JOHN HOWARD’S VALUES: MATESHIP, FAIR GO AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN AUSTRALIA – PART III

By Erasmus Baraniak

In my last two instalments I have discussed the merits of ‘mate-ship’ and ‘fair go’ as Australian values, from a Melanesian perspective. I described their humble nautical origins and essential veracity from convict mariner’s perspective, and how Howard attempted to rally out of the survival catch-cries of convicts in cramped, crowded and disease infested hulls and decks of early convict ships, a set of values that would become the rite of passage for a modern state and its people.

What has also become increasingly clear in these egalitarian notions of “mate-ship” and “fair go” from Howard’s Australia Day speech in 2007, is the underlying admission that everybody is not having a fair go in Australian post-convict society. This is certainly true in the case of Aborigines, Torres Strait Islanders, refugees and other minority groups now in health, education, social services, social justice, criminal justice, human rights, social equity, and the list goes on. In these they are not treated like mates, and accorded the basic minimum in the notion of fair go.

Australia has one of the worst social justice and human rights records in treatment of its indigenous citizens of any country in the developed world, and the magnitude of oppression meted out to them is right up there with history’s hand on Jews, Kurds, Armenians, Tibetans and closer to home the East Timorese, and the West Papuans in Indonesia, to name but some.

This dismal human rights record is further exacerbated by successive governments, both Liberal and Labor, who treat boat people cum refugees with contempt and brand them as “illegals”. The treatment meted out to boat people who are fleeing injustice and turmoil in their own countries is nothing short of criminal in itself. I don’t know of any instance in history where it has been made a criminal act for an individual or a family of oppressed persons, fleeing persecution, and in some cases possible death, to seek a better life in another land. This is particularly so if, for instance, where these are people from war ravaged areas like Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka.

In the case of Afghanistan and Iraq, Australia parades itself as the liberator, this beacon of freedom, to bring the hope of democracy to these countries by waging war against them, to liberate them.

 

In what appears to be a noble quest, which initially started, in Iraq, as a quest to rid the world of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Australia is partly responsible for slaughtering, or causing to be slaughtered, well over a million people in under ten years, bombed to rubble the cities and villages of Iraq and destroyed a way of life for tens of millions of people. The WMD basis for the invasion of Iraq has now been discredited as a huge lie by the US government and its Coalition of the Willing (to lie and cover up). There were no WMDs, and the US knew about this, but chose to lie to the whole world.

Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa recently announced that he is prepared to sue, and put on trial the then US President and then British Prime Minister for war crimes against the people of Iraq. He is taking issue with the US and the UK governments because of the blatant lie that the US and the British governments told the world to give them license to kill and destroy a nation. Bishop Tutu says that was absolutely un-Christian conduct on the part of US and UK.

In Afghanistan, so far, in a bid to rid the world of Taliban-ism Australia has participated in the slaughtering of well over 300,000 people. The number of people slaughtered is increasing every day, and is justified on the basis of the Coalition partners wanting to give these people the noble and wonderful gift of democracy.

Looking at the number of deaths caused by such invasion, you have to ask, Is democracy so noble that it has to be paid for by the blood of innocent children, mothers, fathers and grandmothers?

When Afghan people flee their homes and turn up at the doorsteps of Australia to be part of this democratic utopia, this paradise of freedom, they are either allowed to drown at sea or captured and imprisoned either in Australia or in some remote Pacific location such as Manus Island, where they will have no access to Australian media and Australian Courts. Even the once independent Australian media has been compromised. With the active encouragement of their government, the Australian media has joined the chorus of Canberra, seeking to demonize genuine refugees by calling them illegals, queue- jumpers, or wealthy middle-class Arabs, Iraqis or Afghans bribing boat captains and crew in Indonesian ports to claw their way into Australia.

It is a curious fact that apart from the Aborigine landowners of the Australian continent, the Convict settlement of Australia giving birth to the nation state of Australia is by people who arrived illegally, and uninvited. They were the first boatpeople. They were the first illegals. They have no better standing or claim to Australia than others who come to Australia subsequently by boat. Yet they seek to haul their offensive layers of lies and trickery before us in Melanesia, masquerading them as government, and as just laws by just governments, to give them dignity beyond their true status, all the while living off the fat of Aborigine lands and existing Aborigine nations.

The slaughter of ancient Aborigine nations throughout Australia, the shifting of tribes away from their homelands, the taking of children and the creation of internment camps, were all organized by the British under what they believed to be correct legal premises. Such premises never made allowance for the law of the land (Aborigine law) prevailing at that time to determine the rightness or the wrongness of the early boatpeople trespassing in Australia, or the legality of their convict taking of Aborigine lands, their continued existence on Aborigine soil, or systems of government imposed on Aborigine soil.

It has been stated that this has to be the most fundamental foundation, the mother of miscarriage of justice, upon which the Australian society as we know today is founded upon. To this day, without proper recognition of this wrong, without just and fair recompense to the Aborigine tribes of Australia, the government of Australia and its institutions- these many a layered lies, these organized organs of oppression, are all organized around and based upon a felony. The very notion of its existence is a continuous act of criminality. White Australia has taken what the Aborigine never gave.

It is true white Australia has not in recent times carried out raiding parties on Aborigine communities with guns and bayonets as it did in massacre parties of the late 1800s and early 1900s. It does not have to. It has set up a system of government and welfare that annihilates a people all the same, a system that condemns indigenous people to illiteracy, unhealthy existence, substance abuse and dysfunctional-ism, hopelessness, and gradually, but surely, death.

The current human rights record of Australia toward its indigenous people is such that there is very little hope in sight for these people who currently fall way below the poverty line and way below any internationally accepted standards and indicators in terms of health, education, sanitation, shelter and social and criminal justice. Just go out to Alice Springs on a summer’s night by the old river course and you will see played out before you this substandard ritual of deprivation and subjugation that has become an acceptable way of life. Today, many NGO groups are calling upon the Australian government to increase the dole so that people can simply afford a loaf of bread every day.

In country towns like Nowra, just South of Sydney, once bustling with orchards and dairy farmers, today flooded with former indigenous dwellers of inner city Redfern, descendants of Bennelong, forced from their place because Howard’s Australia didn’t want Olympic visitors to see Indigenous people living in squalor in city slums of Sydney. They line up the dole queues of dysfunctional Nowra, a town where you can even smell death and despair in the breeze knifing up the main street of Nowra today.

In Walget, a country town in Western New South Wales, there is 99% unemployment of Indigenous people. These people are third, fourth and fifth generation indigenous unemployed, who are mostly illiterate, given birth to children who form a whole new generation of dysfunctional and illiterate people, addicted to substance abuse and every other abuse imaginable. Almost 95% percent of the indigenous youth in Australia have little or no chance of advancement to University, let alone completing High School certificate. The health-care and sanitation standards among indigenous Australia are third world in comparison to what most white folk live in and take for granted. For many remote indigenous communities all around Australia a quick audit of basic human rights compliance will reveal that Australia, as a First World Developed country, has failed miserably in its treatment of its black people.

Australian families treat their pets in suburbia better than their government treats the original landowners of Australia. This is a sad indictment on a country that is seeking to bring health, education, law and order, equal opportunity and other rights advocacy to the Pacific. It has no solid foundation to work from in terms of real successes with its own black people. Australia practices symbolism with Indigenous people, but is not serious about addressing the real injustices, discrimination, prejudice, inequality and race based social injustice.

Take for instance; some 20 years ago in over 95 Aborigine Deaths in Custody cases reported by the Einfeld Royal Commission of Inquiry (in each case recommending prosecution of members of the various white Australian Police for causing the deaths), to this day not one single white Australian policeman cited has been charged.

