An Australia Day for 21st century Australians … Remembering the Bicentenary of 1988 … Britain’s PM Theresa May and Foreign Minister Boris Johnson in Brexit mess … Will Mrs Windsor’s Commonwealth survive? … Great Crashing Bores continued ….
Revisiting Australia Day
Everything seems to be changing in this super-charged world. As an example, I can’t remember an Australia Day like this year’s.
The headline news came from a former senior Liberal (conservative) minister who called for Australia Day to be celebrated in March and not January 26 when the English navy arrived with a cargo of convicts from overcrowded and festering slum jails in London. Ian Macfarlane, a 61-year-old former industry minister, said he had a change of heart about the current date of Australia Day only a few months ago.
“I started to think about my forebears, and the way I’d feel if in England I had to celebrate United Kingdom Day on the anniversary of the Battle of Culloden when my mother’s forebears were cut in half by English grapeshot and then hunted down and murdered along with their wives or children. Or on the day when the Vikings invaded Arrochar [the western Highlands of Scotland, home of the Clan Macfarlane] where my father’s family is from, and I thought, yeah, look, this really isn’t something that we can continue with.”
He suggested a unifying date would be March 1, the day that the Commonweath of Australia started functioning as one nation under one national government in 1901. Within minutes Macfarlane was being scorned by his former colleagues including crazed Christian right-winger Treasurer Scott Morrison and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce who snarled: “I just get sick of these people who, every time there’s something on, they just want to make you feel guilty. They don’t like Christmas, they don’t like Australia Day, they’re just miserable gutted people and I wish they would crawl under a rock and hide for a little bit.”
Times are a’changing
In Western Australia, the port city of Fremantle set the pace this year by organising a “One Day in Fremantle” event on Saturday, 28 January, inviting locals and visitors to “come together and celebrate multicultural diversity and passion for our country”.
In Canberra, Invasion Day, aka Survival Day or the Day of Mourning, was marked by a vocal crowd at the Tent Embassy on Parliament Hill. Activists declared “it is wrong to ‘celebrate’ Australia Day on January 26 which signifies he beginning of dispossession of culture and lands, frontier conflict and wars, genocide, discrimination, incarceration, mental torture and inequality.” The statement concluded by stating: “There is a growing movement in Australia to have the date of Australia Day changed, if not abandoned.” There was an international flavour to the Canberra protest. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders stood in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux of North Dakota in their struggle to stop Donald Trump’s administration from building the Dakota Access pipeline across tribal land.
At the packed Canterbury-Bankstown civic meeting the Australia Day Young Citizen of the Year was awarded to Sara Mansour (pictured), founder of the Bankstown Poetry Slam (BPS).
The BPS team expressed “their solidarity with the first peoples of the nation for their pain and oppression that this day represents. We share our stories on Darug land as was done for thousands of years before us.”
Remembering the ’88 march
In 1988, on the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the colonising First Fleet, Judith and I took part in the Invasion Day march through the streets of Sydney.
Five things are still vivid in my memory: the terrific spirit of the Aboriginal people from all over the nation; the respectful participation by hundreds of white Australians of all ages; the threatening presence of hundreds of cops; the angry and hateful obscenities shouted by fellow Australians; and the presence of TV cameras, photographers and journalists who told me that they been sent “to cover the punch-up”.
In our family, Joy Mitchell’s son Lachlan and Judith’s son Scott (pictured top), Lachlan’s partner Rebecca and their daughter Reyna attended this year’s Invasion Day march in Redfern. The police were out in force – again – and racist provocateurs lobbed a smoke bomb to provoke the marchers and excite the media into predictable hysteria.
While they were sharing the day in unity and harmony with Aboriginal Australians, my niece sent the follow text message from Brisbane:
“When I stayed with you in Sydney to do work experience at The Sun-Herald during the Bicentenary, it was the first time I had been exposed to the view that commemorating the day Australia was invaded by a foreign force as some sort of unifying day of celebrating the nationhood of Australia was just plain wrong. It stayed with me ever since. The ‘fog lifted’.
“Would it make sense to any of those mindlessly cheering today if it was put into perspective? Imagine if another unnamed country took over Australia, took all our homes, farms and businesses, killed many of us when we rebelled and introduced pests that killed off the remaining native plants and animals we have.
“English stopped being taught at schools and their native tongue was spoken and used for all signs and literature. All Australian sports were banned – cricket, rugby and AFL. Our children were taken off us so they could be raised and indoctrinated with their ‘culture’ but they ended up putting them in communes and giving them housekeeping and labouring jobs. We were all given crap jobs or none at all.
“Then they announced an annual, national day of celebration earmarking the day they took over. They all got on the turps and yahooed around the streets and decorated buildings, homes and cars with the new national flag that included symbols from their home country.
“Would we want to join in the celebrations? No. Would we be angry and think it was cruel and callous? Yes. Maybe a few of those from the occupying force would feel the same way and would join us in solidarity.”
