A state of be­wil­der­ment

Li­cence plate slo­gans across Australia are re­ally noth­ing to write home about

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Australia - JOHN MAY­NARD

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.