The Pavlova palaver - why Aussies and Kiwis can't get along

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 October, 2008, 12:00am

Love thy neighbour is nice in theory. It doesn't always work as a reality for neighbouring nations, even when they live right next door and have many similarities. Just ask the English and the Scots, the Germans and the Dutch, the Greeks and the Turks.

And then there's Australia and New Zealand, who are like two warring children with the same parents. Their sibling rivalry - on and off the rugby pitch - is a battle to rival Kane and Abel. The doubtful sound of discord is revealed in the taunts across the Tasman.

And on the eve of the first Bledisloe played on neutral turf, sibling rivalry is at an all-time high, as both sides banter about their differences and re-live past sporting glories.

In 1908, New Zealand scientist Ernest Rutherford won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for splitting the atom and his contribution to radioactivity.

Seven years later, Australians and New Zealanders fought as one on the battlefields of Gallipoli. The acronym of Anzac may have once unified them, but unravelling the origins of their rivalry has been harder than splitting the atom.

And equally as volatile.

It's hard for outsiders, let alone Aussies and Kiwis, to understand where this sledging stops and starts.

It takes five hours to fly from Sydney to Perth, yet exactly half this time to fly from Sydney to Auckland. Australians and New Zealanders live 'just across the pond' (the Tasman Sea), but when it comes to sport, they're worlds apart.

The Bledisloe Cup - wherever it is played - is not just about sport. It gives the players, and the punters, a forum to argue about who is best - on and off the pitch - and lets them run amok, loud, proud and large, like an All Black tongue mid-haka.

And yet they can't even agree on when the Bledisloe was started, with one camp believing it was 76 years ago, the other saying it was 75.

The ribbing and riling is usually good natured, even if the New Zealand Tourism Board recently had a 'Be nice to Australians month'.

When it comes to one-liners and national jokes, apart from resorting to every sheep joke going, Australians are not sheepish about holding back with their cat-calling:

Aotearoa - the Maori word for the 'Land of the Long White Cloud', should really be 'The Land of the Wrong White Crowd'

Kiwi - an acronym for Keen Individual Without Intelligence.

What do you call 144 Kiwis in the same room? Gross Ignorance.

What do you call a Kiwi with a chip on both shoulders? Well balanced.

Many Kiwis argue that are aren't many jokes about the Aussies - as a punch line is rarely required.

They are tired of being told they are from a backwater from the wrong side of the ditch, pointing out they were by far the first Commonwealth nation off the bat to give women the vote.

And speaking of bats, a Kiwi might prompt a discussion about the underhand under-arm bowling incident in the final over of the third and deciding match that won Australia the Benson & Hedges cricket series in 1981. Trans-Tasman war almost broke out over it and then prime minister Robert 'Piggy' Muldoon noted the colour of the Australian jersey was yellow, not gold.

Kiwis think Australians are an uncultured bunch of former criminals and crooks, perhaps giving rise to the quote by Muldoon: 'The IQ of both countries goes up every time a New Zealander migrates across the Tasman.'

New Zealanders would argue they have Peter Jackson, of Lord of The Rings fame, whereas Australia has The Castle and Muriel's' Wedding. Nor do they think the two singing 'Special Ks' - Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Kylie Minogue - can be put in the same category.

New Zealanders might say they take their cultured ways everywhere, and wear them as a badge of honour. They bring it to the rugby pitch with the haka; the rousing, emotive, evocative battle cry and the Wallabies have nothing to add but an outfit that makes them look like a bunch of bananas, with no two the same shape or size.

Waltzing Matilda, a song about a sheep thief, isn't quite the same thing. Can Australians - especially the Wallabies - please speak, not mumble, the words to Advance Australia Fair? And what on earth is a 'girt' anyway? The thong-slapping Aussie joke that the haka was invented for the 2003 Rugby World Cup is a blip on the radar of the true tribal haka that has the power to rouse a nation of just over four million people to produce more decent rugby players per capita than any other nation in the world. (The population of Sydney is about the same as all of New Zealand, and there are just over five times as many people living in Australia as New Zealand.)

These are two nations who even fight about food. It starts with who invented the national dish, the Pavlova, the famous meringue, fruit and cream concoction named after a ballerina, (supposedly a culinary version of her tutu), that is a hit on both sides of the Tasman.

Australians argue Prime Minister Helen Clark is the worst-looking bloke they've seen for some time, and there's no need to dress up in Auckland, as it's not really the oft-called City of Sails, it's the City of Snails, where nothing really happens.

Australians think New Zealand is a bit like England. On a Sunday. In 1951. And that New Zealanders are the Scottish of the South Pacific, withholding pennies, rather than spending to keep up appearances.

New Zealanders retort that at least they come from a nation that's a beastie free zone, with ne're a deadly animal in sight. They'll tell all who'll listen there's nothing in their wilds more innocuous than the harmless, flightless bird from which New Zealanders earn their nickname. They like the fact a trip to their backyard dunny (a word both nations are privy to), won't result in an encounter with stray crocodiles or spiders or one of the world's 10 most deadly snakes (many of which reside in Australia).

Politics also comes into the realm of punitive Pacific pinkie pointing. Australians scoff at the fact New Zealand is a nation with warships smaller in scope and size than you could fit in your bathtub. Kiwis argue back that at least they don't stick their nose in other countries' skirmishes.

Kiwis believe Aussies are a bit obsessed with fame, quick to claim New Zealand's success stories for their own, latching on to everything from Melbourne Cup-winning horse Phar Lap to actors like Russell Crowe and Sam Neill. Both nations split hairs (or is it heirs?) over the band formerly known as Split Enz (aka Crowded House).

Outsiders to both nations wonder they don't just invent a new word for the areas where the nations merge, and to cover these Aussie-adopted Kiwis. Something like 'Kozzies' - joining together Kiwi-Ozzies - sort of a modern day version of the word 'Anzac' that linked them together on the battlefields nearly 100 years ago. Only they'd probably fight over how to spell it.