As in all countries, there is a fair bit of geographic rivalry between the states in Australia—think North and South in the UK, or even in the US. Queensland and New South Wales’ rivalry is typified by the annual State of Origin rugby league series where players who were born in the respective states battle it out over three games—and I do mean battle it out. During the first—and it must be admitted, only—game I have ever watched, the actual rugby played was in the nature of an interval between players being stretchered off. It was like watching ER or Grey’s Anatomy with a bit of ball play thrown in. In the interests of accuracy I should point out this game was in 1991 and the body count may have improved in the meantime, but I doubt it.
The inhabitants of New South Wales generally portray Queenslanders as a bunch of slow-moving, slow-talking, country cousins with a strong wild streak—I think Dukes of Hazzard is the image I’m trying to conjure up here. A classic example is Queensland’s refusal to adopt the concept of daylight savings, which New South Walesians attribute to the fact they are frightened that it will fade their curtains.
However it has to be said that Queenslanders don’t always help themselves. I will be strapping my seatbelt up very tightly the next time I cross the border into Queensland as it has just been revealed that following the revision of the driving test in that state, candidates will be able to speed up to five times during the test and to steer with one hand on up to six occasions. Indicating also seems to be optional; if you can’t start your car, no worries mate, you get up to five attempts at that one. Stalling, not an issue, you’ve got at least six gos before they fail you, though I am not entirely clear what the ruling is on bunny-hopping, which was one of my pet habits when learning.
I have a glorious image of myself as a learner driver, speeding down the road, only pausing to take my hands off the wheel to wave to admiring friends and acquaintances in the manner of Mr. Toad in The Wind in the Willows. I wonder if the hands-off rule means I am allowed to text? Chatting gaily to the driving-test administrator, presumably employed as a result of his nerves of steel, I will make rapid turns to left and right with no indication and will only come to a halt when I stall the car. Unless I have actually had the misfortune of receiving a speeding ticket during the test, which is apparently not allowable, I will still have passed. I can’t actually figure that last bit out—according to a spokesman for the Queensland Transport and Main Roads authority if you are going fast enough to get a fine from the police that is not acceptable, but it is OK to be over the speed limit by up to five km/hr.
Anyway I’m off to hit the roads of Queensland—the only issue is whether to wear the Daisy Duke shorts and halter-top outfit or the Mr. Toad goggles and cape.