivalry stems partly from an interest in similar sports (cricket, netball, rugby union*), but also from the fact that New Zealanders have always emigrated to Australia in significant numbers. A New Zealand prime minister said in the early 70s: “New Zealanders emigrating to Australia raise the average IQ of both countries.”

This decade, this has averaged some 30 000 departures or so a year, the highest number of emigrants from any single source country. The Land of the Long White Cloud has become something of a transit lounge for would-be immigrants to Australia – and not just by illegal Indian immigrants posing as World Youth Day pilgrims – leading to worries that New Zealanders are losing the skills they tried to attract in the first place. New Zealanders attribute this to a sense of inferiority compared to their much larger antipodean neighbour:

“I think a lot of us are seduced by Australia in the sense that we think it’s bigger, brighter, therefore better”.

As New Zealand’s Revenue Minister Peter Dunne has argued, “Indeed, I work with several New Zealanders, and Bondi is famous for its large population of Kiwis; so much so that when New Zealand’s defence minister was alerted to the Gruen Transfer ad, he remarked an invasion had long since happened — the other way round”. (As an aside, on a flight back from Sydney, my husband chatted to an ex-South African psychiatrist on his way to a conference in Cape Town, who told him of his plans to leave New Zealand for Australia. The Maoris, he said, were getting too politically active.)

Generally, though, South Africans seem equally keen to emigrate to either Australia or New Zealand. Though perhaps the fact that Hestrie Cloete and Jurie Els now call a suburb in Auckland home will put some people off the latter. If ever there was a cause to invade New Zealand, saving them from a rash treffers CDS would be as noble as any.

* Rugby union, as I have discovered, isn’t actually that big in Australia. It doesn’t provoke nearly as much passion as rugby league or AFL.


  • During the day Sarah Britten is a communication strategist; by night she writes books and blog entries. And sometimes paints. With lipstick. It helps to have insomnia.