A state of bewilderment
Licence plate slogans across Australia are really nothing to write home about
WHEN I was a boy on family road trips, my father was in the habit of wistfully commenting on licence plates he observed on vehicles from other states.
‘‘Wonder what he’s doing all the way out here,’’ he’d say as a dustcovered ute from the Northern Territory sped past. Hewould then turn to my siblings and me, all squeezed into the back seat, only to be met with bemused silence.
One of the many unremarkable traits I have inherited from my father is my fondness on such trips for making sense of each state’s licence-plate slogan.
I can recall the thrill of spying the Garden State of Victoria and its enlightened counterpart, Victoria — Nuclear Free State. There was even a plate with a road-safety message: Victoria — Drive Safely. Later these messages were replaced with the more emphatic On the Move.
This change elicited ridicule in some circles when it was pointed out that Victorians were moving to Queensland at a rate of about 10,000 people a year.
Perhaps in a concerted effort to arrest the decline, On the Move was replaced with the more ambiguous The Place to Be. Clearly this mantra had the desired effect as by 2010 more Queenslanders were moving to Victoria than Victorians moving north.
Another explanation could be the reaction of Queenslanders to then premier Peter Beattie’s promotion of education, research and development with the adoption of the Smart State slogan.
Queenslanders today have a choice between Sunshine State and Smart State plates, with apparently few choosing the latter option.
For nearly 30 years all South Australian plates included The Festival State in recognition of the Adelaide Festival of Arts. Some years later, other catchphrases included Gateway to the Outback, The Defence State, The Wine State, The Creative State and, in possibly the lamest offering imaginable, The Electronics State.
Today all plates simply bear the words South Australia, which might at least partially explain why more residents leave the state than arrive there.
Western Australia too has toyed with multiple slogans, including Home of the America’s Cup, The Golden State, and State of Excitement. I guess quite conceivably all that excitement was just too much to endure, as slogans were discontinued in the early 90s.
In Tasmania slogans have included The Holiday Isle, Your Natural State and, most recently, Explore the Possibilities.
In the meantime, the Northern Territory has clung steadfastly to its indisputable Outback Australia maxim.
In 1998 the ACT government commissioned an internationally acclaimed advertising agency to mastermind a campaign aimed at locals and visitors from interstate and overseas that in a moment of unbridled brilliance saw the ACT earnestly declared as Canberra — The Nation’s Capital. For the few fool enough not to buy into this evocative message, ACT — Heart of the Nation was also available.
Back in my home state, the powers that be focused their message on NSW — Premier State, and the similarly themed NSW — The First State. In 1994, with the announcement of the Olympic Games in Sydney, NSW — Towards 2000 and the equally inane NSW — Share the Spirit graced our plates, while more recently we have reverted to a tried and trusted theme by introducing Centenary of Federation.
The Baillieu government in Victoria recently announced that it was dropping Victoria — The Place to Be and was interested in canvassing the electorate for a replacement slogan. Almost one in four in a newspaper poll of more than 3000 voters preferred Victoria — The Sports Capital.
The Premier has since announced that any replacement slogan will reflect, wait for it, a road safety message. All of which just goes to show that Victoria — Drive Safely could once again be garnishing that state’s plates.
Alan Lane, left, on a frog mission in NSW’S Hunter region