Kylie Minogue tries to lure Brexit-weary Britons in new Tourism Australia ad 'Matesong'

Pop star reprises Neighbours character in a song that also includes tennis star Ash Barty, comedian Adam Hills and former cricketer Shane Warne

A new $15m tourism campaign featuring Kylie Minogue is aiming to lure Brexit-weary Britons to Australia with the perennial promise of cute marsupials, white-sand beaches and locals who “speak your language”.

The three-minute musical advertisement aired on televisions in the UK before the Queen’s message on Christmas Day, with Minogue and another well-known Australian export, Adam Hills, addressing the nation from Sandringham – a beachside suburb of Melbourne, Australia.

Minogue teased the release on social media in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Titled “Matesong”, the campaign is the biggest investment in promoting Australia to the UK in more than a decade, Tourism Australia said. It is part of the perplexing ‘philAUSophy’ campaign.

The lyrics, written by Australian comedian and singer-songwriter Eddie Perfect, are explicitly aimed at the Brexit-and-Boris malaise.

Stanzas include: “Negotiating tricky trade deals is a shocker/ But look there’s a quokka! / And that’s what you need.”

Quokkas are adorable and thoroughly defenceless cat-sized marsupials that are extinct everywhere except Rottnest Island, a short boat ride from Perth in Western Australia, where they are so friendly that they happily pose for selfies with tourists and Hemsworths.

Merry Christmas #Lovers! 🎄I can’t wait to share my special message with you on @itv, and my cute Quokka mate here also makes an appearance. Make sure you tune in just before the Queen’s speech today. #ad

— Kylie Minogue (@kylieminogue) December 25, 2019

The ad features a litany of Australian sports people, including world number one women’s tennis player Ash Barty; former Australian cricketer Shane Warne, taunting the audience to “get ready to lose” at backyard cricket; and Olympic gold medal winning swimmer Ian Thorpe, who charmingly speaks his lines rather than singing them.

It also shows Kylie Minogue on a beach; Kylie Minogue under a car wearing the overalls and curls of her Neighbours character Charlene Robinson; Kylie Minogue in a luxury eco-lodge; Kylie Minogue with Reggie and Cassidy Uluru, Anangu elders from Mutitjulu and traditional owners of Uluru; Kylie Minogue pulling a beer; and Kylie Minogue in a kind of cricket-themed Victor/Victoria moment wearing Australian colours on her left side and English red-and-white on her right.

The holiday promised in the ad is comforting, familiar and non-threatening, highlighting the deep colonial ties between Australia and the UK.

“This year’s been tough and confusing / But progress is moving … At glacial pace

“But all of Australia loves you/ And we’ll never judge you.”

Australia is Briton’s “pal to rely on” its “shoulder to cry on”.

As the song promises: “We speak your language/ Except for the vowels.”

The reception has been mainly positive, particularly in the UK. It is catchy and glossy and fun.

Now this is a good advert.

— Greg Jericho (@GrogsGamut) December 25, 2019

But a number of Australians – and even a few Britons – pointed out that clear blue skies and happy, healthy koalas are at odds with recent images of Sydney showing a thick layer of smoke shrouding the Sydney Opera House, and news coverage of unprecedented bushfires that have devastated large swathes of koala habitat.

Although the song does say “we can turn off the news”.

Not meant in a funny way but these adverts with Kylie advertising Australia as a great place to visit...last I heard the whole place was engulfed in bushfires...sorry I won’t be visiting any time soon

— Paul (@PaulyRobs12) December 25, 2019

The ad has also been criticised for presenting quite an Anglicised version of Australia, despite 30% of the population being born overseas.

None of the mates seem to be people of colour despite being a fifth of the population #matesong

— Oz (@redrabbleroz) December 25, 2019

It’s entirely plausible that some Australians (mostly affluent by the looks of this ad) think this is who we are as a people. And that’s probably why we are where we are.

— Prof M Davis [-0-] (@mdavisqlder) December 25, 2019

In Australia, reaction has also been coloured by criticism of prime minister Scott Morrison, himself a former director of Tourism Australia, whose decision to holiday in Hawaii during the bushfire crisis has led to criticism of his leadership.

Love to know how much taxpayer dosh was spent trying to lure Brits to Australia with Kylie and quokkas while we experience our worst fires on record and unprecedented air pollution #australiaburns #climateemergency

— Amy Coopes (@coopesdetat) December 25, 2019


Calla Wahlquist

The GuardianTramp

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