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.