The Weekly Notebook – White Armband history

Scott Morrison’s plan for a White Armband history of Australia

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the Federal MP for Cook in southern Sydney, is planning to elevate James Cook to a status beyond the wildest dreams of the humble 18th century Royal Navy lieutenant.

Morrison wants to turn Cook into the “Father of Australia” with the intention of branding Australia as a white, Christian fortress in the Far East and South Pacific.

It involves ditching the centrepiece of former Prime Minister John Howard’s culture war – the so-called “black armband” history – and replacing it with a modern “white armband” view.

Morrison’s project has far-reaching connotations which are political, social, military and economic. It promises to cause a clash between 1) Australians who believe in a multi-cultural society with all-embracing racial, religious and human rights values; and 2) Mono-cultural Australians who want economic and political power to remain in the hands of the privileged class while second-class citizens, mainly migrants and new arrivals, merely provide labour and remain forever suburbanites in hock to the banks and the landlords.

In that sense, Morrison’s apparent modernity is in fact a step towards deeper division in society and not unity, and where the new dividing line will be wealth. Think Trump’s America.

In his inaugural speech to Federal Parliament in 2008, the newly-elected MP for Cook wove a philosophical argument bringing together his deep religious faith in Pentecostalism and the colonial history of Australia. “The (Sutherland) Shire community is a strong one,” he told MPs. “It is free of pretension and deeply proud of our nation’s heritage.

“As the Federal Member for Cook, I want to keep it that way by ensuring that Australia remains true to the values that have made our nation great and by keeping our economy strong so that families and small business can plan for their future with confidence.”

What’s missing? The first Australians, indigenous Australians, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who lived here tens of thousands of years before Cook showed up. Although Morrison paid lip service to indigenous history in the same inaugural speech it was no more than that – lip service.

Morrison re-election Budget

In his May 2018 Federal Budget, then Treasurer Morrison allocated a whopping $48.7 million “to deliver events and programs” to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Cook’s voyage Down Under.

The hand-out was hidden in an announcement which, when dissected, actually cut staffing levels at Canberra’s National Library of Australia: 12 staff axed in the library itself and 10 from the archives.

Canberra politicians are infamous for pork-barrelling but few can compete with Morrison’s cash grab: $48.7 million in public funds to assist his re-election campaign … oops, I mean to celebrate Cook’s epic voyage to the Pacific.

“Mad” King George III

When Cook landed at Kurnell on 29 April 1770 he carried a “secret letter” containing instructions from “Mad” King George and the Admiralty.

Held in London as a “state secret” for decades, the six-page letter has now come to light. It revealed that Cook’s duty was to find “a Continent or Land of great extent” which would “redound greatly to the Honour of this Nation as a Maritime Power, as well as to the Dignity of the Crown of Great Britain, and may tend greatly to the advancement of the Trade and Navigation thereof.” (The Secret Instructions, 30 July 1768).

When he completed his voyage along the east coast of the continent and returned home, Cook believed his voyage had been a failure because he did not find the much-fabled “Great Southern Continent”.

In subsequent years he returned twice more to the Pacific where he raised the Union Jack on every occasion to claim the territory for London. The daring adventure of Exploration had given way to a quest for Possessions. The British Empire, today called the Commonwealth of Nations, was coming into being.

Who “discovered” the Great South Land?

Strictly speaking, Cook was not the “first” European to “discover” Australia (it was never lost!) or to land on its shores. The very first landing was made by Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon in 1606 followed by 29 other Dutch navigators who explored “New Holland” on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. Another explorer, Dirk Hartog, cruised the continent in 1616 and during his 1642 voyage, Abel Tasman became the first known European to reach Van Diemen’s Land, later renamed Tasmania by white settlers.

And in 1699, William Dampier mapped and explored what became Western Australia and was the first Englishman to reach the shoreline of the vast continent.

Replica of the Endeavour

Cook’s ship, Endeavour, built to carry coal to London, died in a cruel fashion that is rarely mentioned by English or Australian narrators. It was scuttled in 1778 to defend English fortifications on Rhode Island after a miserable role as a floating prison for captured American independence fighters.

Early next year Morrison will be standing on the shores of Botany Bay early year to welcome a replica of the Endeavour but there won’t be any mention of the collier’s role as a convict prison or in seizing Australia for the British Crown and stealing the entire continent from the native inhabitants for an orgy of exploitation, greed and environmental vandalism.

The history haunting Oz

Morrison’s Kurnell party is being overshadowed by a fresh burst of enthusiasm from a diverse group of Australians, young and old, from many social, racial and religious backgrounds.

In no special order of preference they are clamouring for:

  1. Australia Day, January 26, to be renamed Invasion Day;
  2. To change the date of Australia Day from January 26 to ANZAC Day, April 25, or some other day that unites all Australians;
  3. To change the Australian flag by removing the Union Jack (“the butcher’s apron”);
  4. To hold a referendum on the Constitution to insert words which acknowledge the existence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture prior to European settlement;
  5. To hold a referendum to declare Australia a republic with an Australian head of state and abolish colonial era ties to the British monarchy.
Change the Date campaign

All or part of this agenda is terrifying the major political parties. Bruised, battered and disgraced by repeated palace coups in Canberra and scandals occurring every other day, the political class is in no mood to take voters on a journey of constitutional reform.

Whether he knows it or not, Morrison the Pentecostalist is fuelling this debate with his militant brand of religion. What might be the unforeseen consequences of his headstrong move to turn Australia into an insular nation of white evangelical Christianity governed by historical denial?

Throughout human history, everywhere that this has been tried, it hasn’t ended well. Just because his political soulmate, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, appears to getting away it in his tiny religious enclave called Israel, it doesn’t mean that it will fly in Australia. Not even the white bread folk of “the Shire” seem overly impressed.

I can’t see the Cronulla Sharks and their supporters  being enthralled by the mono-cultural project. Just look at some of the team: Valentine Holmes from Townsville, Sosaia Feki, Josh Dugan, Edrick Lee, Ricky Leutele, Andrew Fifita, James Segeyaro, Jaycen Bukuya, Braden Uele, Joseph Paulo and Briton Nikora. The club’s No 1 ticketholder (Pastor Scott Morrison) will face great difficulty getting his “white armband” theories accepted in this dressing room.

Blowing in the Wind

Nine-year-old Brisbane primary school pupil, Harper Nielsen, has refused to stand for the national anthem, Advance Australia Fair, during morning assembly because it “completely disregards indigenous Australians”.

T-shirt lunacy

  • I’m sorry for nothing
  • Get your shit together
  • I don’t give a fuck
  • I’m so beautiful
  • I love myself


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