That is hardly what one would call a fair go is it? Considering for a moment that for over eleven of those 20 years John Howard was the Prime Minister of Australia, how he could explain the fact that he did nothing about Aborigine deaths in custody, and the clearly detailed findings of the Einfeld Report is a mystery.

Rudd went slightly better in making Pat Dodson, Indigenous agitator and then Counsel Assisting Justice Marcus Einfeld in that Inquiry, Australian of the year in 2009. Sadly enough Rudd conspicuously omitted to address the causes for Dodson’s life of agitation such as the findings of that Inquiry which remains to be acted upon by the Federal Government of Australia to this day. Is it any wonder why Dodson was not particularly excited about the occasion which other indigenous people either saw as meaningless political platitude or a clever Mr Rudd trying to curry favor with a possible source of sustained agitation? Dodson used the opportunity to call for justice in education of the young indigenous people which he correctly surmised as carrying the hope of the emancipation of the Aborigine.

Einfeld, on the other hand, has been singled out by white conservative Australia for $75 traffic fines, and deliberately vilified and hung out to dry for daring to prick the conscience of a nation that would rather not be reminded. He serves as an example and warning to Judges and judicial types who choose not to back the right horse; the system will get them sooner or later, and it is all legitimate of course. The messenger being shot, the message he sought to convey appears to have been lost in the sands of time with his enforced infamy.

In a recent case of a Palm Island Aborigine death in police custody case, the man died of broken ribs and a torn liver, within half an hour of being taken into custody by police. The Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions attributed the death to an “accidental fall” and concluded that the police had no case to answer.

This decision was totally contrary to earlier findings of a detailed Coronal Inquest that suggested serious foul play by the police. How does a person ‘accidentally’ die of four broken ribs, a ruptured portal vein, a liver almost cleaved in two, a black eye, bruising to his forehead and back of his head, bruising to the upper part of his back and on both his hands, all taking place in a police station where a very fit and disproportionately large policeman had earlier in as much as confessed to a ‘fight’ between himself and the deceased on a videotaped police interview? The Policeman earlier confessed to falling on the victim, and was later allowed to change his story to falling beside him.

How does a slightly built man, who was slightly inebriated but happy moments earlier, whistling and singing ‘accidentally fall’ and sustain such diverse number of injuries, most of which could not be sustained or explained either scientifically or clinically by a single fall from a stand up position, irrespectively of whether he was facing up or downward? The events and the incongruous findings which smacks of funny business in Australian Justice System are well documented by Chloe Hooper in her book entitled ‘The Tall Man’.

The predominantly white police force in Queensland, as a sign of solidarity and mate-ship, threatened to boycott police services to Aboriginal communities in protest over the subsequent prosecution of the Palm Island based white Police Officer investigated for the death of the Aborigine man.

The collective boycott by the Police was a heart-warming demonstration of true “mate-ship,” you might say. However, what about the Aboriginal community of Palm Island and the next of kin of the deceased man? Don’t they have a right to a “fair go” in terms of justice; or is it the case that justice has become the exclusive preserve of race, the select, and the powerful and the rich, but ever elusive to the poor Indigenous minority?

How can a man happily inebriated and singing ‘who let the dogs out’ in one moment finds himself arrested the next moment and dead in police custody from serious injuries, all within a space of 30 minutes of being arrested. His crime necessitating the arrest was that he was singing. The cause of death was that he fell down.

Cameron Doomadgee was a slightly built man, and as such, how he could fall in such a way to bruise his whole body, simultaneously give himself a black eye, and absolutely smash his liver into two halves against the wall of his vertebra, without any help from the big white policeman who arrested him is a mystery. We can only surmise that it must have been the greatest fall ever since the great fall of Lucifer, the father of all liars!

What about the case of David Hicks, 5 years incarceration without any charges in a foreign prison? Hicks, an Australian who confessed to training with terrorists, was allowed to languish in a foreign prison by then Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, without any due process of law. Nowhere was the spirit and values of “mate-ship” and “fair go” shown in the case of Hicks. Whatever happened to democracy and the rule of law that requires a fair and speedy trial, let alone the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a proper court system?

What is the content of mate-ship and fair go in a legal democracy if the minimum requirements of due process are not? If Alexander Downer, standing next to Howard when he espoused the values of mate-ship and fair go in that 2007 Australia Day speech, as Foreign Minister, could not see the practical outworking and application of these values to an unfortunate David Hicks in a US prison, what hope is there to expect any resonance for these values in greater Australian community?

Recently, after sustained media scrutiny and when it became political suicide in an election year to keep Hicks in Guantanamo Bay, Downer was forced to relent. He asked the US to release Mr. Hicks to an Adelaide prison for his own political interests, which the US promptly did.

Why did Downer take 5 torturous years to do this? You have to wonder about the basic value system and moral constitution, if any, of leaders of a country who engage in such elaborate policy gymnastics with human lives, and about the system of democracy that allows such to go unsanctioned.

You have to wonder about the general ethos of the population of Australia, whether they have lost their humanity, like salt that loses its saltiness. Did Hicks somehow became a lesser human being, or lesser Australian, that he was deliberately abandoned and discarded by his own Government to be openly tortured by another government under a penal system that was declared illegal, even by the much venerated US Supreme Court, and the people of Australia would not even raise one eyebrow?

It is curious that most of the judges on the US Supreme Court were appointed by successive Bush (father and son) administrations but they were disturbed enough to find it judicially profane to endorse the then President’s antics in Guantanamo. If Australia believes in the rule of the law in a democracy, then the ruling of the US Supreme Court should have bothered both John Howard and Alexander Downer concerning Hicks. .It obviously did not.

What is the content of ‘fair go’ and “mate-ship” in a modern democracy if it does not consist of due process for the likes of Hicks, and the likes of boat people arriving on the shores of Australia?

The then Federal Labor Opposition in Australia, now in government, stood back and cheered to the tortured screams of men like Hicks, Habib and others in Guantanamo. It was certainly a funny way to sow the seeds of mate-ship and fair go for both Howard and Downer.

What could possibly be at the heart of this generation of politicians, both Liberal and Labor, across the full spectrum of Australian politics that compels them to instantly abandon the values of democracy, human rights and due process, let alone mate-ship and fair go, and summon such capacity for callous indifference? They could almost hear in Canberra the screams of anguish from the torture of their own citizens in Guantanamo, and yet chose to tune out, and acquiesce to the work of the American torturers and their government. You cannot help but ask, ultimately, to what greater good, and to whose gain?

President Obama since coming into office, with better judgment, declared Guantanamo shut. Had Australian politicians possessed any real sense for rights of human beings, they could have offered guidance and counsel to the much erring Bush Administration earlier in the piece. Regrettably that was not to be. With the onset of Obama Administration’s call on Guantanamo to be quietly phased out, we have to ask what now becomes of persons held unreasonably without trial and tortured over many years without any real cause. Have these people ceased being human? How does one subsequently guarantee these people a fair trial let alone recompense and restore the innocent that have been psychologically and financially destroyed?

What has become of the condition of man that he abandons his state of enlightenment, the gains of the last 200 years, and takes on the cloak of profanity, of a wayward and misguided being, and re-traces his footsteps into that long forgotten darkness of the Stone Age and the Middle Ages from which we have evolved?

