Queen Elizabeth on Friday remarked that Australia's self-confidence had grown since her first state visit 60 years ago.
She wasn't telling Down Under — newly returned here after several years' living overseas — anything we didn't already know.
That very afternoon, in the sunny state of Queensland (motto "Beautiful one day, perfect the next") we witnessed 20 — twenty — fighter jets flying in formation across the sky — an awesome display of military capability in this generally peaceable part of the world.
The flyover — part of the RAAF's arrival at home ceremony for four newly purchased F/A-18 "Super Hornets" just arrived from the U.S. — oozed self-confidence.
Down Under just happened to be waiting in line to visit a mining and gas industry jobs expo, along with several thousand very self-confident young Australians.
Why are they self-confident? Australia's booming resources sector wants them — exponential growth in the mining sector over the past few years has produced a chronic shortage of skilled labor. And the Aussie tradesmen evidently know it, lining up out the door at a series of job fairs like this one to see what the big companies can do for them.
Fun facts (source: the Australian Department of Trade):
Australia has the world’s largest resources of recoverable brown coal, lead, rutile, zircon, nickel, tantalum and zinc.
Australia also has the world’s largest reserves of uranium (though we don't really talk about this in polite company).
Australia is the world’s largest exporter of alumina, black coal, iron ore, lead and zinc.
Australia is the fourth-largest producer of diamond by weight after Russia, Botswana and Congo (Kinshasa).
China’s demand for Australian resources is rapidly increasing: China is a major export destination for iron ore and pellets, lead concentrates, Liquid Natural Gas and Liquid Petroleum Gas. Exports to India have been increasing since 1989–90, with a sharp increase of 207 per cent.
Meanwhile, a few miles down the road at the Gold Coast (which derives its name from its beaches, though the concentration of conspicuous millionaire inhabitants could confuse a visitor), IndyCar drivers were revving up for three days of V8 supercar racing through the Miami-esque downtown.
The atmosphere screamed self-confidence, and less that a week after a high-speed accident claimed the life of Dan Wheldon, who had been due to race on the Gold Coast.
(GlobalPost reports: Dan Wheldon dies in fiery Indy Car crash, aged 33 (VIDEO)
Still, it was a nice gesture of Her Majesty — on a 10-day Royal Tour of Australia (with speculation rife that it may be the 85-year-old monarch's last) — to compliment a people who have for many years been talking so openly about cutting ties with the monarchy.
(GlobalPost reports: Queen Elizabeth's royal tour Down Under (VIDEO)
Even as Prime Minister Julia Gillard hinted yet again at the shelf-life of an Australian "head of state" who lives half a world away, the Queen graciously acknowledged our energy and dynamism, and resilience and courage in the face of adversity — a reference to the recent run of bad luck here with natural disasters.
And she insisted that we as a nation should be proud of our economic and academic achievements.
"This country has made dramatic progress economically, in social, scientific and industrial endeavours and, above all, in self-confidence.
"Australia has flourished and achieved excellence on the world stage."
The entire address, made during a reception at Parliament House and reprinted here for those interested, lasted only a few minutes but spoke volumes about the wisdom and wit of a woman who has reigned longer over a more disparate empire than most.
Here's hoping a few Australians weren't too busy being self-confident to notice.