At 24, after five years of high school teaching in ultra-conservative Queensland, I took off to Britain and Europe. In Berlin, I climbed to see two young uniformed Germans goose-stepping on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall. The only obvious differences were uniforms and weapons. They could have been twins – but were enemies. Why? It made no sense to me whatsoever. I returned to Australia determined to work my way into political journalism and haven't stopped asking, "Why?" ever since.
I never thought I'd interview Bill Clinton at an IT conference in Adelaide. After our lengthy exchange he sent a personal note commending my book, The World from Islam. Three years later in NYC he welcomed me to the UN launch of his Clinton Global Dialogue with the smiling words: "G'day! How's Adelaide?"
In 1991, my partner and fellow journalist, Kirsty Cockburn, turned a half-decent idea to journey across the Russia into a bold international project. In the six weeks it took my crew and I to complete the 13,500-kilometre journey from Vladivostok to Moscow, bumping along virtual "goat tracks" in four-wheel-drives, we witnessed the dissolution of the Soviet Union and creation of the New Russia. The trip became a successful two-part television series and photographic book: Across the Red Unknown – a journey through the New Russia.
The year 2000 took me away from standing in front of a television camera for a much-needed family sabbatical. I'd been bugging Kirsty incessantly, telling her that if I didn't spend a year of my life in Italy I would be letting myself down. I was able to spend some much-needed, unbroken family time with Kirsty and our two sons (now 31 and 28). I thought, wrote and listened not just to my own voice but to others, read European commentators and had European conversations in badly broken Italian.
ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
Two discussions on a recent journey through Jordan opened my heart on the seemingly unstoppable Middle East conflict. One with an Israeli MP who asked me: "If the killing on the Gaza border goes on, who is eventually going to save Israel from itself?" And the Jordanian Foreign Minister suggested that East Jerusalem should be the capital of what is now Palestine, West Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel and the so-called Holy City, old Jerusalem, should have "Vatican-like" protected status for the so-called "three great religions" – Christianity, Judaism and Islam, in no particular order. An amazing concept – but, don't hold your breath.
George Negus is one of Australia's best known media professionals with a passion for international affairs distinguishing his journalistic career spanning four decades.
He will lead an 18-day Travel for the Mind journey with World Expeditions exploring Columbia and Chile in August 2019.