The essential quandary which Howard’s Australia has painted itself into with the mariners’ catch cries is that if “mate-ship” and “fair go” do not find their outworking in human rights, justice, fairness and due process for its indigenous people and for boatpeople (including access to Australian Lawyers and Australian Courts which comes from being processed on Australian soil), then Howard’s values are but hollow platitudes. Australia will be a country devoid of any real values if these phrases crafted out of Convict Mariners’ survival catch cries, these so called “values,” cannot be humanely applied to the Indigenous population of Australia or the current refugees arriving in boats.

Australia has no basis to treat these new arrivals as criminals or illegals. It has every basis to treat them as refugees, and process them according to the normal international rules under the UN Refugee Convention, which it is obligated to apply.

The Australian government is legally and morally obliged to accept and process the boat people on Australian soil, treat them fairly and accord them respect and due process, because it and its people (apart from Aborigine people) are not in a higher, better or more legal position than these.

Alexander Downer will be judged by history and nature for his part in the Hicks case. As for Hicks, he stands a judged and condemned man whether in or out of prison, and will never know whatever happened to mate-ship, fair go and due process; let alone democracy and freedom the causes for which the West has waged war against Afghanistan and Iraq and continues to slaughter hundreds of thousands of people. He will never forget as long as he lives that his own government abandoned him to another government to be tortured and treated inhumanely. He, along with Mahmud Habib and others, will remain an emblem and a reminder to every Australian child of what their government is capable of doing to them when they are at their most vulnerable.

For the Pacific countries, especially the Melanesian States, Australia’s human rights record and its treatment of its Indigenous people is a real measuring stick for realizing that, no matter how much Aborigine blood money Australia spends on the Pacific (and in Canberra in the name of the Pacific), Australia has no real values to guide it as a nation. It has little or no practical or policy success in dealing with its Indigenous people, especially in education, health, economic advancement, social justice and equality.

If Australia does not understand and care for its own Indigenous people, with successful and humane policies that work for the Indigenous people, how can the Pacific people, especially Melanesians, expect that anything good would come out of Canberra for the Pacific, and in particular for Melanesian people?

How can Melanesians trust a White Australian Government that does not deal fairly and equitably with its own black people?

How can Melanesian landowners and resource owners trust Australian Companies and the Australian Government who have stripped the black people of Australia off their lands, their resources and their way of life?

How can we trust a nation of people with no values, whose only affinity is to dollars and cents?

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2 thoughts on “JOHN HOWARD’S VALUES: MATESHIP, FAIR GO AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN AUSTRALIA – PART III

  1. HOWARD’S VALUES- CREATING A BETTER PLACE. PART IV

    John Howard knew, or ought to have known the truth about WMDs. Equally John Howard knew, or ought to have known about the AWB scandal; the reported corruption during Downer and Howard’s reign of bribing Saddam Hussein with no less than $300 Million through a Jordanian transport company to keep buying Australian wheat via AWB- contrary to UN sanctions at that time.

    In the aftermath of AWB Inquiry it became clear that a Canadian High Ranking UN Official alerted the Howard government of their breaches of the UN sanctions. She had copies of email and other correspondence she at that time sent to the Australian government to prove that the Howard government knew what AWB, a government sanctioned operation, was doing in Iraq. Yet AWB sallied on, and Alexander Downer even met with Saddam Hussein during that time.

    Howard and Downer were able to extricate themselves from culpability in the manner they fashioned the AWB-Cole Inquiry Terms of Reference. The Terms of Reference were narrowly designed to lay all culpability on the directors, officers and employees of AWB. It intentionally took the focus of Inquiry away from political responsibility. This modus operandi was designed by one of three senior Advisors/Bureaucrats within Howard’s team who rescued Howard on a number of occasions, including in the Tampa and the Children-Overboard scandals. The Canadian Bureaucrat was never heard of again after initial denials and departmental buck passing in Canberra and within AWB. The Cole Inquiry Report is now publicly accessible to those interested.

    In the case of WMDs, the Howard government was clearly exposed to have known that it was lying to the Australian public on the real purpose of invading Iraq, and it had nothing to do with WMDs. Andrew Wilkie, former high ranking military and intelligence officer in the Office of National Assessments, a graduate of Duntroon, exposed the Howard government of deliberate obfuscation and dishonesty about the non-existence of any Weapons program in Iraq. Wilkie, in as many words, says Howard politicized the public servants and the intelligence, resulting in a lie to Australian public of the basis of going to war against Iraq. The truth gleaned from all tested intelligence put to Howard at that time disproved the case for existence of WMDs, hence war.

    Andrew Wilkie, today is an Independent Member of Parliament, who succeeded Labor’s Duncan Kerr, as Member for Denison. He occupies an ample electoral office on the main street of down town Hobart. In his 2004 book “The Axis of Deceit”, he clearly outlines for all who care to read the deliberate Howard Government intelligence failures, designed to sully the mandate of the Australian people, and take Australia to war in Iraq.

    Howard has amply rewarded the three Advisors who mostly designed his “ see no evil- knew no evil-did no evil” escape strategies in above scandals, with lucrative and powerful posts within the Australian intelligence community and overseas diplomatic posts, where they serve today. But what about the thousands slaughtered and maimed, homes and businesses destroyed, ancient artifacts of great human interest and posterity bombed to bits, lives and a way of life absolutely torn apart- all based on a lie? How do you take back the broken pieces and apologize for a grave and costly mistake?

    When we stand back and reflect upon that period before and after the invasion of Iraq, the frightening level of misinformation by the US government in the media on WMDs , brain washing and the perpetuation of a deep phobia appealing to the darker side of humanity against Muslims and Arabs, and the United States successfully engaged in, co-opting the British and the Australian Governments as willing accomplices to this lie, we realize that humanity birthed a new meaning to the word insanity.

    Humanity also birthed a new form of anarchy based on our rightness. The prevailing notion of us against them, we are right they are wrong or we know better than them, fails to accommodate the valid possibility that another story, another narrative, another explanation may exist and also be equally valid, or even the possibility that we could be completely wrong. The West’s unwillingness to distinguish between individual terrorists or their organizations and believers of a certain religion, blindly or deliberately pushing its own agenda of the hour, to control energy fields of the middle east for its own economic gain in the guise of pursuing WMDs , has robbed democracy and capitalism of its essential gloss.

    We accuse others of fanaticism but fail to see our own fundamentalism. We do not live as people who know and realize that this generation does not have all the answers. That which we think we know may only be partial to greater truths and enlightenment yet to be revealed. We do not live as people who revere the seat of science and mathematics that perpetuated life during the construction of the pyramids of Giza, for example. Such state of enlightenment and knowledge that incorporated complex elements of light, energy, truth and astronomy as well as aspects of mathematics, geometry and metaphysics, in such bold fusion of pure human brilliance, despite our various other advances, is lost to us. We ought to be humbled by the realization that we don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle in our hands, and live accordingly.

    We still do not have the cure for many illnesses that plague our human condition. Yet we are bent on killing and maiming fellow humanity for ideals that don’t have feelings nor talk back to us, and for lies that weaken our moral fibre. We live and breathe in a limited sphere of intelligence with limited resources, and yet, we summon the audacity to do hideous things to each other and to the environment that does not commensurate with our own limitations.

    We have filled this space in history with greed and selfishness, from individuals to multinational corporations, that has resulted in scarcity and starvation. Economic growth that comes not from harmful extractive activity but through living in harmony with the universe, discovering new frontiers of knowledge and truly appreciating the magnificent joys of being alive on this planet are privileges. They are privileges reserved for people and nations who walk humbly and deeply venerate each other and the earth, its creatures whether in the deep oceans, in the celestial skies above or on our magnificent land decorated with rivers, valleys, forests, mountains and big skies.

