New Zealand and Australian Prime Ministers John Key and Malcolm Turnbull met in Auckland not 10 days ago, and we're still feeling the trickling down effect Australia from those cross-Tasman discussions, but the ease of travel was not one of them.
On the agenda were the New Zealanders living in Australia on visas and who have been caught up in the legal system and when convicted and held for 12 months are being deported back to New Zealand. There are 240 such Kiwis being detained on Christmas Island alone.
Moreover, on the agenda were 2,600 young New Zealanders who have been living in Australia as children of Kiwis who will now be entitled to the types of tertiary financial support offered to Australian young people. To this time such Kiwi born students had to pay for their university courses 'up front'.
The report stated that Mr Turnbull said giving New Zealanders the same access to a university degree as Australians would play a "crucial role" in enriching lives and careers while it would also boost productivity and the economy.
But nothing on the current passport on demand viz customs between Australia and New Zealand. As I wrote last October, almost one year ago, travel writer Clive Dorman is sounding like someone shouting across a valley and getting his own echo back.
This is now the fifth article I have written on this subject as someone who regularly flies across the Tasman, but heck whose counting when New Zealand Prime Minister John Keys thought he had a deal with Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and then Tony Abbott. Now its' off the agenda.
We don't have to be an Einstein to figure where the problem lies. In my previous articles, quoting Clive Dorman who has written more on this subject than anyone else, cites the millions of dollars in Australian Government fees with international flights across the Tasman. Ouch! Who said that?
The big end of town is a greedy mob and therein lies the biggest of all problems, the corporate back pocket. So someone has come up with a solution to this issue, well, part of a solution, like an incremental solution. The Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) is urging Canberra to slash the punitive $55 international travel tax to $25 for trans-Tasman routes and streamline passenger processing to cut the door-to-door travel time between Australia and New Zealand to no more than five hours.
The TTF push is titled "Bringing our Neighbour Closer" as New Zealand is Australia's biggest source of international visitors as well as the busiest foreign destination for Australians heading overseas. The bad news is that this sector has remained stagnant for some time while the Australia – US sector is racing forwards. Something has to be done to get this vital Australia – New Zealand section into running shoes and forge ahead to bigger and greater.
A first step
This idea of reducing the international tax from $55 down to $25 was a first step, this is the initial methodology to create a crack in the silver glass as Government thinks in terms of huge $ numbers. Cut that figure in half, then perhaps, it's not that big a figure to cut out entirely next time.
There is an expectation that the numbers of travellers across the Tasman each way will triple with such an ease of travel with domestic flight experience, and extending the destination routes such as Canberra, Newcastle, Avalon and the like.
In my previous articles I have noted how strong the mission travel movement is between Australia and New Zealand. How many mission $s are simply used up needlessly in this greedy grab bag of money as the system currently exists.
But with all their current 'speed up' processes between Australia and New Zealand our last trip across the Tasman showed little progress.
First, the smart passport system worked for most but not all. Second, lining up was still the norm for most people. The speed test must have been done when a flight had 10 people on it, not the 200 plus people on our flight. Third, you still had to encounter the customs wrap where it seemed like simply good luck rather than any science to be directed to the straight to the street gate or show all your gear line.
Here's a suggestion
The Australia–New Zealand sector passengers could do their identity checks on-line (there's plenty of IT on-line security systems functioning, and then as passengers both line up and get off, have the sniffer dogs out and customs people with the authority to select people off the line (as it were) for a 'spot check'.
It then becomes a domestic flight but with this reasonable 'spot check' addition.
Oh no! Common sense!
As Clive Dorman says, it's a matter of political will. Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard didn't have such a will. New Zealand's John Keys does! He's been trying since 2009. Sadly, there is no rush on the part of Malcolm Turnbull.
It is a vital issue for Christian ministry as there is so much ministry travel across the Tasman (either way)!
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html