Day One: “It’s like ‘Gone with the Weennd’ except the Shelia’s at the bottom of the stairs” – Aussie journalist

TV3’s Paddy Gower scooped the pix for the Gillard kiss (double-cheeks if you have to know) after John Key swept down the staircase at the Boao Sofitel hotel straight into the Australian Prime Minister’s open-armed greeting.

The photo-op had been careful stage-managed by Julia Gillard’s PR who officiously told the NZ journalist delegation accompanying the PM to the prestigious Boao Forum where they should place their cameras. The stage-management wasn’t lost on Gillard’s Aussie press corp (“It’s like ‘Gone with the Weend’ mate – except the Shelia’s at the bottom of the stairs” – quipped one hack).

The Key-Gillard bilateral was less stage-managed. They’d both met recently for an annual bilateral in Queenstown. The unfolding drama on the Korean peninsula was a major issue for both leaders. But much of it was about swapping notes on the respective speeches they would make at tomorrow’s formal opening ceremony of the Boao forum which Chinese President Xi Jinping will host.

Forget the fat tax on airlines – just make bigger seats for seriously big people

Don’t you just hate it when someone who is seriously big spills over into your space? I had the great fortune to secure an aisle seat in Premium Economy on the Air New Zealand 777-200 which took us up to Hong Kong overnight en route to Hainan Island. The AirNZ staff were terrific – as expected.  But the large Samoan woman (lovely though she was) could not keep her elbows to herself.

Never Mind Sleep. I used the flight to catch up on some some movies – particularly ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and the first Jack Reacher movie starring Tom Cruise (sorry Cruise falls way short on height, weight and dark machismo to play Reacher). Liked the way the  Zero Dark Thirty director played up the role of the smart CIA operative (female natch) who held her ground (“against the world” – according to one superior) and argued she had tracked down Osama bin Laden’s hiding place.

Three US senators wrote complaints to the head of Sony Pictures Entertainment, criticizing the film for  suggesting that torture was used to locate the late al-Qaeda leader.  The lawmakers said the detainee who provided significant tips about the whereabouts of bin Laden did so without any harsh interrogation.

Hard to believe that.

Come in Knuckleheads

The PM’s outburst against journalists (he called them ‘knuckleheads’ for their coverage of the role he played in opening the door for Ian Fletcher ‘s appointment as GCSB boss) had caused ill-feelings in media ranks. So, it’s not surprising that the traveling journalist corps had wondered about Key’s mood when he maintained a studious distance en route until a scheduled comfort stop along the two hour drive from Hainan Island’s airport to the Golden Door hotel where his delegation was to refresh themselves before heading over to the Boao Forum conference centre.

But by the time Key met IMF head Christine Lagarde his customary sang froid had returned (“Ah my favorite knucklehead”,  he jested to Herald political editor Audrey Young). No wonder as Lagarde had plenty to good words to say about how the NZ Government has handled itself post the GFC and indicated the forecasts on the NZ economy – which will be released in two week’s time – will be positive.

North Korea – Hey it’s called an armistice Guys

So, why is New Zealand potentially in the frame with North Korea? It’s really because the armistice is in essence a ceasefire with benefits. A peace treaty was never signed and it is not implausible the New Zealand could be involved if the unthinkable happens. Not surprising that North Korea will be a focus during the next few days.

Moths to the flame

Former Australian Cabinet Ministers Peter Costello and Alexander Downer are prominent figures around the Boao forum floors. Costello chaired a session: Debt Crisis Who is Next? In essence looking at the next breaking point that might endanger the global economy.

Costello told me he dined with Key and the NZ team. There wasn’t time to talk much. The former Australian treasurer is the consulting game now. But he still has a big interest in the fortunes of Fairfax and APN – take note.





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