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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Australia or New Zealand (01/15/09)

TITLE: The great antipodean hoax
By Gregory Kane


My name is Sebastian Prattson and up until three months ago I worked for an obscure section of the British Foreign Office. But I couldn't take any more of the arrogance and deceit. I've given thirty years of my life to persuading the general public that Terra Australis Incognita actually exists and now I can't even sleep at night.

You don't believe me, do you? You think I'm some blithering English idiot who's a few pickles short of a bacon sandwich. But before you dismiss me out of hand, humour me with this one thought. The platypus— that ridiculous Australian mammal that lays eggs like a chicken. That sorry excuse for an overgrown rat that has a duck's bill instead of a mouth. Doesn't that sound just a tad bizarre, the sort of thing that a couple of schoolboys might dream up on the back of a science jotter? That's because the platypus doesn't actually exist. We invented it.

If you're still reading by this point, I may as well treat you to some history. Back in the 1780's the British Government found itself in urgent need of fresh recruits for its armed services as well as to fill a demand for cheap labour in its overseas mining interests. Unfortunately the long-established practice of press-ganging innocent bystanders had become something of a political liability. Then Navy captain Arthur Phillip suggested that Parliament announce the creation of a new penal colony on a 'hitherto undiscovered continent' on the far side of the world. The idea caught on and thousands of petty criminals soon found themselves sent into exile, never to return home. In reality, their few scant years were spent at His Majesty's pleasure, scrubbing decks or digging for gold. The myth of Australia had been born.

With the collapse of the British Empire, my department's remit was changed to explore and where possible quantify the gullibility of the general public. Increasingly absurd 'discoveries' were announced but it seemed that nothing was too extreme for the man in the street. Picture an animal that hops rather than runs and has a built-in pram for its babies— we called it the kangaroo but absolutely no one caught on to the joke. Consider the didgeridoo— has no one noticed that it sounds just like a set of bagpipes? Or the boomerang— has anyone honestly thrown a bent stick and had it come back to them? And what about that idiotic Australian accent? For decades now we've been employing actors to butcher the English language and twist vowels beyond recognition. Yet not a soul has guessed that our paid thespians are simply having a laugh at everyone else's expense.

Of course television has made our work so much easier. Skippy the Kangaroo won over a generation half a century ago. These days we can even make nature programmes about the 'wonders' of the Outback. Yet no one notices that these are the same film companies that routinely produce brave new worlds for Luke Skywalker and Star Wars, along with an amazing variety of exotic fauna and flora.

Our biggest challenge of recent years was the Sydney Olympics— how to con billions of people round the globe. So how did we do it? Easy, we turned every plane round in the middle of the night and redirected them to a specially built Olympic Village in Tunisia. The athletes were too busy sweating under the scorching sun to notice anything amiss. And the journalists were amply distracted by the thousands of bikini-clad babes who covered every square foot of the perfect Mediterranean beaches.

Still unconvinced? Then ask yourself this. Do you actually know any Australians? Not pen pals or internet buddies— they could live anywhere! But people who have moved into your neighbourhood, fellow housewives who stroll down the aisles of your supermarket. Of course you don't. The only Australians you've ever met were either actors or people on the TV.

It's shocking how gullible most people are. They really will believe anything that comes out of that squawk box in the corner, no matter how inane or improbable. I challenge you to prove me wrong. Switch off that television. Unplug that Internet. Go, book yourself a trip to Canberra or Perth or Adelaide or wherever. See for yourself if I'm right. Or maybe I am ever so slightly deluded or demented. But when you return, let me know what you discovered. I'll be waiting.

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This article has been read 830 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Charla Diehl 01/22/09
Enjoyed this and the sarcastic humor laced throughout.
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/24/09
I enjoyed your excellently written satire. I am still, though, trying to imagine pickles on a bacon sandwich@
Esther Gellert01/24/09
This is very funny and has finally confirmed one of my life long suspicions... I am just a figment of someone's imagination.
Karlene Jacobsen01/25/09
Hahahahahaha...I'd prove to you Australia really exists, but I am an illusion myself. A vapor I tell ya...

This was great fun to read.
Joanne Sher 01/26/09
What a riot! You MUST have had fun with this - and Esther's comment is ALMOST as funny! ;) Still giggling.
Joshua Janoski01/27/09
I knew the duck billed platypus was too good to be true! I always wanted one for a pet, but now my hopes and dreams have been dashed. LOL. This was quite the unique take on the topic. :)
Lyn Churchyard01/28/09
Dear Sebastian Prattson,

As much as I greatly enjoyed your article, I do believe you have been imbibing far too much of your warm English beer, or perhaps eating too many carbo loaded pies with mushy peas. Of course Australia exists. I know that for a fact because I am an Australian. If Australia didn't exist, then I wouldn't exist and I think I'd know whether or not I was really here. I mean, if I were merely the creation of some devious group within MI5 (or was it MI6), I wouldn't be able to respond and say... blink - blink - blink

"We are currently experiencing technical difficulties but will shortly return you to our broadcast from the British Foreign Office."
Noel Mitaxa 10/25/09
Unlike Andrew Flintoff at Lord's, you can't dismiss us Aussies so easily! We are definitely real, with a lot more substance than Edison's first light bulb - which was just a filament of his imnagination!
But seriously Gregory, I enjoyed your MC's sense of farce, that elusive mix of exaggeration and subtley which I enjoy so much about British humour.
Well done