One NZ vista best left unseen

COLUMN

Any trip across the Tasman to New Zealand brings with it the expectation of never-ending vistas that amaze and delight. White sheep on green pastures framed by snow-capped mountains. Boiling mud. Deep and spectacular fiords. Fractured vowels.

So it came as a complete shock that one of the first things I clapped my eyes on after arriving in the nation’s capital brought nothing but despair, dismay and utter revulsion.

And to make matters worse, it was an old mate who caused it. Gleeso! Some of you might know him as Peter Gleeson. There he was, all over the TV screen in our Travel Lodge hovel, chairing a Sky News panel “discussion” being beamed across the dutch from big brother Australia.

I immediately grabbed the remote and tried to change the channel but Gleeso stayed stubbornly in view. He was not to be denied and he was in full flight, explaining how a post-apocalyptic Australia would look if Labor were to win the next election. The shattered remains of homes destroyed by Labor’s negative-gearing plans; a lawless land where criminal unions, Bill Shorten firmly in their pockets, would ground the nation’s industry to a halt and everyone would lose their jobs.

I’m not sure who his two guest commentators were but like US marines scrambling to take Hamburger Hill, they fought for screen time to push to the high moral ground of their ultra rightwing views. “You’ve stolen my thunder,” said the bloke on Gleeso’s left, before spending some minutes regurgitating Gleeso’s main arguments. Then it was the sheila’s turn to Gleeso’s right to do exactly the same thing.

Gleeso and I worked together on the Daily Sun in the 1980s. Maybe calling him a mate was going a bit too far but I’m sure I knew him and he knew me. Surely we must have shared a beer in the Empire but I can’t recall getting a feel for his political bent back then. He was a cub news reporter; I was a sub on sport. He wore shiny pants, had greasy hair and came across as the lovechild of a likeable larrikin and a pox doctor’s clerk. Then, as now, he spoke from a mouth full of gravel and had the perfect face for radio.

But would I have guessed three decades ago he’d turn into a rabid Murdoch hack? I can’t say I saw it. It was obvious in Col Allen, who’d sweep into the Sun Building lift with that air of purpose about him, flick his tie over his shoulder, wipe some of the brown stuff off his nose that may or may not have been some executive’s shit. But not Gleeso. Not back then, anyway. But I guess time editing the Gold Coast Bulletin and then Brisbane’s Sunday Mail have played their part in what Gleeso has become.

So I’ve only got two things to say to my old mate. Gleeso, I hope you’re getting paid a whole heap of cash to do what you do. And while I’m not religious, I could almost go down on my knees and pray that somewhere deep down inside, you know that what you do now has fuck-all to do with journalism.

***

I suppose I should have been grateful to have gotten to the Land of the Long White Cloud in one piece. Going through the safety demonstration as we sat on the tarmac in Brisbane, the Virgin Australia cabin manager begun by declaring “all aircraft are different”.

Isn’t that reassuring? Each aircraft has its own set….of everything. That planes don’t co-share bits and pieces.

“Excuse me, miss. I couldn’t help but notice that the starboard wing is missing?”

“Yes sir, that’s actually already headed north on VA flight 342 to Cairns.”

“Oh, are we going to be okay here without it? Safe enough?”

“We’ll be fine sir. But I admit I’d feel a bit better if VA 22 flight to Melbourne hadn’t borrowed our tail.”

***

Anyone else been to wundy Willington? Oh, my gawd, I’m speaking Kiwi already! It is a beautiful harbour city that has just shown its class and composure in dealing with a disaster and coming through it relatively unscathed as any truly sophisticated world city should.

It’s just had a horror weekend, where all its hospitals were overcrowded, its beds full, people lying in crowded corridors and ambulance bays awaiting treatment, all suffering from severe shock after both weekend days were fairly sunny and windless.

***

Admittedly the wind was blowing in the right direction and the room window was open but around 12.30am on Monday, NZ time, I’m sure I heard the sound of a bottle of Kristal champagne being popped drifting across the Tasman from the Point Piper area of Sydney. That would have been around the time Newspoll was released in Australia showing Labor leading Morrison’s rabble by a full 10 points, 55 to 45.