This juxtaposed life


Recently I learned that I love big cities but I also love little towns, too. I can visualise myself living happily in both of these locations, which either makes me adaptable or really quite confused.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about such juxtaposition, which also happens to be one of my favourite words. And strangely it has to do with rugby, so let me explain… the week before the All Blacks won the 2015 World Cup I spent a fair amount of time telling a bunch of Aussies that I don’t really follow rugby any more. In fact, I wanked on about how I much preferred the theatre and the “arts” generally to the game that is supposedly played in heaven (well, it will be now that Jerry and Jonah are there).

Up until that point I hadn’t watched a single game of the tournament, but found myself a few hours later screaming at my television set, while simultaneously scaring my cat, as the All Blacks sneaked over the line to semi-final glory.

A week later, I was again telling a bunch of Aussies (this time in Sydney) that I wasn’t overly fussed with who won the final, while simultaneously betting them 50 bucks a head that the ABs would be victorious. Their misguided optimism meant they were happy to take such a wager. A few hours later, after getting up at 3am to watch a game that I seemingly wasn’t interested in, I was one of millions of kiwis who witnessed the All Blacks triumph – and also started counting my winnings.

Later that same night, as fate would have it, I flew back to New Zealand for a short holiday. My dad and step-mum now live in a smallish town so the juxtaposition from my “home” in a big Australian city and where “home” now is in New Zealand is profound. And while I was there I realised that I liked both places equally because each gives me something that I need.

There’s no question I thrive on the frenetic pace of big cities. There are plenty of opportunities, plenty of things happening, and certainly plenty of weirdos, which helps to keep life interesting while also giving me plenty to write about.

When I go home to my parents’ house in New Zealand, the pace of life automatically reduces by about one billion. To me, the grass is literally greener, the food is literally fresher and everyone literally has an accent that I never used to notice because I had it too. I still do, to a degree, but when I’m in New Zealand a lot of people think that I’m Australian, which really is quite confusing for me.

This trip home involved many wonderful hours of doing not much but hanging with my dad. We spent hours talking about everything and nothing – an aspect of our relationship that has never waned in all the years that I’ve lived overseas. We took a road trip one day and cruised the back country roads in one of his vintage cars. I soaked up the magic of a day of just him and me, as well as the scenery, which seemed more vibrant and alive than ever before. I guess compared to the grey, concrete vistas that engulf big cities the visual contrast is pretty bloody obvious.

While I know that one day, if I so wished, I could live a more simple and quiet life, my reaction to the beauty of my homeland didn’t make me want to migrate back there again. It just made me happy that I come from such a spectacular place, which I can visit whenever my “busy” life allows. Then I get the best of both of my worlds.

And so it was that the day before I was due to fly back to Australia, I did something that reinforced the utter bullshit that I’d been talking just a few short weeks before – I just hadn’t known it at the time. The All Blacks were in town for their victory parade, you see and I happily jumped on a bus for the 90-minute journey to see them. And then when I got there, I joyously joined the throng of thousands of proud supporters on the sidelines.

As the Men in Black cruised down a blocked-off, rather unremarkable city street – on the back of utes with hardly any security or police and not a barricade in sight – I clapped and clapped and clapped until my hands smarted. I think there may have even been a proud tear or two, which I quickly wiped away probably pretending it was allergies.

And then with a massive grin on my face, and the honest realisation that you can take the girl out of New Zealand but not vice versa no matter how much I think I’ve changed, I jumped on a bus and then a plane to head back to both of the places that I now call home.

Is New Zealand better than Australia?


Over recent days there’s been something very unusual happening in the Australian media. You see, the Ocker press pack has been pondering a rather unpalatable question and it’s a weta-sized quandary that they clearly haven’t experienced before.

For the first time ever Aussie media is wondering: Is New Zealand better than Australia? Indeed, one media outlet pontificated whether it’s better being a Kiwi than an Aussie in the year 2015. They must’ve almost felt blasphemous writing that.

According to The Australian newspaper, “with the pesky New Zealand dollar trading near parity with the Australian peso, our brightest minds being poached across the ditch and an economy sliding into the Tasman, the unthinkable has arisen… there’s an uneasy feeling that our New Zealand cousins are doing better than we thought, or hoped, is being borne out by the cold, hard numbers.”

When it comes down to the crunchy, Red Delicious numbers, the Land of the Long White Cloud (my homeland) has certainly got the financial edge over their big Aussie brothers. According to reports, banks in New Zealand are dishing out billions annually to small and medium-sized businesses, and they are eyeing Australian scientists, researchers and tech entrepreneurs to lure across the Tasman. Unemployment and growth are better there, resulting in a reversal of traditional migration figures — headed east. And the New Zealand dollar has traded near parity with the Aussie and may break through $A1 as early as today – the best result in some 30 years.

In my opinion, another reason why this turn of fiscal events has occurred is that New Zealand also has something curious that Australia hasn’t had since John Howard was defeated in 2007 – a stable government. A year after Howard was unceremoniously dumped after three mostly successful terms as prime minister, a youngish, financially successful man by the name of John Key was elected prime minister of New Zealand. And, blow me down with a Kiwi bird feather, if he isn’t still the prime minister all these years later.

