Bloody hell! Aussies are gagged by a quango of dinkum drongos

Tourism Australia has been banned from using its ‘national adjective’ in a new ad campaign, but the mealy mouthed decision says more about us than them

Thanks to the timely intervention of a quango – where would we be without them? – television viewers are to be spared the intrusion of a profanity where they would least expect it, namely in a commercial break.

With characteristic innocence Tourism Australia devised a &£76m campaign aimed at Britain and a dozen other countries, featuring a series of Australian panoramas, including the Outback, the Great Barrier Reef and the continent’s red centre. The TV ad featured a selection of Australian citizens, from grizzled farmers and teenaged swimmers to a sun-tanned woman leading a chain of camels along a beach. It went on to issue a “uniquely Australian” invitation/ “We’ve poured you a beer and we’ve had the camels shampooed, we’ve saved you a spot on the beach. We’ve even got the sharks out of the pool.”

Then, a blonde, bikini-clad sheila emerged from the surf and said: “So where the bloody hell are you?” That was too much for the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC), which decreed that the ad could only be screened with the offending words “bloody hell” removed. Explaining the decision, the BACC’s managing editor Paul Denham said: “Practice, experience and research lead us to avoid including swearing in television advertising.”

One can only guess at the nature of the practice and research that he and his colleagues put into swearing and its effects, but the experience must have been distressing.

Quite how the membership of Britain’s hundreds of quangos is determined is something of a mystery. From what little we know, most of the appointments are made by the Government as a reward for those who, for one reason or another, drift into what is called public life, are in need of something to do and would welcome some pocket money for doing it. And since most quangos are meddlesome bodies whose purpose is to nanny and protect us, it follows that they should comprise people whose record for meddling and nannying is exemplary.

What we did not know until now was that quangocrats are delicately nurtured souls to whose cheeks a reddish hue rises easily. Quite probably the BACC is not alone in boasting a complement of maiden aunts of both sexes. Asked to explain why the salty expression employed by Tourism Australia was banned, they peer over their lorgnettes and mutter that it was “inappropriate”.

The trouble is that, in this context, the expression “bloody hell” was entirely appropriate. Tourism Australia was doing what all national tourist boards do and playing to its strengths. What is more, it was doing so with an honesty characteristic of that great nation. Whereas our tourist authority spreads the fiction that to be among a pub crowded with English football supporters is an experience to be relished, and the French tourist authority pretends that it likes foreigners, the Aussies are true both to themselves and to other people.

What we Brits like about the Lucky Country is the unaffected earthiness of the ocker and the larrikin and the mateship that binds them. The men in singlets, wearing flip-flops and clutching their tinnies may be unfit to adorn the drawing room of a duchess or take a glass of medium dry sherry alongside a member of the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre, but, unlike our home-grown louts, they are neither menacing or repulsive. There is an openness and generosity in Australians that we British, who daily endure the mealy mouthed utterance of cheapjack politicians, find so refreshing that a holiday there is a prospect to be relished.

True, there are a few Australians who, whether due to bad luck or miscegenation one cannot say, are fitted to serve on the BACC. And some of them duly protested when the “bloody hell” ad came to their notice. It was, they said, “crass”.

Thank heaven, then, that in Tourism Minister Fran Bailey Australia has a bonzer sheila who can spit on her hands and tell the wowsers and chemise-lifters where they get can get off. “Bloody is the great Australian adjective,” she said. “It’s part of our language. This is presenting Australia as we are – we’re plain-speaking, we’re friendly. It’s using the vernacular.”

We in Britain are less fortunate. Our purse-lipped quangos present us as we are – a mealy mouthed nation whose TV programmes, though regularly preceded by the boast that they contain strong language throughout, cannot be interspersed with a little everyday Aussie vernacular. As Barry Mackenzie would say, “It’s enough to make you park a tiger.”

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