03 July 2011 6:27 AM

Sydney v. Dubai - more similar than meets the eye

I'm typing this on a dusty, wobbling morning in Dubai, on my way from Sydney to NYC where I'll be working on assignment for the Daily Mail for a while.

As the plane pushed through a hazier sky than any I remember (is desert dust any different to ash clouds?), I had a familiar feeling, first compounded when I landed in India years ago: any fool can step onto a plane in comfortable familiarity and emerge, just hours later, into something far removed - a different culture, climate and time.

Dubai, with its perplexing take on both Islamic and western ideals and crude monuments to ecological folly, is a jarring contrast to Sydney's streets. But where travel-induced systematic shocks may initially bamboozle, there are some strange and avoidable similarities between the land Down Under and the Gulf. In fact, a land that at first seems so foreign, musky, muezzin-songed and 'oriental', faces many of the same worrying socio-economic issues that Australia, with its beautiful bodies and land of milk and honey image, does.

The heat, the few and far between solar panels, the water shortages and the fondness for gas-guzzlers for a start. The absolutely dominant reliance on diminishing resources, oil and coal, that lie under the sunburnt ground, millions of years in the making. New South Wales, with its biggest new-build houses in the world, is home to some Florida-style villas that would no further look out of place in the Emirates as they would in Sydney's western suburb, Campbelltown.  The waves of immigrants - Australia's sad boat people worth a mention - who look to the desert and harbour cities for hope and salvation.

The differences, though, are what people focus on - for many of the right and wrong reasons. And the truth is, it's been a shock to be reminded so plainly of the social inequalities here. The Sri Lankan maids neatly tucked into cupboard-sized rooms, their plastic sandals lined up outside front doors hidden behind villa kitchens. The young Keralean men, rocking on their haunches in snatched shade, waiting for a labour bus to dispatch them to their next suffocatingly hot building job. The maids who leap to their deaths from glinting glass towers on an almost weekly basis to escape their masters' hushed lechery. The prisons of bootleggers, western drinkers and sex tourists. In these respects, it's a far cry from the (mostly) classless transparency of Australia.

They're both lands of fortune, opportunity and mineral-heavy boom. Thousands of miles away from Bondi's perfect beachy arc, as the rumble of 4x4s on scorching asphalt on Sheikh Zayed Road is muffled by the hum of the air conditioning system, the reality of Australia's place in the world is as striking - and in some ways, improbably familiar - as ever.

16 June 2011 7:08 AM

An unlikely pair: Sydney Film Festival and small bars

Thanks to an unfortunately sprained ankle, I had the good fortune to fall in line for a free ticket to a sold-out Sydney Film Festival viewing on Tuesday night.

The movie, which I'd never heard of, was Even the Rain, or, in its native Spanish, Tambien La Lluvia.

It was a pleasure to watch - absolutely entertaining, raw, brilliant and visceral. The beautiful Gael Garcia Bernal helped, of course, but what I loved about the portrayal of Columbus' early plundering of Colombian Indian lands (as told through a movie director, Bernal's, eyes), set against a modern-day story of corporate greed over native Bolivian campesinos - as well the movie-making team's low-budget, low-wage treatment of native extras - was how South American it felt. There's a grit, passion and violence about Bolivians and Peruvians that is almost always blurred when you come across it, which is not often.

Tambien La Lluvia's is not a subtle way of telling a story, but the three interlinking plots throw perfect bitter light onto the variously despicable, greedy, cowardly, touching survival instincts that we see at play in the jungle-clad mountains of the Bolivian Andes. There's nothing romantic about a life where every drop of water is as precious as a rare nugget of gold and there's nothing peaceful about a David and Goliath struggle on rubbish-strewn hillsides.

Sydney Film Festival is a great bastion of the cultural calendar here - it brings a load of titles to the city that wouldn't otherwise get a look-in in these parts, dominated by mainstream films as the cinemascape is. And Even the Rain (which I'm sure will be a big hit) is a great example of a look into a world that is a long way off in so many ways, telling an underdog tale that otherwise wouldn't make it into many Sydney lives.