    We have inflicted all manner of violence on others and their innocent children in the name of God, freedom and democracy instead of seeking a higher path of understanding. Lesser still, we have gone to war on the basis of a lie. We have sowed in the destruction of their homes and their livestock in the name of freedom and democracy instead of seeking to forge another road to the hearts of those who do not understand us. We have bombed their homes and destroyed their human spirit that we may conquer them and take their resources, instead of forging ways of trading in and sharing these resources. In so doing we have succeeded in making freedom and democracy the symbols of our rightness and their wrongness.

    The greatest destruction ever wrought upon human beings anywhere throughout history has been by the hands and designs of fellow human beings. It has never been the handiwork of mental retards, but of Kings, Prime Ministers, Presidents and governments carefully planning with big budgets, carefully crafted bombs, missiles that would penetrate bunkers and long distant bombers with video camera gauges to film the carnage left behind.

    The modern bomber carries with it by deliberate design a camera that videos the ghastly and macabre sights of the destruction inflicted, the searing and tearing limb to limb of helpless flesh, and invariably the shedding of innocent blood, of unsuspecting bodies in their various parts lying strewn everywhere against ghostly night skies. The film clips do not often do justice to the sheer terror in the faces of those about to die by our bombs and our guns, or the cries of terror or agony of a mother clasping the half torn body of her child. After every raid, teams of serious men and women, sit, huddled, poring over photographs and video images, like a macabre bloodthirsty ritual, only to determine if it was a good kill or a bad kill. We never stop to ask- how can a kill be a good kill? Where, we kill more or innocent people than intended, we just glibly shrug our shoulders and say, oh it’s just too bad. We callously call it collateral damage these days, all in the name of democracy and freedom. It is us who have come to define freedom as a prison and democracy as the hand that murders, maims and mutilates.

    The history of Christianity, for instance, is littered with the causes of the right and the truth, those who had the truth, those who adhered and those who didn’t. The church burnt people at the stake those accused of witchcraft or sorcery, without any trial. Wave after wave of crusades killed maimed and tortured fellow humans in the name of God and the right because they did not believe in ‘our’ god or chose to disagree with the ‘truth’ as the church saw it. The church did not give any chance to ‘heretics’ as it called them, or placed any value on human lives sufficient to grant them the chance of repentance and rehabilitation in the truth.

    In reflection, you have to ask today, what ‘truth’ was so precious that it demanded its redemption by the blood of humans slaughtered or burnt at the stakes? What truth was so absolute that a mortal soul had no chance of repentance before ‘our’ god but was seen to be permanently condemned to damnation?

    Governments in the west behave as if truth, democracy and human rights are such malleable and elastic brews, brimming with generous flavors of relativity, depending on who we are drinking with. We run domestic public opinion through the media by asking whether those locked onto our heat seeking missile radar screens are on side with us or against us as the ultimate test of truth, democracy, and whether they deserve to have rights as human beings. We have come to view might as being right all the time. In the US and its Coalition taking unilateral preemptive military action without UN Approval for the invasion of Iraq, our ability to enforce our rightness has been automatically co-opted in the cause of democracy and freedom.

    If democracy is such a relative and malleable brew, then it must also stand for the validity of the other argument, the other hypothesis, the other narrative that we must allow to exist and understand, just like the ancient Greeks and Romans did as an essential part of the synthesis of reason by which process democracy was birthed.

    In the five day war between Georgia and Russia, the United States and its Allies quickly moved to support Georgia and condemn Russia in the name of democracy. Western media painted Russia as the wicked aggressor in that war. What they failed to mention was that the United States has been deeply involved in the political and military training of the Georgian army for the last 15 years and on at least three past occasions in 1992, 2004 and 2008, Georgia has been using full Military force to invade and take forcefully two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, resulting in thousands dead or homeless, sending refugees into Russia. It seems from this, more often than not, the United States and its cadre of followers appear to easily view or brand certain countries as part of the ‘Axis of evil’, ‘Undemocratic’ or ‘Rogue States’ through the narrow prism of self-interest.

    The lessons of Vietnam should ring loud and provide clear parameters to the powerful countries to act within. The US refused to recognize Vietnamese Independence in 1945 and for 9 years vigorously supported the French to re-colonize it. The US supported one of the most blood thirsty and vicious dictators in President Diem. While the poor village people watched and waged guerilla warfare, the leaflets promising peace, harmony and democracy were followed by deadly bombs and chemical warfare. This was followed by a full scale invasion that saw the deliberate poisoning by the United States and its Allies of water sources and paddy fields. In addition to what Diem killed, the Allies killed hundreds of thousands more, destroying entire families and villages. Some two million people were killed in all in the name of democracy and freedom. Their human rights were not a factor in the equation.

    Today that country is only just rising to drink of the bittersweet spring of forgiveness that flows from remembering, yet deliberately choosing to channel the tears and the blood of its innocent, into a flood of progressive activity, to build a modern democratic State, for the sake of their children and as a tribute to their dead, and homage to their ancestors. It is a quiet and deliberate miracle by a peaceful and genteel people, a mark of inner strength and resilience, from brokenness to breaking free.

    The invasion and occupation of Iraq was touted by George Bush and Tony Blair as necessary to establish democracy and human rights in that country. Saddam Hussein was branded an evil despotic dictator. No one dared utter the fact that he was set up and financed by the Americans and armed by the British. He used the arms and chemical weapons supplied by the British and Americans to massacre Kurds in the thousands. (That is supposedly how they knew he was supposed to have weapons of mass destruction). No one in America or Britain batted an eye lid over that. Today that country, with hundreds of thousands dead, is still caught in strife and turmoil caused by the lies of the US and its allies.

    The role of media in western democracies in branding and profiling certain countries as part of the “Axis of Evil” (or for that matter, boat people as” illegals”), is a critical tool of the US and its allies for controlling public opinion.

    In 1988 Saddam attacked and killed over five thousand people in the Kurdish village of Halabja in northern Iraq with chemical weapons supplied by Anglo-American interests. Not a word was uttered by the West in protest. It was only when Saddam made the mistake of invading an Anglo-American ally in Kuwait that the human rights and freedoms of the Kurds became an issue in the Western media. What double standards! People even engaged in violent protests in London over the plight of the Kurds in northern Iraq during the period of Gulf war. You have to ask where were these English people when Saddam poisoned thousands Kurds in Halabja?

    Turkey shares a common border with Iraq. At the time of Sadam’s invasion of Kuwait, while Brits were protesting over Iraq’s treatment of Kurds in Iraq, what was actually happening in neighboring Turkey would have had any normal person gasping for air. Turkey slaughtered thousands of Kurds with British and American supplied tanks and guns while CNN and Western media were selectively decrying Saddam’s slaughter of Iraqi Kurds. Turkey is a member of NATO and its military received US$8 billion worth of arms, tanks, helicopters, and ships, generously gifted by the Americans at that time. No one condemned the Turks.

    The American and British media has controlled the news process and what to decry. Such double standards and false morality in the name of democracy and human rights are carefully concealed by the powerful that control the media houses to promote selective values.

    Again, democracy and human rights appear to be malleable concepts depending on whether the abusers are on our side or not and who controls the media. There has even emerged a sad rule of thumb that the West uses to measure the importance of human lives and human carcasses – whatever appeals on the day to the West’s own sense of self preservation.

    Democracy, to last as an ideal and to maintain its relevancy in a newly ordered world, must be allowed to rise above the self-interest of the West and must deliver equally and justly to all, and for all, lest the stench of hypocrisy suffocates the world and tips the balance of the delicate laws of nature that governs the universe and its inhabitants in favor of abject anarchy.

