Federal Politics


Accept it: no one knows or cares about Australia

DESPITE the John Howard-fuelled surge in nationalism, patriotic pride and jingoistic ridiculousness, (Oy, Oy, Oy, anyone?), it's still nice to be reminded that we, as a people, still care way too much about what the rest of the world thinks of us.

Sacha Baron Cohen was in Australia during the week promoting his movie The Dictator. He was the star of the movie Borat, which I worked on, so he's actually the only Hollywood celebrity I ''know'' - meaning the guy may or may not remember me if reminded of my name, or if he runs me over with his limousine. By Hollywood standards, we're close.

He arrived in character - even though this is a real movie with a script, and actors. I actually wish more actors showed up at premieres and PR interviews in character - it'd be hilarious and entertaining. When he arrived, his character ''The Dictator'' talked about wanting to hire Peter Slipper. He appeared on TV interviews making suggestions about Julia Gillard, mentioning Tim Tams, and bagging Mel Gibson. In other words, he pandered to the local audience. No need for any interviewer to ask the standard first question, ''How do you like Australia?'' - because he knew his audience, and he went for it. Kudos to him - he did his homework, and he sucked up to the locals. All perfectly reasonable, and probably successful. Where the Aussieness I mentioned above entered the frame was the coverage of the visit. His yelling about ''Slippery Pete'' as he walked off the plane in Sydney was interpreted by some journalists as meaning the Slipper controversy had ''gone global''. If journalists on well-respected publications can be sucked in, then what does that say about the country as a whole?

I join Bob Carr in saying with all due respect to Mr Slipper, Mr Pyne and Cabcharge: no one in the United States knows or cares about what's going on in Australian federal politics. To be honest, most Americans don't know what's going on in US politics, but that's not the point.

The point is - Australia is still a small country eager for global recognition and it's time we moved on with our lives. Those Americans who have heard of Australia, and most have, think lovely thoughts. Those who have visited think even lovelier thoughts. Hollywood cares - they send celebrities to promote their movies, and they want your money: you should be flattered.

But please stop even contemplating whether anyone cares about the day-to-day stuff. Leave the frustration of trying to explain our cultural quirks to us expats. Trust me, I won't stop until the wombat shares the stage with the stupid koala ''bear''.

You have the luxury of wallowing in your own scandals without a care in the world, so stop thinking the world is caring. Enjoy your uniqueness, and appreciate an English comedian's efforts to make you feel special.

Tim is a writer, TV producer and proud former Canberra resident who has lived in Los Angeles since 1997. Twitter @timschildberger