Oz is hotter than hell but people still see it as heaven on Earth
Germaine Greer knows how to eviscerate a patriarch with great panache. The late Robert Hughes did cultured anger better than anyone. Clive James continues to make his erudite way through the world. Nick Cave, The Triffids and The Go-Betweens were among the most interesting of post-punk musicians. Barry Humphries is beyond compare.
What, talent and place of birth aside, binds these various talents together? Each one of them made for London as soon as humanly possible. Biographical works by Greer and Hughes remember a national establishment that still felt the need to cringe culturally towards the mother country (from whom it has yet to fully disentangle itself).
Last year, I got the opportunity to ask Nick Cave and John Hillcoat, director of The Proposition and Lawless, about the notion that Australia had, in the years since they left, become more socially open and less culturally conservative. “Aw no,” Hillcoat said. “Not creatively. It has changed a bit. But not that much.”
Target for emigration
All of which is very bigoted and glib of me. Having never visited the Fatal Shore, I am in no position to make any judgments. Here’s the thing, though. Thousands of British and Irish folk have – over the past 20 years or so – decided, without ever visiting Australia, that it is a kind of heaven on Earth (though hotter than the lower place).
Ask any Irish person in the 1970s which, in ideal circumstances, would be their ideal target for emigration and he or she would, most likely, have plumped for the United States. After all, it looked pretty nifty in Hawaii Five-O and The High Chaparral. Australia was seen as, well, pretty much the mean-spirited caricature I have drawn above.
It is not too absurd to attribute the change in thinking to the arrival of cheap soap operas in the late 1980s. Neighbours and Home and Away (not so much Prisoner:Cell Block H) painted the country as an entirely benign version of the home country. It was hotter. The citizens abhorred pretension. Everyone was blonde and easy-going.
Malcontents such as your current jerk, thus, found all their worst prejudices confirmed. Romania sounded a great deal more palatable. Bucharest is the fifth-cheapest city in the world, you know. Sounds Excelenta.