Kieran Bicheno

NZ to Australia: You're an embarrasment, cobbers

AFTER decades as an aspirational frontier, Australia no longer boasts the economic incentives that enticed so many Kiwis across.

For all our shared history and the Anzac spirit, I'm convinced that culturally these days we're growing further apart.

Put the Bledisloe aside and compare the Australian treatment of Aboriginal people with Maori in New Zealand.

Clearly things here are far from perfect and I'm not suggesting it's all milk and honey. But our Treaty settlement process is to be celebrated, Maori generally have reasonable political representation, and unlike in Australia, were generally considered people before 1967.

The Christmas Island situation should cause great shame to our Anzac cuzzies, though apparently not enough to create the impetus for political change.

And the ongoing stagnation over same-sex marriage reform has the Aussies stuck in the 1950s.

It's amazing to think that Ireland, Mexico and Colombia, which harbour far greater religiously conservative bases, have all allowed for same-sex marriage before the Aussies.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wants a $200 million referendum on the change.

The opposition rejects it as a waste of money. Unlike his predecessor, Turnbull is a supporter of same-sex marriage. I can't see why he doesn't just suck it up and pass the law himself.

The political argument in favour of same-sex marriage is beautifully simple. If you truly believe in a separation of church and state, which most Aussies and Kiwis do, then marriage in a strictly legal context should have no religious base.

We are all free to practise whatever religion we might like, and religion is free to define marriage by whatever norms it chooses, so long as only two people are involved.

If your church says marriage should only be between a man and a woman and you wish to be married by your church, go for it. But you cannot impose an individual church's interpretation upon the broader population.

It might have a stronger dollar and a bit more sun, but by more important measures, the Australia of 2016 is not an aspirational place. It's embarrassing.

Jack Tame is TVNZ's US Correspondent, host of Newstalk ZB Saturdays

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