|Subject: Re: Australia and New Zealand|
As an aussie, I had better say that there is more than enough to see in Australia in 17 days. The 5 or 6 days at the Open will probably be enough time to see Melbourne - lots of cafes/restaurants (try Lygon St or one of the other streets with heaps of restaurants - just ask a local when you get there, they will advise you).
You should also make sure that you see Sydney - the harbour area is fantastic and the beaches are great.
Brisbane is also attractive (as mentioned in an earlier reply you got) and the Great Barrier Reef is supposed to be fantastic - you should see it while it is still there as there are a range of environmental threats to it!
My home town, Canberra (the nation's capital), is also worth a visit for a day or two. There area some great museums and public buildings. (Check your dates first as there is also a big car festival early in January and you are probably better off missing it unless it is your sort of thing)
You can fly between all of these destinations (eg you could fly into Melbourne, fly to Canberra, then Brisbane then Cairns and back to Sydney and fly home from there). You could even throw in a flight to an outback centre (like Mt Isa in Queensland) to get an idea of how remote some parts of Australia are).
As for airlines, QANTAS is now the major carrier as its main competitor (Ansett) went broke earlier this year and is currently being re-launched. Virgin and some minor airlines also cover some routes. If you can get a good deal with QANTAS, I suggest you stick with them (although they are currently having a dispute with maintenance people).
I have been to the North Island of NZ each of the last couple of years. It is very nice, but if you only have 17 days, I would suggest that you stick to the Australian east coast.
If you want more info on anything, drop me an email.