Since 1988, the number of younger and older people joining alternative Australia Day demonstrations has grown five or ten-fold. Donald Trump, Britain’s little Englanders and the rise of anti-Moslem racism in Europe have contributed to the rising clamour for a fairer go for the first Australians. What was considered marginal and unAustralian 30 years ago is becoming mainstream. Are you listening, Barnaby?
Boris the Brexit Buffoon
Some subscribers to my Weekly Notebook complain that I’m too harsh on British Prime Minister Theresa May who, they argue, has every chance of negotiating free trade agreements with Commonwealth countries, including Australia. Really?
Her handpicked Foreign Secretary is Boris Johnson, a gold-plated buffoon, who is in charge of rounding up Commonwealth leaders for May’s push to become a “world trade leader”.
In 2010 Johnson opined: “It is said that the queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplied her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies.” In another speech he said: “Orientals have larger brains and higher IQ scores. Blacks are at the other pole.”
There goes the support of black Commonwealth countries …
Observing that African people were unable to manage their own affairs, Johnson said: “If left to their own devices, the natives would rely on nothing but the instant carbohydrate gratification of the plantain. The best fate for Africa would be if the old colonial powers, or their citizens, scrambled once again in her direction; on the understanding that this time they will not be asked to feel guilty.”
The Spectator, which became an ultra-Tory rag under Johnson’s editorship, has been a fierce critic of the Commonwealth, calling for Britain to leave and let in sink beneath the waves of history.
In January 1969, after the British government decided to scrap Commonwealth trade preference and seek membership of the European Common Market, The Spectator’s editorial, “Call on Australia to quit Commonwealth”, argued: “For a country like Australia which has been rapidly transforming itself in accord with its geographical surroundings, the Commonwealth has become a bore. The Commonwealth had been reduced to an old boys’ club whose most enthusiastic members were those who found it hardest to adjust to the world outside.”
How different it is today! The looney tunes running The Spectator today – the ghastly Barclay brothers and their frothing columnists – are now supporting a madcap scheme to build a trade alliance between the UK and the Commonwealth. With Johnson in charge of May’s diplomatic wrangling, I don’t think so.
Slicing the Commonwealth
Don’t these people follow the news? In December, Priti Patel, Tory Secretary of State for International Development, produced a report scathingly critical of Commonwealth waste. Ms Patel warned that Theresa May’s government would withhold “core funding” to the Commonwealth unless there were “urgent reforms”.
Following a visit to Africa in December Patel warned that UK taxpayers’ money was being wasted on “superficial” foreign aid projects and she was ready to “call out” foreign aid organisations using UK government funds in “completely the wrong way”.
Her report and observations help to create a political climate for Theresa May to slash foreign aid and woo the anti-aid zealots within UKIP, Nigel Farage’s independence party.
Priti published her damning review just as the Commonwealth secretary-general Lady Scotland, a New Labour stooge and shameless Blairite, was caught spending Commonwealth largesse on herself.
Leaked documents revealed plans for lavish renovations on the Dominica-born baroness’s official Mayfair residence (where she pays no rent), including marble furniture, $20,000 on wallpaper and $10,000 to “refurbish” a safe.
The revelations made headlines all over the Commonwealth – but not in its South Pacific white sector, Australia and New Zealand – and triggered a serious public debate on whether the Commonwealth could survive for very long.
Mrs Windsor has spent the past three years privately lobbying Commonwealth leaders to make her eldest son, Prince Charles, head of the Commonwealth after she expires. No election, mind you, just a lifetime appointment so he and Camilla can swan around the world at taxpayer expense!
When she occupied The Lodge, Australia’s former LABOR prime minister, Welsh-born Julia Gillard, promised Brenda’s private secretary, Sir Christopher Geidt, that she would support Chazza’s leadership of the London-based organisation which is little more than a diplomatic, trade and sales sub-branch of the Foreign Office.
(Gillard received Australia’s highest honour, the AC, on Australia Day. Great rejoicing in Aberystwyth!)
Most Commonwealth leaders won’t leave before the death of Mrs Windsor, now 90. This is out of respect for the long-serving English monarch who has made the maintenance of the Commonwealth the lynchpin of her rule.
After her state funeral, however, the Commonwealth as we have all known it since the 1950s faces burial too.
Great Crashing Bores*
I tell you what, mate, I’m fed up with the Australian Honours List. Who are these people? I’ve never heard of them. Just look at the people who missed out. Nothing for Mitchell Pearce or Jarryd Hayne. In fact, I don’t think there was a single award for any rugby league player. Why not? They are all bloody good Aussies as far as I’m concerned. The Australian of the Year is someone called Alan Mackay-Sim. Never heard of him. And what’s he do? Apparently he’s a retired biomolecular scientist. What do they do for chrissakes? I’d give knighthoods to Matty Johns and Fatty Vautin. And Pauline Hanson and Jackie Lambie should become dames. Let’s get on with it.
*GCB is a work of fiction