Conversely, since Key was elected back in 2008, Australia has had four different prime ministers (one of them was twice – thanks again for that, Kevin) and at least two changes of government at federal and state levels (don’t even get me started on the over-government of a country which has a population the size of Australia and not America – a system on which it was modelled). Queensland has swung from Labor to Liberal and back to Labor again all in the space of three years. No wonder the electorate has whiplash. Plus there is likely to be another change of government next year given the current (but for how long?) prime minister Tony Abbott is about as popular as smoking.

A salient quote from Key in one of the “NZ is (gulp) better” stories of late also says that he tries to be open and honest with the electorate and isn’t trying to push through unpopular policies for purely political reasons. While I don’t live in New Zealand and therefore can’t vouch for the accuracy of his claims, I do live in Australia and know that a succession of federal politicians cannot claim the same ethos here.

While supposed decision-makers and economic masterminds in Australia flounder and flip flop about how to fix the economy without raising the GST from its original 10 per cent – a rate set some 15 years ago – you have to give big high fives to Key for upping the GST in NZ to 15 per cent and still getting re-elected two more times.

Every country has its time in the sun and during the GFC it was Australia. The resources sector underpinned the economy and we were lauded across the globe for not sliding into recession. Aussie interest rates were higher during the GFC than they are now, because the economy was chugging along quite nicely, thank you. All the different prime ministers we had took credit for our good financial fortune, but it had nothing to do with them. It was all about China’s demand for our resources combined with high mineral prices – a beautifully-timed economic double-act. And just like New Zealand being Aussie’s perpetually poor second cuzzie-bro, times can and do change. You could even say, that in New Zealand today, it’s business time.

Sitting here in my office in Australia, I must admit my chest swells with pride at the awestruck-tone of the local media commentary. It’s almost like, apart from the All Blacks, The Flight of Conchords, Russell Crowe, Lord of the Rings and of course sheep, the Aussie media never really thought there was much to New Zealand at all. It was pigeonholed as an economic backwater that was losing citizens to anywhere else in the world at a rapid rate. I was one of those people who left more than 20 years ago, but with things on the up over there, and on the down big time over here, I think it’s important to never say never, eh bro?

Politics, apathy and me

2013-australian-federal-election-300x199Nine years ago, I left Australia because I had the shits about who had just been elected prime minister.

At the time, as you can probably guess, I was a very socially-aware beastie who also often reported on Australia’s political parties during my day job as a left-leaning journalist. I remember writing long-winded and heart-felt monologues about what was fundamentally wrong with John Howard, Brendan Nelson and especially Tony Abbott.

Fast forward a decade and I don’t think I have ever been so apathetic about an election in my entire life. In fact, the difference between my astuteness from then and now is almost like I have morphed into a completely different person. Maybe I’ve just grown up? Or perhaps I just don’t like either of the choices that our major parties have to offer? I’m thinking it is the latter.

And it does seem that I am not the only one. A news report a few weeks ago explained that Generation Y was also very apathetic about Saturday’s Federal Election. According to an Australian Youth Affairs Coalition spokesperson, many politicians thought that just because they could take a mean “selfie” or just had a Twitter account that meant that they were engaging with younger voters.

“So many MPs use social media as a means of pushing out their thoughts almost as advertisements, rather than using it for meaningful dialogue,” the spokesperson said.

“They feel obliged to use the technology but it’s only a very small number (of politicians) who manage to make the most of Twitter.”

But no matter what the medium, the latest wave of eligible voters won’t play a part in democracy if Australia’s current guise of governing continues, the peak national body for youth said at the time.

But my apathy is not because the major parties are not using social media to their best advantage. In fact, I have a Twitter account which I use only spasmodically to promote this blog and little else (oops, that sounds very much like what politicians do).  No, I think my apathy is because as a single, childless, professional woman, my life is unlikely to change no matter which party wins on Saturday. That’s a cold hard fact.

And if I was to have a purely selfish (actually is that where the word ‘selfie’ comes from?) and economic view about it all, then I would probably vote for the party which my father has long espoused as being the best for a certain demographic.

Dad and I have regular debates about the pros and cons of both sides of politics on both sides of the Tasman. He never changes his mind and nor do I, but we (mostly) listen to each other’s opinions and then discount everything that each other has said and sublimely move on to talking about me.

This election period, I have not watched one debate, I have read no more than half a dozen news articles – one of which was showing photos of “hot” politicians when they were younger – and thankfully I haven’t been anywhere near a shopping centre when either of the main players were on the hustings.  The last bit is quite important you see as I happen to live in the prime minister’s electorate.

But even though I haven’t been overly-interested in this campaign to date, on Saturday when I head down to the polls very early it is highly unlikely I will vote any differently than I have for many years.  My politics are my politics, regardless of who is leading the party, and I’ve always believed in egalitarianism above everything else.

Maybe I’m just not as passionate as I used to be about anything. Or maybe the day-to-day hum-drum of life has overtaken my once overt political awareness. Or maybe I should just throw my hat in the ring instead of whinging about the lack of choice from my ivory tower of privilege.