In breaking news, Tourism Australia is being forced to abandon Matesong, and is set to replace the costly advertisement. Inside an airless room, high in Sydney's CBD, a small group is meeting behind closed doors to devise a new campaign to get British tourists out to Australia to visit our war-torn country. Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham is on the phone to TA endlessly, hassling for a speedy outcome. It's just possible he popped in to TA on Thursday to give it a hand (and a handout).
Why do we need a new campaign? The tourism industry is experiencing cancellation rates of 60 per cent and more from domestic visitors, causing economic damage to the industry of up to $1 billion. We don't know yet the number of overseas visitors who've cancelled - we do know that Matesong had to be pulled from digital platforms because any prospective tourist would have found it hard to reconcile the images of raging bushfires and choking smog and smoke on the news with the crisp, clear blue skies in the Eddie Perfect/Kylie Minogue confection.
Apparently it won't be Kylie, or even Eddie, this time. It won't even be the same kind of messaging - the lyrics which said "this year's been tough and confusing" and implied a break in Australia would have shell-shocked Brits reliving the misery of Brexit and then Megxit.
This time, it will be a plea. Save us and our tourism industry. We need you. We want you. There ain't no way we're ever going to love you.
Time is of the essence. Looking for music which could be repurposed quickly is hard, and I'm pretty sure Beds Are Burning isn't inviting and Flame Trees is too close to home. There are no songs with lyrics which talk about nursing koalas and kangaroos, although perhaps we could do what the young people call a mash-up, based on the song from the hit series Skippy The Bush Kangaroo (surely you remember, "a friend brave and true").
Which other musical outings could be repurposed quickly?
MORE JENNA PRICE ON MATESONG:
Andrew P Street, the author of The Long and Winding Way to the Top: Fifty (or so) Songs that Made Australia, has a few suggestions. My favourite Waifs song is I'm in London Still because it reminds me of the time my eldest child was in London. Street says there's a perfect readymade, a later song of the Waifs called Rescue, although I'm not sure any suggestion that a visitor is "tired of travelling" is exactly what we need. Perhaps Pick You Up from Powderfinger? "I'll be the one to pick you up again / When you decide you've had enough of it." That could be a hit with international audiences, with Hugh Grant singing (yes he can) in the wistful way he did in A Way Back Into Love. Or what about the Seekers, imploring us to build a world of our own?
Sadly all these performers, with the exception of Hugh Grant, are the once-was and the not-nows. We need someone with international star power, someone who can gaze down the barrel of the camera and get the British to part with their pounds and save our colony.
Long-time music writer Bernard Zuel came up with the perfect tourism ambassador to replace Kylie. This one also has a strong British presence and, like Kylie, has lived there for years. He's had previous ambassadorial experience and his Gothic affect suits our dark times. Yes, I'm talking about Nick Cave, whose sublime Red Right Hand was used to sell South Australia or parts thereof.
Perhaps our once mighty Prime Minister has other ideas. Do you remember last year when Scott Morrison was riding high? He'd not long been leader of the Liberal Party, and therefore Prime Minister, when he approached former foreign minister Julie Bishop for a word of advice.
"I'm going to see Tina Arena," Morrison told Bishop. "Could you give me her number so I can tell her I'll be at her opening show?"
Morrison had long been a fan of Arena's, and even did a little review on his Facebook page in 2016: "Tina Arena proved her breathtaking talent again in Sydney tonight at the State Theatre. She is a total delight and a great Australian who deserves all the praise and accolades that come her way. Good to see Julie Bishop MP also there enjoying the night." Now Arena has been appointed as a board member of the Australia Council for three years. She continues to sing, record and be an outstanding performer with an international reputation. Perfect - and not Eddie.
Arena has two songs which could instantly be rewritten, quickly, to try to sell the embers of our tourism industry internationally. No, they aren't Burn and You Set Fire to My Life because making fire jokes is not funny and will never be funny in this context.
Yet Tourism Australia, remarkably tone-deaf with failed campaign after failed campaign, needs some advice about campaigning. May I suggest Arena sings Sorrento Moon, shot at her childhood holiday setting, followed up with images of the performer shopping with an empty Esky. Yes, it's a long way from the Mornington Peninsula, where some beaches have been closed because of the smoke, to the East Gippsland fires, but our holidays need beauty as well as good works.
More usefully, Arena could implore the British with I Need Your Body. Because we do.
- Jenna Price is an academic at the University of Technology Sydney and a regular columnist.