This year, Clive Palmer invested in a run of painful bright yellow billboards around the country. They carry vague slogans like “Make Australia Great” and “Put Australia First,” but appear to hold no direct relation to the United Australia Party. Instead, they feature the man himself and Clip Art from 1997.
At a glance, the billboards themself aren’t controversial. But there is no denying the choice of statements echoe repeated nationalist phrases we’ve seen pushed by alt-right supporters here and in the US. It’s all just, a bit icky.
Situated in high traffic areas across Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth they’ve probably cost him millions of dollars. Although as The Australian have reported, there is murkiness around costs because the United Australia Party isn’t actually a registered party. Meaning they’re not bound by electoral transparency laws.
But whether they’re intended as a shadowy political statement, or a general “keep up the good work” to commuters, one thing is sure — no one is safe from Australia's desire to turn everything into a meme-able moment.
The billboards have been the focus of an amazing decentralised graffiti campaign that has seen people across the country deface them in a number of ways. Some are disturbing — depicting palmer in a KKK hood. Others are specific — urging you to eat vegan. One is just celebrating the joy of pingers. Noticing the trend, Koala mattresses recreated one for their own series of metta billboards.
Whatever the deal is, one thing is certain. The billboards might be problematic, but the vandals do make us feel proud to be Australian.