Lady Sterne and I did not take the decision lightly. We discussed it at length, bandying about such phrases as "Rent money is dead money" and "Do as I say, Tim" until we agreed to cast off the shackles of renting and live the dream of ownership. I think it's fair to say that our pioneer ancestors, soused rummies though they doubtless were, would have smiled proudly as Lady Sterne called Radio Rentals to discontinue our account. We no longer require your services, she said, for we have bought our own washing machine!
Rarely has the Great Australian Dream found a physical manifestation as glorious - not to mention as practical - as that oblong of prime white good that now sits in our laundry. Each time I fill it with dirty clothes I hum a few bars of the national anthem, cross myself, and kick an immigrant, so entwined are my ideas of patriotism and good housekeeping. I haven't felt this way since I celebrated Jodie Henry's triple gold at the Athens Olympics by purchasing a new toaster. Even though it was made in Taiwan, the toaster quickly assimilated, and these days the smell of burnt toast is enough to make me weep with pride.
Of course, appliances have long been central to Australian national identity. Henry Lawson's early story "The Meat Safe" tells of a drover's attachment to his meat safe that quickly develops into an unseemly fetish. At the story's climax, the drover wanders into the bush clutching the fly-blown box, mad with insatiable love. Clearly, the meat safe represents Australia, and the drover's willingness to love it though it be inert and covered with flies represents a significant nationalist stirring in Lawson's writing.
The appliance theme was subsequently taken up by numerous Australian writers and artists, including Sidney Nolan in his so-called "White Goods, Black Heart" series, featuring Aboriginal men and women in traditional dress against the background of the Harvey Norman white goods section. More recently, Tim Winton's novel A Frigid Heart employed the metaphor of a family trading in its faithful Esky for a new-fangled bar fridge to describe the changes which have swept Australian society over the past forty years.
Lady Sterne and I couldn't be happier with our new washing machine. Using pure Australian water, it makes soiled clothes inhabitable, just as the pioneers did the land itself, so long ago. Its rinse and spin cycles evoke this brown land's browness with a power reminiscent of Dorothy McKellar at her finest. Ownership and appreciation of appliances is part of what makes us Australian. I suggest the time has come for our government to reinstitute that much-maligned yet key piece of legislation: the White Goods Australia Policy.