The SFF's event bar of choice (seamless segue alert) is the lovely Grasshopper, tucked away down a totally unpresuming lane in the city, surrounded by skyscrapers.

Just a year ago, watching an arthouse film in Sydney was a lot easier than finding a non-corporate bar where glasses are unbreakable and nods to interior design centre overwhelmingly on the dubious qualities of wash-down brushed stainless steel.

But last year's changes to licensing laws mean that small bars, funded by individuals rather than conglomerates, are able to open around the city, serving drinks in their own style, in low-rent premises and to crowds that aren't dependent on streams of 2D footie. They are to mega-pubs what arthouse is to Hollywood. Refreshing, you could say.

Grasshopper is one of the best of these joints - quietly cool, with a great French chef cooking in the restaurant upstairs and unfussy cocktails served from glass jars in the dark basement bit. It's hard to find - so hard, in fact, that when it opened, the name of the lane on which it is nestled - Temperance - mysteriously disappeared from Google, heightening its hidden aura in a teasing, alluring kind of a way.

It's fitting that the Film Festival has chosen to champion little Grasshopper with its sultry charm and dropped-off-the-map obscurity. A slightly behind the times nod to Melbourne's bars and European sensibilties, long may it linger and permeate Sydney's brash bling culture.

Even the Rain at the SFF and the Grasshoper bar: they both tell a story of small guys fighting and winning, in some important way, over the bigger boys. Both the SFF's lesser-known titles and small bars (and their union) inject an atypical layer of whimsy into the city's life - and once again, I am reminded that there's a lot more to Sydney than reaches the Harbour-dazzled eye.

02 June 2011 7:12 AM

From Tax to TEDx - Sydney's week that was

There's a helluva brouhaha over here at the moment, centred around Cate Blanchett's cameo role in a recent ad that encourages Aussies to support Julia Gillard's oh-so-controversial Carbon Tax.

Not only has poor old Cate waded into a (too) highly politicised slinging match, but she has walked into another great Aussie stickler: the tall poppy/class debate, the undercurrent of which bubbles away throughout Aussie media but is rarely talked about. Essentially, people are pissed off that a rich woman may comment on a tax on big polluters. As I've said here before, this is a country that is proudly devoid of class, yet seems to be acutely over-aware of (even to the point of bullying) those with wealth and success.

That aside, the amount of nasal, inflected panicking I've heard on the radio, in the papers and in bars in response to Cate's support of the Carbon Tax is symptomatic of delivering any bad news: it was always going to be a hard pill to swallow. In the short term, it may make life a bit tougher for industries that produce a lot of pollution, but in the long term it's the closest thing we have to plain good sense. And what better time to introduce such a measure than when Aussies are having it so good, making hay while the sun shines?

The carbon tax is nothing new - it has long been popular across Europe (even India even has one), it's the most workable alternative to far-reaching carbon trading schemes and it is high time, frankly, that Australia started to look to the future and - counter-intuitively, perhaps - ready themselves for tougher times. Whether it's the economy, the environment or even both, as all good Girl Guides know: be prepared.

Look no further than England: what goes up, must come down. And the overpowering public sentiment when things went belly-up in the UK at the beginning of 2009?: "Why did no-one try to stop us?"

Now, from the predictable to the fantasmagorical, last Saturday's TEDx Sydney - the festival of ideas that is the geek's Glastonbury, the Mecca of creative bandying, the epicentre of eureka thinking. Well, sort of.

An orgy of music, some decent lessons, people agreeing with each other and free food, drinks, contacts - and take home charcoal-filter water bottles. It was a big, grown-up fieldtrip and I was one happy student.