    There are numerous similar examples of the Vietnamese and the Kurds stretching from the deserts of Africa to the jungles of South America where the United States has become the sole arbiter of good and evil. In Nicaragua, for example, hundreds of thousands have been slaughtered this century by US backed militia in the pretext of preventing communism.

    Truth, democracy and human rights have been defined and re-defined the American way across the globe. Some of that hubris has rubbed off on Australia in its dealings with its own indigenous population and the Pacific people, where democracy, truth and human rights seem to be subjected to a true blue dinky die form of cultural relativism that condemns others to their apparent wrongness but magnifies downtown cosmopolitan Australia in all its glorious and stupendous rightness.

    For the cause of human rights in Australia, it seems generations of Australians have not shaken off the shackles of oppression and injustice toward their own. As Menzies was with Wilfred Burchett in the 1940s (over Burchett’s reporting contrasting reviews on what the West was really doing in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Hiroshima and later on the Korean Peninsula), for generations it seems, Australia latently incubates an inclination or culture of political oppression and social blindness toward those who speak the raw truth, stand on principle or are ethnically different.

    Wilfred Burchett was never given a fair go by Australia, his own country. He was stripped off his passport, his citizenship and denied his nationality. He was literally deported by his own country into oblivion. He lived in exile until the day he died almost a decade ago.

    Australia has a history of oppressing those who voice a new or novel idea; express alternative views to the mainstream, those who blow the whistle on the system, and those who simply appear racially, ethnically and culturally different, vulnerable, weak and defenseless. Its legal system is willing to give effect to the full rights of the dead (in matters of probate for instance) whereas the basic rights of the living appear to be entreated with a form of relativism, sometimes downright trampled upon with impunity, as is the case with boat people at the moment.

    Australia takes issue on and speaks of truth, justice, democracy and the freedoms of people in faraway places like Zimbabwe, Iraq and Afghanistan but is blind to the injustices and oppression it metes out at home. In terms of the future, such inclination unfortunately does not bode well for those who are not Australian or those on the fringes of mainstream Australia.

    It is lamentable indeed that Australia has become somewhat of a cultural cringe and intellectual wilderness of a degree that is unable to recognize, respect, live with, tolerate, embrace and celebrate the synthesis of ideas and humanity that is a necessary hallmark of a first world democracy, and of mature and progressive societies. Australia has a way of passing the buck , or being ever so defensive when the truth is spoken, however softly. Australia must mature in ways that will necessitate it to speak peace instead of war, invest in equality and justice instead of commercial exploitation of its neighbors and the weak and vulnerable within its borders like its indigenous people, and boat people.

    What is blind prosperity and power without compassion, war without morality and military or economic might without greater capacity for understanding and acting within the bounds of fairness and justice to fellow humanity?

    In Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s recently published book, ‘The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better’, they statistically prove that societies that deliberately seek equality in the distribution of the wealth of the nation and its opportunities, reap tangible benefits of a healthier society with greater social cohesion and less social problems.

    In respect of Australia Wilkinson and Pickett make the salient observation that it is a country that has had a big increase in inequality and injustice resulting in social problems like increased drug use, violence, obesity, school failure, teenage pregnancies etc. Inequalities in society does breed problems associated with a person’s perception of themselves and this translates directly into the quality of their social engagement with society members.

    The values of fair go and mate-ship as espoused by Howard still remain in the realms of mythology. Initially it was Rudd’s (and now Gillard’s) Labor government seized on this new book as providing empirical evidence for social democracy, the basis to tax the rich mining companies more than ever before in a bid to balance the high level of budget deficit, in post GFC Australia. Whilst GFC is increasingly being ideologically viewed more and more as a direct result of neoliberal policies of governments that have glorified greed and excess to the benefit of a few and to the disadvantage of the majority, Wilkinson and Pickett’s work is being embraced as timely in aid of fundamental ideological shifts for the better.

    In the United States, companies with large executive salaries and directors payouts are being hounded by the Obama administration on behalf of beleaguered shareholders. In a country that celebrates wealth, and publicly proclaims greed is good and the pursuit of ones happiness through accumulation of wealth as noble and honorable, this change in public policy is driven by what society has now come to realize as morally reprehensible some of the avoidable adverse aspects and consequences of greed.

    Politically, in Australia, the then Rudd (and now Gillard) government has ideologically shifted most of the blame of the financial crisis to the Liberal Coalition Parties’ corner blaming them for their policies of encouraging big business and traditionally concentrating wealth in a small percentage of the population.

    Concentrating the wealth of the nation in the hands of a few is no longer good policy and governments have now been shown by empirical statistical evidence to deliberately shift and spread wealth across the wider cross section of society as a matter of beneficial public policy. This has got to be one of the major public policy shifts for capitalism in our time as traditionally capitalism embraces individualism and the pursuit of happiness by the individual in a market driven economy. A critical flaw in capitalist individualism that the world is becoming more aware of is that accumulation has a limit.

    We cannot keep raping the limited forests without endangering ourselves and other creatures that share this planet with us. We cannot keep raping the depths of the oceans without destroying whole food chains and complex marine eco systems that are interdependent to provide us a continuous food source and fill our souls with a heightened sense of wonder.

    As humanity, we cannot live life in little boxes when are meant to live as a people and as communities sharing and caring for each other. The long tailed adverse consequences of two centuries of not living as communities, of building societies largely characterized by individualism- a curse of industrialization that elevates some humans above others using artificial and superficial distribution of wealth and inverse social ordering, are slowly being realized now in poverty, homelessness, mental illnesses and other social ills. Only a few select are feasting while most of the world are starving and dying. A few at the apex have a voice and control the wealth of the world while the rest fall in a graduated scale to a base that is filled with those deemed as people with no voice, no face and generally deemed as unworthy.

    We cannot keep taking from the earth without causing an imbalance is what is otherwise a beautifully and intricately balanced creation where everything is so wonderfully and gracefully put together in their most awesome complexity; wholly purposed to give and sustain life. Dissenters in society already benefitting from such dis-ordering of humanity and unequal distribution will see this as a new socialist creep into market economies, as a disincentive to individual exertion. They will continue to deliberately fail or even refuse to see the wider benefits and overall good of a more equal, sharing and caring society.

    Those who argue against more immigration into Australia, for example, seek to disguise their own greed, their own insecurities, their own dark racism and prejudice, by mounting arguments of scarcity or other forms of social or racial vilification to keep the wealth within the hands of a few.

    Are we now facing an era of change? Will we see a new invigorated American Foreign policy after the coming elections , an America that prides itself on building confidence in international institutions and building bridges between peoples of the world for a fair, humane and equitable world instead of military confrontation (using the scarce capital and resources of the world) that directly threatens the collapse of the world’s financial system and the environment?

    Will we see a shift in free market and free trade ideology to embrace a more equal distribution of the wealth of the world according to the needs of each peoples of the earth? Will we, in our lifetime, see an international inventory of the world’s resources being made and trade is regulated to ensure the best use is made of these resources for the greater good of humanity taking into account the ability of mother earth to keep replenishing some of these resources? Will we see America cease from advocating its tyrannical one eyed definition of democracy, freedom and human rights?

    Will we see the heart of world media change to advocate the truth and not continue being the sales department or the propaganda arm of the rich and powerful nations?

    Will Australia shift from its traditional iniquities of injustice toward its indigenous people and minorities and build a more economically, politically and socially broad based cohesive and egalitarian society, especially in so far as its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities are concerned? For the indigenous people and for minority groups like refugees, will Australia finally embrace a Bill of Rights that is well and truly overdue to protect the rights of minorities arriving or living among a majority of population that is apathetically basking in the warmth and afterglow of material success with disparately disproportionate distribution of a nation’s wealth and opportunities?

