Export quality


There have been black-shouldered kites aplenty for ages – in fact more than I’ve ever seen – but no peregrines or other falcons. This brown goshawk has made the corridor around the drain and into the gasworks his favourite supermarket aisle.


Pigeons are the main kill. There are plenty of them down there, mostly ferals and mostly hanging around the fuel depot. But every day there seems to be one less.


Which leads me, seamlessly, to 1985.

The Australia that I arrived in, in 1985, was a pretty confident, assertive place; not yet as powerfully assertive as it was to become but it was certainly a place where the “cultural cringe” had been vanquished and being an Aussie was badge of bloody pride, mate. Well, most of the time it was. The cringe was wounded but not entirely dead, but the thing that caught my attention in Australian labelling was what must have been the very, very tail end of an old-school attitude to Australian produce; that is, overseas = good, made here = crap.

It seemed to be a given that anything imported (particularly from Europe) was of an outstanding quality unachievable in the southern hemisphere. And, conversely, any made here must be total pants. (The facts, of course, contradicted this entirely, as anyone who’s ever owned a British motorcycle or Italian car can attest.)

The exception to this “there=good/here=rubbish” attitude was Australian raw materials which were, paradoxically, considered the best the world could offer. These raw materials were unfortunately too good to be wasted on mere Australians and so were sent away to be processed into genuinely good things by other more sophisticated cultures, allowing Australians to then buy them back at inflated prices.

But some wily advertisers would claim to gain access to batches of this outstanding raw material. In such cases, the product would be labelled “export quality”.

I thought that had all gone by the by until I saw this can of spray paint.


I was a bit nonplussed. I mean, the people who buy cans of cheap spray paint to take down the creek surely aren’t looking for premium quality.

Why put “export” on there?

Or does “export” still have some cache with Australian consumers? Is it like the gold medals thing on a bottle of wine (i.e. going to friends’ place for dinner, get a bottle with a nice label and a few shiny gongs on it)?