I have never been to a TED festival before and all those interesting people in one place, all there for the same reasons, all enjoying the uniqueness and all feeling just a little bit special to be involved made for a memorable atmosphere. Genuine learning, excitement and a sense of humour laced through even the most serious bits - it was like a repeat of one of your better University lectures by the tutor you fancied, whilst tipsy and on laughing gas: learning that's this fun seems to good to be true.

And then a flying electric violinist appeared. Too much. Way too much fun for a day of lectures, surely. If only Gillard and her taxes were even a smidgen as imaginative.

23 May 2011 9:50 AM

Gill v Bourdain at the Sydney Writers' Festival

Now, I'm not one for fisticuffs but when I see something advertised as "Food Fighters", I want to see a fight. Of sorts.

So you will understand my disappointment when, last week, this lacklustre Sydney Writers' Festival chaired session puttered to a weak little close, the previously buoyed punters around me affecting a collective shrug instead of the double thumbs-up we had expected. We were left both hungry and bored and without a glimpse of blood, guts, sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.

It was, you see, AA Gill versus Anthony Bourdain. And the topic was food. And the venue was the wonderful old Sydney Town Hall. A recipe for success, you'd have tought.

But when you have two huge egos, deliciously verbose descriptions, third-degree ADD, mouths like building site dunnies, competitive Alpha male DNA and more than a thousand pairs of eyes on you, even the most slam-dunk, air-tight, hermetically sealed recipes for success can go, well, a little floppy. Overegged and undercooked.

Sorry, event MC Tony Bilson, Australian chef and culinary legend in these parts, you may be a "Godfather of Australian gastronomy" but you were poorly cast. You were a lamb to the offal-obsessed, one-tracked slaughter. The event ought to have been compared by a comedienne, a feisty woman who could mock, flirt and belittle with a raised eyebrow. Gill 1, Bourdain 1, Bilson nil. I hope you have recovered.

Now that I have got that out of my system, I can report that the SWF, was, by most accounts, a gleaming success. The sun shone in true Sydney style, flaming autumnal colours mellowed by a lovely soft light. In spite of the Food Fighters flop, "AA Gill is here" was a highlight for me, the theatre of mostly grey heads twittering (in the old sense of the word) to his filthy tales of dildos, anal sex and one-night-stands. It was all suitably hammed up for the antipodean audience, Gill's cut-glass accent a get-out-of-jail card for any offence that he may have caused. Anyone who can tell a theatre full of grannies (whom he had already insulted several times) that "if you want to use a cucumber for a dildo, peel it first" has my vote. Psychopath or not, I'd wager the man knows how to make a lady of any age blush.

There're too many plum one-liners to list here, but there were moments of serious, anthropological-ish reflection amongst the self-serving smut. The main differences between England and Australia (and Australia's only redeeming feature) according to Adrian Gill? Australia is always looking forwards whilst England nostalgically mourns a lost, supposedly better past.

As for his shameless Aussie bagging, though, I had to laugh. "You and I come from very different places." Long pause. "Obviously."

16 May 2011 8:22 AM

Wasted pop-up: one man's waste is another man's fuel

Having grown up with my grandma’s wartime stories and borderline obsessive dedication to the ‘waste not, want not’ school of domesticity, I am not one to quibble about ingredient thrift. So, trend-driven as it may be, I see nothing wrong with Wasted’s wholesome philosophy: a dining experiment, reinventing and serving foods that would otherwise be given the heave-ho.

You can only assume, then, that the utterer of “all things are cheap to the saving, dear to the wasteful”, Benjamin Franklin, would have jolly well approved of Wasted, too. But alas, Franklin and I are in the minority - especially in Sydney, where GFC-related stinginess hasn’t encroached on meat-heavy, offal-light menus (not much ox-tail, pork belly and the like around here). 

Menus So it was with no small amount of intrigue that I headed to Wasted, housed for three days only in a tiny modified café, complete with movie projections, old wool bags, brown paper and tealights. What are a young British chef and a savvy Aussie attempting by serving the rubbishy parts of animals and vegetables to spoilt Sydneysiders?