    Will we see a more fair and more equal Australia in its dealings with Melanesian Countries of the South Pacific, or will we see more of the same, rip off-cheque-book diplomacy, or unnecessary permanent occupation and rewiring of economies, that threatens to capture the Pacific Melanesian countries in a web of Aid dependency? It is now a well-known secret that Aid is an effective hook, or tool, that Australia uses to re-wire and re-order the Melanesian Countries and their resources and their resources for its own benefit

    Evidence suggests that Australia has to do more at home to create a more cohesive and fair society, giving fair go and showing mate-ship to its indigenous peoples that will form the basis of, and a strong foundation for Australia to relate properly to the Melanesian Pacific. Today Australia is not a cohesive society. It is not a society where everyone is having a fair go. It is not a society that practices mate-ship. It is an intellectually insular society that is numbed to the rest of the world. It is not quite unlike a goldfish left in its own bowl for over 200 years, that imbibes on its own brew for all this time, and in the result, heaps endless platitudes on itself like a Judge in Master chef on how good it tastes, how fair and how just Australian society is- when the contrary is true.

    As its neighbors, It is both important and responsible for Melanesian Pacific to hold the mirror of truth to Australia. Anyone into the school of Systems Thinking will agree with the basic proposition that, fundamental to the success and perpetuation of any system, or for that matter society as a system, is the capacity to allow into the system the element of reflection, the process of reassessment with necessary checks and balances. Systems Thinking allows that there is no positive growth or advancement without change. For advancement to take place there must be within the existing system the ability to allow new parts or elements in, or the culling of certain parts of the existing system.

    The mirror of change must be held up to Australia so that the blow torch of truth can be brought to bear upon its blind spots, or what CS Lewis calls the shadow lands, of Australian government, and of contemporary Australian society.

    This is a process that may sometimes evoke anger, or even outright denial. Yet no individual, society or for that matter, nation, can progress without this essential dialectical process, and we cannot expect the condition of man, no matter of what color or creed , anywhere, but especially in Australia, to improve without this change. Without a process of honest introspection, Australia is only kidding itself in the Pacific if it thinks it can become a model democracy without values that engender fairness, equality and a sense of egalitarianism in the region.

    The Pacific will always view Australia with suspicion, as a wolf in sheepskin, until we see real and tangible change toward fairness, equality, social justice, health and education, and human rights being upheld, for Indigenous Australia, boatpeople and other minority groups. The current government system made of policies and laws applying to indigenous people and boat people is simply unjust, unfair, inhumane, harsh, oppressive, disproportionate, unreasonable, and simply not good enough for a developed country like Australia, prospering on the back of the lands and resources of Aborigine people. Canberra’s treatment of Indigenous people reeks of symbolism and tokenism all the way from Tasmania to the Torres Straits.

    Australia has done nothing to rid itself of the initial and underlying felony on which the nation of Australia, as a federation, is built on. Its continuous existence is felonious, and it will always be so until the day a proper treaty is entered into with the various Aborigine nations of Australia to ratify and legalize the taking of their lands and resources, to apply retrospectively. The prospect of success of this, and the terms therefor, are entirely a matter of discretion for the Aborigine nations. This is the measure of mate-ship and fair go that Howard espoused, if it is to mean anything at all in Australia, and particularly to the original owners of Australia.

  2. HOWARD’S VALUES: RE-WRITING AUSTRALIAN HISTORY. PART V

    For several decades now Australia has been seeking to formulate a politically acceptable version of its own history. It became obvious during John Howard’s reign as Prime Minister that Australia needed to shed some aspects of its history, and put more emphasis on other aspects so that it can look respectable, and feel respectable, to face the future directions Howard envisioned for Australia in his 2007 Australia Day address. Howard wanted Australia to become more dominant in the region, and to do that, it was imperative that it was perceived in correct light, which when translated means, necessary changes to aspects of its history.

    Its schools and other learning institutions have constantly found themselves in a challenging position trying to teach a universally accepted version of its history. Australian history as taught in various States is not uniform. The various States have, more likely than not, condemned Australians to learn varied versions of their history resulting in a distorted understanding of themselves. This Howard saw as a problem. Howard could not bear Australians growing up with varying views and perspectives of their own history. He felt it was his duty as Prime Minister, particularly one of the Liberal Party, to rewrite and correct history the one he felt necessary to hold Australia to a new and altered position, an increasingly militarized state, which he envisaged for Australia.

    Most schools do not teach a standardized and universal history of Australia’s neighbors in the region as part of their curriculum, and yet export of education to its neighbors has become a billion dollar industry for Australia. Only a small percentage of the population, including those who have been fortunate to have an overseas education, traveled abroad, or the self-taught, can lay claim to a better understanding of all the varied versions of their own history and that of their neighbors.

    While the ratio of Australians traveling in the last 10 years is notably far greater than at any other time in Australian history owing to the emergence of budget airlines and globalized economies, the understanding of the average Australian of the Pacific, for instance, is severely limited. A noticeably large proportion of Australian adults and school children would not even know the significance of their own Botany Bay for instance, or give a pint about the fact that Edmund Barton popularly taught in most States as the first Prime Minister of Australia may not be the case in actual fact.

    In the case of Barton, many Australians are usually surprised to find out that he was not the first Prime Minister of Australia as they were taught at school to believe. Some do not even know who he is, but that aside, most are even more shocked and horrified to find out that Barton, intimately involved in laying the foundations of their democracy and Federation, was ensnared in something even more startling and sinister. They are usually shocked to learn that embryonic stage of Australia’s birth as a nation smack of bribery, corruption and illegal usurpation of power at the core and foundations of its democracy, and the Barton of all people, was ensnared in the clasps of this, now, ignoble affair.

    It is a cause for great spiritual and moral consternation for Australians to learn that at the very birth of Australia as a nation in 1901, there lies hidden a serious case of bribery and corruption surrounding the office of the Prime Minister by no lesser a person than the then Premier of the then most populous colony of New South Wales, Sir William Lyne. Whilst, it is understandable why such dirty linen may not have seen the light of day in certain popular versions of improved history, yet this is the very sort of historical event that deserves to be properly taught as a universal and historical truth of an event that actually took place involving people who actually lived and played public roles.

    One would have thought that Lyne would have had a movie made of him by now or achieved celebrity status alongside the likes of Ned Kelly, Mickey Burke and the lads of the Mutiny on the Bounty. Perhaps one day he will be the subject of a box office hit or even earn the leading man an Oscar nomination after this exposition because his performance, as you read on, was in every sense as breathlessly bold as it was dashingly daring.

    Be that as it may, as the obscurity of popular and improved Australian history would rather not have the more diligent eye believe, Lyne managed to corrupt Lord Hopetoun, the Queen’s representative (who had just arrived from England with the special Commission to swear in Edmund Barton as Australia’s founding and inaugural Prime Minister), and stole the Prime Minister-ship away from Edmund Barton.

    Lyne met with Lord Hopetoun and, it is believed, that Lyne persuaded or otherwise materially incentivized Lord Hopetoun to shuffle Her Majesty’s Commission in favor of himself. The details of what exact incentives and or promises Lord Hopetoun received from Lyne are not outlined in the annals of history (and again understandably so), but it is not illogical or altogether far-fetched to conclude that it would take quite a lot for a Royal emissary to forgo the direct Commission of Her Majesty the Queen herself.

    Lyne was duly appointed and served as Prime Minister of Australia for no less than 6 days. He resigned from that post voluntarily.

