As a long time fan of Kylie Minogue (and sending special - special - love to the woman who sent me Locomotion when I was surrounded by excitable toddlers), I adore and respect everything she does, although I would prefer to be screening her partners.
Now, however, I find myself in the unenviable position of factchecking Queen Kylie's latest contribution to the national culture. I'm only doing this because it's a public service. Also, FYI, she's really a foreigner, well if not a foreigner then certainly an enthusiastic expatriate.
On Christmas Day, just before the Queen's message, our own expat queen launched Matesong, part of Tourism Australia's Philausophy campaign. As with anything Kylie, it's utterly captivating. She is ageless, glorious, triumphant. Unlike Queen Victoria, she's also fun.
The lyrics are puzzling. They begin with the admission that the year's been tough and confusing. She's right about that - but it was no worse in Brexiting Britain than here in Australia where just this week, we have a politician in government tell us he wants government out of his life. Talk about tough and confusing. What's even more confusing is that Barnaby Joyce's electorate continues to vote for him.
A couple of lines further down, Kylie tells the Brits (the principal audience for this advertisement) that all of Australia loves you and "we'll never judge you". Ok no. While once that might have been the case, a procession of Royal catastrophes has made Australians much more sceptical about the monarchy, a metonym for all things British. May 2018 research shows a distinct uptick in republican sentiment and that's before the recent Andrew horror show. Who knows what this January will bring? The Essential researchers are back in the field next week.
As Peter FitzSimons, chair of the Australian Republican Movement says, "Sure, we like the Brits but it is no longer the strong kinship of blood that it was. And while common love of and loyalty to the Crown was initially the key founding plank of the Australian Federation, these days we've mostly outgrown that colonial mentality. We are us, they are them and we wish them well!"
The timing of Matesong is also a little off. No, it's not because it's in 3/4 time but because it's fire time. Kylie assures Britons that in Australia we can turn off the news. Not on your nelly (or even on your Lenny, little Neighbours joke there). And definitely not this summer. Most of us have been transfixed by the news because it's also our emergency broadcaster. Our nation is ablaze. If we turned off the news, we'd be scorched earth or worse.
Speaking of scorched earth, Queen Kylie advises Britons that here in Australia we can kick off our shoes. Has she been here since our daily temperature records were smashed into tiny pieces? The bitumen's melting. There are a significantly increased number of "pavement-street burns", as a result of increased ambient temperatures. That might be a US study but it's not getting any cooler here!
Which reminds me, quokkas. Yes, unbearably cute. But let's remember that quokkas, adorable as they are, are suffering. Mainland populations of quokkas have shrunk, with some estimates saying the area of occupancy has halved. The World Wildlife Fund says distributions look to be affected by climatic factors and predation by foxes and feral cats. As for the impressive marsupials of which Kylie sings, doubt they've survived the recent bushfires.
I personally have no interest in describing the United Kingdom as glorious, nor in being a wing-woman for a country which just elected Boris Johnson, a giant stuff up if ever there was one. While we've elected our own special weirdos (note the politician who doesn't like governments), we aren't like the British and it's more than our vowels. We prefer coffee to tea, among our more trivial differences and we take many more migrants from India and China than we do from the UK. Not that you'd know that from the Matesong advertisement. The stars of this particular ad are whiter than white.
Chelsea Bond, a social scientist at the University of Queensland, describes the use of Aboriginal people in Matesong as fulfilling all the tourist tropes of blackness in Australia: entertaining, exceptional, exotic.
"We can sell our country in all kinds of ways but we can't pride ourselves on the values of our nation," she says. "The ad is a white fantasy, from Neighbours to Shane Warne."
Look, the ad is fun and singable if you don't care about the truth but it's not really what Australians are about any more. We might clear the heads of visiting Britons but we certainly won't be clearing those airways - the images of the Sydney Harbour Bridge can't have been shot during our recent days with near zero visibility. (But it did make me homesick for the air we used to breathe.)
Plus I hate the idea of sucking up to people who think they're "above us". Where's our collective backbone and traditional resistance to authority? That's what makes Australia loveable, not a desire for approval from citizens of a country, where the major export is drunken backpackers with terrible sunburn.
- Jenna Price is a regular columnist and an academic at the University of Technology Sydney.