To straighten things out from the get-go: no, the meal wasn’t cooked from the fruits of dumpster diving missions. In fact, a lot of it was very hard to procure – very hard indeed, thanks to the Australian fixation on legislation and squeamish fear of anything that isn’t pure, bright muscle.

The self-deprecating boy from Shoreditch, Dougie McMaster - winner of the BBC’s Young Chef of the Year gong in 2009 - is hailed as nose-to-tail-eating pin-up Fergus Henderson’s protégé and it’s safe to say the guy knows a thing or two about the insides of a sheep, cow or pig. But St John in Farringdon is a long way from Sydney's sensibilities and it turns out that blood is nigh-on impossible to find here. It took Dougie nearly a month to find a supplier where it would have taken a phonecall in London and, likewise, he found it hard buying brains and chicken hearts*. No wonder he told me "it was the hardest menu to practice."

There’s an irony in the rarity of these bits and pieces, but where Dougie and his team of chefs – all “best mates” from Melbourne – struggled against local flows, hard work, effort and imagination won on the night. It was a memorable meal not for perfect seasoning or other-worldly presentation (although they were both good) but for the format’s laid-back honesty and originality. Not bad, considering the menu, according to 24-year-old Dougie, “took ten minutes to come up with” (thanks to a demonstrative commitment to sustainable eating) - the whole Wasted concept only dreamt up three weeks ago.

So, of which foods did Dougie make a Cinderella? The menu...

Chicken heart, dock leaf, barley

Anchovy spines, anchovy mayonnaise

Salt beef, with all the celeriac

Nettle soup, nasturtium, back fat

Blood, brain, skin

Yabby, wild rocket, dill

Intercostals, potato skin, wild dandelion

Whey sorbet, feijoa, violet

Smoked wood custard, molasses, pomegranate

Brains And who’d have thought a load of potential waste could taste quite so good? The hip crowd, packed into the little café like sardines, seemed as receptive as I was – it was easy to ignore the slightly ramshackle service, bumping elbows and accidental spoon omissions for the bright zestiness of the yabby/crayfish, the creamy earthiness of the nettle soup or the intense umami hit of the anchovies (with a pong bordering on fishmeal and chewy as leather, but weirdly moreish).

By the no-messing ‘blood, skin and brains’ course, Dougie had really hit a rhythm – an old tile was smeared with a dollop of dark blood, the crunch of pig skin and milky lamb’s brains delicious against vinegary morsels of apple. Animaly and shamelessly St John-esque, this was a winner.

Crunchy, gutsy potato skin worked perfectly with soft intercostals and fresh little green cauliflower stems. Whey sorbet was a stroke of genius, too, its salty sweatiness cut by a deliciously matched moscato. Smoked wood custard, conspicuously not sweet, took on a meaty quality – its vibe hard to separate from the salmon or bacon you’d normally associate with that smokiness (which, for want of wood chips, came from a certain tree in a certain botanical garden, I gather).

Smoked Wasted has been a surprise runaway success and whilst it’ll probably take more for my co-diners to rush out and buy blood and tripe, Kym Lenoble, Dougie’s co-conspirator, has just heard that the pop-up will be heading for a stint in infamously hard-to-please Melbourne in four weeks’ time, where the crowd will surely put the team through its paces. Here's to tops, tails, bony bits and brine - I take my hat off to Dougie and Kym for having the guts to reimagine a rubbish heap and sell it well to picky foodies... although getting your average pie-eating Aussie on board could be another challenge altogether.

 *Oh, and as an aside, I recently learnt elsewhere that if you ever happen to be in the market for unpastuerised milk in Australia, you’ll find it labelled ‘Cleopatra’s Bath Milk’, branded as a beauty product to get around the authorities. I can only imagine what my granny (and much of France) would say about that.

Images - top: menus, middle: Dougie plating up blood, brains and skin and bottom: smoked custard.

06 May 2011 7:33 AM

Sydney Fashion Week - or should that be weak?