    Most Australians in the know, like Howard, prefer to forget this sordid affair and happily go along with the popular and clean version of Barton as the first Prime Minister- period.

    If stealing a loaf of bread was the reason that most of Lyne’s subjects and compatriots earned their transportation to the Antipodes in the first place, then it is quite obvious that the experience did nothing to reform their basic constitution, character and base tendencies. Immediately upon their arrival on these alien shores of Australia, they carried on slaughtering and imprisoning the Aborigine nations and taking their lands and resources that were not theirs to take. When political opportunism presented itself, even Lyne himself, as Premier of the most populous colony, succumbed to every base means and nature that he was all too familiar with, to usurp political power (un-mandated), by stealing in broad daylight nothing less than the Prime Minister-ship from his mate Edmund, who, Lyne knew the Queen had inaugurated to be the first Prime Minister of the Federation.

    Lyne’s was not the caliber of mate-ship or fair go that Howard was referring to in the 2007 Australia Day speech, although Australians may argue that Lyne was a perfect example of someone having a go himself, and very Australian in every sense of that phrase. Lyne must surely go down in Australian history as one of those very colorful characters, even though his treacherous and seditious actions have permanently marred his name and the birth of Australian democracy.

    This must also go down as the birth of the first bloodless coup de tat in the Pacific. It was certainly the start of all subsequent political coup de tats in the Pacific, seeds of governance gone wrong, of corruption at the highest levels of government and lack of transparency, even on the part of Her Majesty’s own representative to Australia.

    It is now a matter of public record that the first coup de tat in the South Pacific took place in Australia, in the very cusps of its nativity. This is the very version of history that Howard did not want young Australians to learn.

    It was not as if Sir William Lyne was ignorant of Lord Hopetoun’s Royal Commission on arrival in Sydney. It was not as if Sir William Lyne did not know the personal wishes of Her Majesty the Queen concerning Barton, who had earlier led a pro-federation delegation to Buckingham Palace. It was the same Queen whose honor Lyne had earlier sworn to uphold and defend as one of Her Majesty’s brave knights. Yet greed, corruption, lack of governance and transparency begets all men, black white or brindle, let alone those over whose solemn shoulders Her Majesty’s regal sword had once hovered, and passed.

    So there it is for all who care to listen, read, see and understand; that deeply set within the very foundations of Australia’s own democracy there lays in silence, a dark, cold and sinister stone of illegality, greed, unlawful usurpation of power, a seditious seed of coup de tat, corruption, lack of governance and lack of transparency, all the evils Australia seeks to ward the Pacific countries off against. The age old truisms: ‘Sin begets all men… power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ are the banes of all humanity and of all societies, not just of Australia.

    This congenital condition of Australian democracy is yet to be recognized and taught in any uniformity as a fact and an important part of its brief and colorful history. To deny it or cover it up, or pretend this never happened would be a mistake. Heaven is full of sinners, only forgiven. Every great river starts with a trickle, no matter that its beginnings may be muddy at times. Australians must be strong and mature enough to recognize and embrace their own history, no matter how corrupt and contemptuous it may look in hindsight.

    The Pacific region with all its challenges is mature enough to understand that every country has its share of problems and challenges. Every family has its history and every person has a past that they cannot deny or change. For Australia to speak of democracy, transparency and anti-corruption as a new form of democratic morality with any credibility in the region, as it does, it needs to come to terms with and admit that its own democracy is not perfect, and is so far from being a model democracy.

    The revelations of illegality, unlawful usurpation of power and of corruption will forever plague Australia in the Pacific if it fails to tell and teach the truth about itself. Australia’s every endeavor and imposition of moral superiority in the Pacific by claims of transparency, anti-corruption and higher form of governance and responsibility reeks of hollow platitudes without a sound history to support. Australian history will follow every Australian government to every corner of the world and will scream hypocrisy from the back of every press gallery, every conference room, every democracy forum, every human right forum, and at every turn and corner of every shore upon which Australia seeks to parade the colors of its superior form of democratic morality, until it is disarmed, humbled, rescued and granted proper historical perspicacity, by the truth being candidly spoken and taught at its schools.
    Australia seriously needs to take stock of the fact that its nationhood is based on a single act of stealing. Its seat of government and its whole government apparatus and its very existence is based on a criminal act of stealing another man’s land. Even the High Court of Australia in the Mabo case has admitted this.

    It stands as a fact, whether Howard likes it or not, Australia’s convict and criminal history unfortunately has set the DNA profile for it as a nation forever. Until the day greater Australians rise up out of a clear understanding of their history, their moral and spiritual makeup, and seek to redeem themselves by reconciling and connecting to the indigenous generations of Australians, to their untainted story lines and blood lines of ancient make that are intricately connected with the air, the land, the rainforest, the rivers, the rocks, the hills, the desert, the sky, the waterways and the surrounding ocean, to correct the past mistakes of their forefathers; their brief and recent convict history shall remain a colorful and yet tainted past, an aberration, making for an opaque present and an oblique future.

    The story of the convict began in 1770 on Captain Cook’s first voyage to the South Seas that ended up in Botany Bay on the Endeavor. Cook had a travelling companion in Sir Joseph Banks. Upon return to England, Banks suggested to the English aristocracy and the House of Commons in 1779 that since it was not in British interests to sell their criminals and misfits to the Southern colonies of the America, England should set up its own colony of thieves in Botany Bay. The American colonies had by then revolted against Britain and it was neither wise nor ingenious at that time to sell labor to the American colonies which would only serve to profit them economically to wage further war against Britain. By 1783, America declared itself independent.

    Britain had a distinct class system of haves and have-nots. A person fell into one class or another by sheer accident of birth. In the mid-1700s with the advent of industrialization, this situation primed society for high petty crime rates as the majority of citizenry unfortunate to be in the latter category of have-nots resorted to all manner of petty thievery and vice to survive. The rise of agitation against slavery by the likes of William Wilberforce, along with overcrowding issues in prisons, convinced the then government of Britain to transport these petty thieves to Botany Bay by rule of law.

    It would appear to be a somewhat drastic punishment to be taken away from one’s home and family and transported so far away where there was no or very little hope of survival or return. However, penal severity was not something the upper classes batted an eyelid or lost any sleep over. Most prisoners transported were caught with petty theft or other crimes of survival as records today reveal.

    That was the rule of law in England, Scotland and Ireland. The rule of law was a tool for maintaining social order that kept those few fortunate enough to be born into power, privilege and authority in their place at the top and those not so fortunate, perpetually under their feet.

    Banks’ idea of an island colony of thieves far away from the shores of England charmed the British aristocracy to the core and even caught their imagination that perhaps someday the thieves might even flourish and lead respectable lives.

    The rationale behind the sentence of transportation to hard labor for minimum seven, fourteen or twenty-one years were of deterrence. Yet, the very idea of deterrence is laughable today as, if the crimes were against English Scottish Irish or Welsh society, the criminal was nowhere within sight of those societies to serve as a deterrence for others or for the person to return to the same society with less or no propensity for recidivism. In any case the crime was against that particular society, not the society of Aborigines is some faraway lands who were innocently going about their subsistence. Obviously deterrence was not a tool of personal reform nor was it of community benefit and justice because the accused simply got transported to fate unknown. It was clearly rule by sheer terrorism of the subjects, deemed as justice, by English law and society at that time.

