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 telling 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 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 that 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 now take many more migrants from Asia than we do from the UK. Not that you’d know that from this Matesong ad, whose stars 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. The images of the Sydney Harbour Bridge can’t have been shot during our recent days with near-zero visibility (though they did make me homesick for the air we used to breathe).
Plus, I hate the idea of sucking up to people as if they’re above us. Where’s our collective backbone and supposed 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.
Jenna Price is an academic at the University of Technology Sydney and a regular columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.
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