Lovely as it is, it's safe to say that Sydney is not the new black. Our latest fashion hooplah, Rosemount Australian Fashion Week, has been pottering along all week without much fizz and pop and with barely an international eyebrow raised. There aren't the Peaches and the Kates or the pavement fashion brigades, party one-upmanship and burly bouncers - fair enough - but there's also a conspicuous lack of the usual fashion week-related energy and glamour in the city. In fact, as fashion journo and blogger Ashleigh Sharman told me, the week’s been "a bit lacklustre."

Marnie_skillings We're showcasing Spring/Summer now - Australia's biggest annual fashion moment as, afterall, warm-weather clothes tend to dominate the market. "We tend to wear spring and summer collections all year 'round and layer up in the winter," says Sharman. Still, as critical a buying moment as this is following a retail annus horribilis, Australian fashion and retail seems to be echoing what we saw in London and NY fashon shows in late 2009: austerity. Or, if you're an editor, austerity chic.

"It's not showy, it's chilled out and relaxed. There's lots of minimalism, sheer pieces, basic tailoring - it's really influenced heavily by what's going on in the Northern Hemisphere" says Sharman, who has been at RAFW all week and who goes as far as saying that "there's nothing really breathtaking happening."

To compound the relatively paired-down, play-it-safe styles, designers don’t seem to be encouraging custom, either. "It's going to be an economical season,” says Sharman, “girls will already have most of the trends in their wardrobe.”

Thanks, in no small part, to highstreet chain, Zara.

Only weeks ago, Australia's first Zara store opened in Sydney's city centre. As the very first taste of fast fashion on these shores, it’s been a wild success greeted by mammoth queues, sell-out lines and frothing news pieces. As one fashionable young lady I know said, “it’s like they’ve never seen clothes before.”

Harris The cruel irony is that with Zara come styles that eclipse those of the Aussie catwalks, plunging local fashion further into the shade. Not only will more girls and guys turn to the mostly-under-$100 garments in Zara for their dose of European high street fashion (if they’re not spending their powerful AU$ online at ASOS and Shopbop, that is), but they are not delivering optimism – aka dollars – to the Aussie fashion industry. We can only hope that by delivering fast style, Zara may reinvigorate the fashion scene here and give it the boost it deserves.

The Australian fashion industry is not in an easy spot. Although some labels are on the up - particular mention to Carla Spetic and Gary Bigeni - by being “lacklustre”, Australian Fashion Week has managed to kill two of its own birds with one stone – making it far easier for brave Zara to leave the pack behind.

Pics: top, Marnie Skillings channels desert. Bottom, Gail Sorronda modelled by Aboriginal star, Samantha Harris.

28 April 2011 12:09 AM

Kate and I grew up in the same village

Princess: it’s a fairytale level of fame that most of us would find very hard to comprehend. Perhaps hardest, I’d hazard a guess, for those who knew Kate Middleton before she was famous, who saw her going about her daily routines, who sat with her in lectures, who delivered her post.

So, as someone who lived doors away from Kate, I find myself pondering, time and time again, the enormity of the change to her life – and, of course, to that of her family. It mightn’t have been the dizziest in speedy rises to fame, clocking in at over eight years, but for the country girl from Berkshire, things will never, ever, be the same.

I walked past Kate on country lanes, saw her in the pub and watched her steal the show at the Christmas day church service. I spoke with Carole on the phone, heard about her brother’s A-Level results, witnessed Bucklebury go into meltdown whenever Will was spotted visiting and saw the generally proud and amused reactions to the sudden position of Chapel Row in the global media psyche.

Here in Australia (as across most the world, let’s face it), people are intrigued by our Kate. Who is she? What’s she really like? We haven’t much to go on – yes, we’ve seen photo after photo and magazine caption galore, even noticing the predictable claims about augmented noses, chins and breasts – but we know so little of her character, what makes her tick, her (non-princely) loves, her hates. I have a head start, having lived the same village life, and I am often asked what she’s like.