    In 1786, the British government commissioned one Arthur Phillip, a retired naval officer to be the first Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief of the new penal colony of New South Wales, which covered much of the east coast of Australia. To enforce his powers there was established a criminal court and appointed unto him a Judge Advocate and six military officers, a civil court with two officers. He ruled over seven hundred fifty convicts that came with the first fleet. The subsequent fleets brought more, and along with this increase was also the increase in numbers of military officers. New South Wales became a police-cum-military run colony. The austere sandstone Barracks in Sydney’s Macquarie Street today bear testament of the militarized nature of the settlement to this very day. Arthur Phillip’s rule was described by that great Australian and historian, Manning Clark, in his book A Short History of Australia as thus:

    ‘It was a government designed to ensure law and order and subordination by terror, a government designed for men living in servitude rather than for free men’.

    Manning Clarke goes further to give the account that the day 20th January 1788 saw the ships of the first fleet safely anchored in Botany Bay. On 26th January 1788, Governor Phillip landed on Sydney Cove and established camp. He commenced his rule by proclaiming various laws for the orderly construction of a new settlement. Any convict found in breach was given hundreds of lashes or even a thousand lashes, and in certain cases executed by public hanging. That was the beginning of convict settlement of Australia.

    It is no wonder that Howard in his 2006 Australia Day Address announced that he wanted to change Australian history by writing a new version that would, perhaps, infuse pride and dignity to a history that is littered with bi-polarizing episodes of criminality, abuse of human rights, use of the rule of law as a tool of oppression of fellow human beings, abuse of power, illegal usurpation of power and stealing of Indigenous peoples lands without their consent.

    It is not particularly a flattering history to be regarded as a nation of thieves, vagabonds and miscreants founded on criminality and its inhabitants continue to live off the proceeds of criminality. It is equally not a flattering history to teach young Australians that, as their convict ancestors unlawfully took the land and resources that was not theirs, they committed a felony, and that the existence of their government is based on a continuous felony. This is not the stuff to write home to your mother about; and certainly not a fitting foundation for building a post- modern state.

    Ever since the ancient Greek scholar Herodotus, a man deeply venerated as the father of history, who died about 425BCE, travelled to Persia and sought to catalogue what caused the war between Greeks and Persians, recorded history has been about the rise and fall of countries and empires. Every country has its own challenges at any given time and as for Rudd, who succeeded Howard as Prime Minister, the challenge was very clear then, as it was for Howard when he was Prime Minister. Both men have perceived at different times that they cannot be Prime Ministers of an Australia that has its foundations deeply rooted in serious criminality, corruption and lack of governance. They clearly feared sooner or later someone would expose this hoax.

    The Rudd government took over from where Howard left off on rewriting history; and to that end rewriting the syllabi, from pre-school to high school. Rudd did in his first one hundred days in office announced that his government was going to revise Australian history and come up with a version of history that was acceptable and respectable and that which puts the emphasis in all the right places. Rudd thus also embarked upon designing a forward looking history.

    Just as Howard had hoped, Rudd hoped and prayed that the new version of history would, like a cannon ball, when fired, will propel Australians to a place that is on par with other peoples of the world. It was hoped that Australians do not have to cringe about their tainted history anymore when the new version surfaced.

    It seems that to Howard and Rudd history is to be treated no different to motor vehicle tyres and plastic surgery. If your car’s tyres are worn, you go and buy new ones, and if you don’t like the look of your nose you go and get it altered by a plastic surgeon. You can get almost anything you want and how you want it in this consumer age, the age of designer babies and relative morality, and why not a new version of history that is groovy and has the nips and the tucks in all the right places?

    Yet there is something not quite right about such a quest when measured against conventional way change takes place in human history. Both Howard and Rudd should know or understand well that in times of war, history was always written by the victorious power. Notwithstanding Herodotus’ seemingly dispassionate observations for the underlying reasons for war, the vanquished is often too ashamed to assert its version of neither the truth nor the atrocities committed by the victorious to secure victory. However, Australia has experienced no such wars or the spilling of blood on its soil to necessitate the change in history or the re-writing of existing history. The only blood spilled then was of the Aborigine man when convicts first took the land, and his blood has birthed the history that Australia currently has. It has suffered no natural disaster or cataclysmic calamity of sufficient proportion since to change history as well as the psyche of a nation ever since Whiteman’s invasion and desecration of Aboriginal soil.

    Like Howard before him, Rudd was left with naked political power to demand a new version of history and force school teachers, who are as excited about it as a herd of castrated bulls in a paddock full of heifers, to teach it. This is totally unheard of in modern times. The problems Australian teachers face with reconciling political expectations of a contrived version and the real versions of history with its attendant issues have recently been eloquently exposited in Zoe Pollock’s book, ‘History’s Children: History Wars in the Classroom’( UniNSW Press).

    The re-writing of history for Howard was also a political exercise by the Australian Liberal Party to come up with a narrative version to be taught that was more allegory of the facts than a version that dealt with the underlying causes or reasons for say, the First and Second World Wars or the War in Iraq, and all the brutal consequences of war that lingers well after the bombs have ceased to fall. A syllabus of history taught in classrooms that dealt with and openly discussed what happens to the defeated or the dispossessed and the social repercussions of such conduct was clearly not in the Liberal Party’s interests. It would seem Howard did not want an Australian public that reasoned the causes and effects of Wars or any other such calamity like the dispossession of Aboriginals from their lands. Such a version of Australia’s history countermanded Howard’s own position on Iraq and on the need for recognition, restitution and an apology to the original Australians for the atrocities visited upon them. To allow another generation of Australians with greater social conscience arguing for wider social justice was something that Howard may have felt untenable as it played into the hands of the Greens and the catholic lined Labor Party.

    For the mostly protestant and private school educated Liberals leaders promoting an allegorical version of history for a narrow outcome of an uneducated population with lack of or shallow reasoning capacities, as a deliberately preferred policy outcome was deeply and disturbingly paradoxical, even if it was an unintended outcome. To some within the Liberal- National coalition (and the public), this would not have sat well, but so was Howard’s blanket stand on gun regulation after the shooting in Port Arthur when Howard had his way. They once again bent their parliamentary and independent convictions and wills to John Winston Howard’s, and embraced party cohesion as a greater good to be maintained than the grotesque policy implications and outcomes of an uneducated population, or a nation built on lies and incorrect versions of history.

    The re-writing of history may also have been thought necessary by Howard to inject by artificial political insemination, pride borne of place, dignity borne of breed and a deep sense of belonging crystallized in a distinct and separate identity as a people, an essential element, that appeared to be absent in the Australian psyche. He would have realized that its cities and suburbs have turned into plantations of horticultural life support systems with its inhabitants imbibing and vegetating daily on a cocktail of drugs, alcohol and media managed world views, with Hollywood’s cultural diatribe of soaps, sitcom, cheap sex and depraved violence to boot, that has numbed the senses of the populous to what is clean, noble, right and decent. Impacting the seat of intelligence, the inner man and his own perception of himself in terms of his regal in being, his nobility of place at the helix of history was seen as a necessary tool of social reform by Howard. It would put the Australian at the apex of the Pacific peoples, from which to judge the world.

    Howard also knew that popular Australian culture mainly revolves around the television, the car, the pub, and sport, all of which are not intrinsically wrong; but essentially British. The largely white population, apart from maintaining the family unit over few selected seasonal holidays or coming together over a beer and a weekend barbie, has little by way of original culture of its own. It has in subjugating the Aborigine as less than human missed the boat on embracing and celebrating over 60,000 years old Aboriginal culture and any synthesis thereof, that could have made Australia a truly unique and colorful place, as the whites did in New Zealand with the Maori and his culture. Hence, the proclamation of the national values of mate-ship and fair go, and this push to artificially inseminate a new version of history was seen by Howard, and later Rudd, as something that was critical to the soul of every Australian and that of their nation at this juncture of history.

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