Well, as a neighbour, I’d be lying if I said I knew the real Kate. But I can tell you that the village she’s from is your average London commuter-belt territory: wellies, pearls, Labradors, public schools around every corner and twee cottages alongside council estates. There are bored teenagers getting away with petty crimes (egg-throwing a failsafe ten minutes of fun) and a small village green loved only twice a year at the Village Fete and on Guy Fawke’s night. Pubs are the centre of social life – the Bladebone Inn is Chapel Row’s main drinking hole but the nearby Old Boot and The Bull at Stanford Dingley are favourites with the Middleton set – their patron numbers swelling each Easter and Christmas when urbanites escape the city.

It’s an area where tittle-tattle spreads faster than the Boxing Day hunt – I hear over-excited wives are on crash diets and Newbury-based personal shoppers (the mind boggles) are zealously hunting down hapless invitees. The butcher shop is bursting with choice cuts of meat, the pubs are pulling more pints than ever and – can you believe it – Mrs Shan from the Spar shop has flown all the way to India to buy her wedding day saree. With half the village invited to the big day and the other half watching on, the gossip grapevine, usually led by Ryan the postman, is going into meltdown.

People talk of a quiet girl, shy and always polite. I saw a pretty and perky lady, always looking neat, prim and conservative. Nothing out of place, nothing challenging. A once-ordinary country girl in an ordinary country home, giving nothing away.

Chapel Row, Bucklebury: it really is just a normal little English village. Albeit with newfound limelight and one very extraordinary resident.

12 April 2011 2:20 AM

Tunes for change: a new model of giving

Tfc It launched just over two weeks ago. It grabbed 10,000 supporters by word of mouth in one week alone - all of whom spent $1 or more, with an average spend of around $8.70 - and it has garnered global attention. Its founder, Richard Wilson, has been offered an eye-wateringly large sum, or $200,000, by a very well known whiskey brand for the naming rights. He refused.

"It's a phenomenon... Every outlet in the world is calling me..." Richard breathlessly told me afterwards. We share an office and I have only seen fleeting glimpses of the man over the last fortnight, so aboslutely under the pump he finds himself since Tunes for Change went viral. Cigarettes, beers, odd snatched hours of sleep and an immense, overwhelming snowball of public enthusiasm have kept him going flat out.

“The support from the general public and artists contributing has been nothing short of monumental.  Within 30 seconds of John Butler Trio giving us a "shout-out" on his social media pages we were hitting an album download a second.”

So what it is and why has it grown so damn huge? Tunes for Change is a downloadable album chock-full with good songs from famous bands. You pay what you want, as long as it's over $1 and you get 16 tunes for your paltry donation, which goes directly to charities in need. It's backed by some major indie acts and has been touted over Australia's biggest youth radio station, Triple J, amongst others.

But what makes it so special, especially as identity-shaping charity buys are two-to-a-penny since the advent of Livestrong's yellow plastic wristband and Bono and co.'s (RED) project paraphernalia? The timing, that's what. We've reached a new place in consumption: people want the experience and not the product, they want the service and not the good - a transition for which the way was paved by the rise and rise of social media. And downloading tunes from the internet couldn't fit more perfectly with that shift towards collaborative, object-less consumption.

In particular, Tunes for Change comes at the perfect time for Australians. They are one of the highest consumers of social media in the world – TfC gained 5000 Facebook fans almost instantly - and they're good at team support, particularly practiced, you could say, since flood, earthquake and cyclone chaos have affected the region. All profits from the first album, launched at the end of March, will go to Queensland and Victoria flood support appeals.

So, just how many albums has TfC shifted in these industry-tough times? “To be revealed...! Ha!” says Richard, better known for his movie-acting career. “We can't disclose any information until we reveal total album sales and publish all financials on our website in June. I can happily say however that it has completely exceeded everyone's expectations...even my own!” Here's hoping that even without the help of whiskey brands, the reach has stretched from Sydney to London and beyond - social media-aided sharing, consuming, doing some good: it's the shape of things to come.

23 March 2011 5:22 AM

Solar power: where is Australia going wrong?

It’s big, it’s flooded with sunlight and it’s a huge (in fact, the world's biggest, per capita) carbon consumer.

So, why is Australia so far behind in the race for development of solar power?

I’ve been pondering this question for a while now and can only surmise that respective governments have, to their detriment, not allowed themselves the gifts of foresight and common-sense when tackling renewable energy. It doesn’t take Tim Flannery to work out that Australia could be a solar energy powerhouse and global market leader. And it doesn’t take a geology degree to point out that the answers are not least affected by the fossil fuels locked under Australia’s sunburnt crust.

But it strikes me that Australia should have, decades ago, grabbed the bull by the horns and poured money and time into working towards the title of global solar leader. They would be setting a best-practice goal and inspiring, teaching and capitalising on the knowledge and sound economic principles that proponents of solar power know too well.

Jeremy Leggett is battling with UK government (ex-MP Alan Simpson excepted) to push solar power into the forefront of the UK’s power generation for a new generation. He is a vociferous pusher of Feed-In Tariffs and sees a simple and effective strategy for solar panel uptake across Europe and further. If he can do it in rainy, cash-stretched Blighty, what’s stopping his doppelganger from doing the same here? I’m yet to come across a Leggett-like pin-up for Australia’s solar generation.

Rachel Botsman, author of 'What’s mine is yours: the rise of collaborative consumption', told me that she too sees great things for the Australian solar market, aided by the prodigious potential of collaborative ownership models, ie, PV panel rentals. It’s a win-win situation, she says: rentees get cheap, clean power, renters make money.

Of course, a platform for scaleable levels of collaboration needs to take root first, and that’s where Germany, the world’s biggest home solar panel user (with let’s face it, not a great climate in sunshine terms), is socially advantageous: there is no stigma attached, Rachel says, to sharing in Germany. It’s simply a part of everyday life. Sweden is similar, she points out – there, it is seen as perfectly normal to admire socialist principles. Renting PV panels or forming a cooperative to buy solar with pooled funds makes good, clean sense.

There’s the climate, the growing collaborative platform, the healthy economy and the swelling energy-hungry population. So where is Australia going wrong?

And it's another scorcher on Sydney's Manly beach...

10 March 2011 5:22 AM

Queensland's had it tough but, apparently, it's still all smiles

You all know about the Queensland floods. You probably all know, also, about Cyclone Yasi and the shattered towns left in its wake. You may also remember the 10 years of crippling drought that succeeded the whole messy affair that is the past couple of months.

Well, thanks to blue-sky filled ads, sometimes it's easy to forget that Queensland's climate is not the easiest. Unless you live there and try to make a living from the land and the tourism it generates, that is.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, of rousing flood speech fame, has just unveiled a $10m campaign to entice you and me back to the Sunshine State - and I quite like this little introductory taster the mandarins at Tourism Queensland have put together:

Suitably cheesy, just a bit floody, perhaps overly dancy (not one but two spinning couples cackling into the sunset) - it strikes a good chord, but then so it should for 10m. But, and yes, there is always a but here, is Qld all that white, perfect-teethed, bronzed and beautiful? It looks pretty, it looks perfect, it looks unscathed, but it just doesn't look very, well, real.

Where are the Aboriginals, the farms, the agriculture and mining upon which the State is hinged? Where are the interesting and untold stories, the Paronella Parks, the irukandji jellyfish, the crocs and the Bob Katters. Not that those things may matter to the average dollar-wielding tourist, but I can't help thinking that the taster video tells a very different story to that which Bligh's electorate sees on the ground.

It's easy to forget the real Queensland when campaigns make everything look so sweet. But it's hard to erase the past few months from a State's memory - will the 10m campaign make affected Queenslanders, indeed, Aussies far and wide, fall back in love with their own back yard?