By Erasmus Baraniak

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 colour 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 sheep skin, until we see real and tangible change toward fairness, equality, social justice, health and education, and human rights being upheld, for Indigenous Australia, boat people 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 therefore  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.



    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.


    With a cursory glance at New Zealand one cannot help but notice the relative strength, resilience and pride of a small country self-evident in the spirit of its people.

    This has not happened overnight. It has evolved as a living testament to a deliberate and conscious social contract by the white population to integrate with the indigenous Maori culture, recognizing its unique and inherent richness and its intrinsic power to hold them, to proudly set them all apart, as New Zealanders together, from the rest of the world.

    Its historical foundation, providing both the legal and moral high point is the Treaty of Waitangi, which remains to this day the beacon of racial equality to all New Zealanders irrespective of colour creed or religious persuasion. The Treaty of Waitangi forms the basis of formal legal recognition of the Maori nations that owned and inhabited the territories prior to the advance of the British.

    Whilst there are continuing challenges to work out in specific aspects of the Treaty, the content of ownership and compensation rights in respect of both land and water; there is no denial as to the historical legal ownership of the lands, seas and waterways by the original Maori inhabitants. This forms the solid back drop to the formal and social acceptance of the whites by the Maori and in turn the Maori and their culture by the whites, as one people- the foundational bedrock on which a nation has been forged.

    The Treaty of Waitangi marks the meeting of equals. It is the starting point from which an ongoing national conversation has evolved and continues to evolve as all New Zealanders, together, confront the legacies of the past and confidently face the challenges of the future and build their nation together.

    In sporting fields like in Rugby League, or in Rugby Union, the All Blacks wearing their predominantly black colors with either a white fern or a kiwi, become the embodiment and the living demonstration of the spirit of New Zealand in the distinctive war cry- the Maori Haka. Every New Zealand representative player, black or white, knows the Haka of the ancient warriors, whose blood runs through their veins, from one generation of warrior men to the next. It has been whispered that the colours immortalize every All Black or Kiwi. They feel the mystical connection to the land, even as the fern that grows on it or the kiwi that inhabits under its towering limbs, both, like the players themselves are sired by that ancient soil now known as New Zealand.

    It happens each and every time they dance the ancient Haka. They feel a quiet hush come over the gallery, like that great white mist that slowly rises above the thermal pools of Rotarua on a winter’s day. The place plays before them like a black and white clip of an old silent movie, in slow motion, and they sailing one of those majestic ancient long canoes into Kaipara Harbour. Then they see it! Behold! There gathered in the surrounding multitudes tattooed and wrinkled faces of their people past and present. The thunder of a great roar goes up and there pressing them and urging them ever upward, and ever onward, unto glory and greatness is the unmistakable deafening cry of the ancients. Today, in this place, at such a time as this, this very moment, the All Blacks know destiny has become them, the past present and future has all become one, intermeshed in them. History has it, many a team of Wallabies and all other wannabies have discovered, their spirits crushed to smithereens with uncompromising ferocity, and as each time and every time, the Haka, like a requiem mass, is stamped on the ground before them; they know within their quivering mortal frames what awaits them.

    In contrast, the Australian players are usually seen simply and nonchalantly standing around, listless, fidgeting or nodding their heads, perhaps wishing they could find something primordial, something ancient, something deep within their culture and psychic to showcase their national spirit in appropriate response to the war cries of those who walk the unbroken line of warriors. Alas! That is not to be.

    Maori language and culture has also come to occupy a very important place in the New Zealand academic syllabus at schools. Children in New Zealand learn both cultures and traditions as part of what it means to be a New Zealander. It is an evolving and yet consciously balanced and ever continuously balancing society.

    In further contrast, in Australia today whilst Aboriginal and Melanesian Torres Strait culture remain the only true and authentic Australian cultural experiences, they have been relegated to obscurity or granted merely ceremonious roles as curious practices of a fringe people that are out there somewhere in the never. For Howard, it seemed the culture of Indigenous Australia did not represent and could never have represented anything beyond the weird mutterings and practices of fringe dwellers or curious tourism show pieces to be brought out in Olympics type gatherings to impress the world, but nothing more. Their spirit remains crushed and subjugated to an extent that their songs will never be sung in their own lands. What Australia could have become with a social contract in the way of New Zealand was not going to be achieved under Howard, and looked very likely to be buried in the sands of time by Rudd and Jenny Macklin, along with the large unfinished part of the sorry business. Certainly Julia Gillard has made no advances on Rudd’s symbolic apology.

    Australia may have a flying kangaroo on the tail of Qantas aircraft, but can objects made of metal; petroleum derivatives and tufts of natural fabrics really by some strange divination become the spirit of a people, or will such forever remain the fantasy of some paisley tied, pin striped suited marketing guru in some cold steel and glass Melbourne board room? Can the perching of young children perilously over the precipice of a cliff, singing verses of an homesick person, ever represent the true spirit of Australia, even if they still called Australia home?

    The earliest manifestations of the true spirit of the vast continent and the rich heritage of continuous communion with the land, Terra Australis, belong in the dreamtime of the Aborigine nations. These nations today have the quiet knowledge of the land, like a mother embracing her new born child and the child’s instinctive knowledge of being and belonging; theirs is a world where words do not exist and if they did, they would be inadequate. Yet their pleas with successive leaders of Australia, as was with Hawke, Keating and Howard, will continue to fall on the deaf ears that possess little or no empathy, no visual ability and imagination to fathom the richness of what Australia really is, and could become.

    Australia has shifted away from celebrating its convict past. The re-enactment of early convict life at the Rocks in Sydney, for example, as a regular event in the 1980s with a cast of a dozen in full period costume and draught horse drawn carts and stocks no longer happens. This may have something to do with the Japanese tourists taking to laughing at the convict story. Although it is not clear that the Japanese were responsible for the reenactments to cease, it was observed that as the true story of Australia unfolded of how the white man took the Aborigine lands and of the abhorrent ways early Australians treated each other and Aborigines, the Japanese would just stand agape like stunned mullets and then burst into incessant grinning and nodding at each other. What they heard of and witnessed in the floggings, hangings, firing squads shooting natives and prisoners, enchainment and locking of persons in stocks and casts, was a direct contradiction to the human rights and POW rights postulations of Australia since the last World War.

    Certainly for all the grandstanding for justice and human rights that Australia promulgates internationally the Japanese are usually astonished that what they just witnessed as a re-enactment did actually take place in what is today a praetor State for democracy.

    The Japanese themselves suffered silently and were even forced to suffer deeper humiliation by attending the Australian Parliament and apologizing to the Australian people for what they did in the Second World War. Against such humiliation to find years later that democracies of the west like Australia who then fought, and still today fight for freedom and democracy, actually harbored dark and tyrannical foundations, shocked the sensibilities of the Japanese tourists. It certainly was not a storyline of mate-ship or someone being given a fair go in the way Howard spoke of so emotively in that 2007 Australia Day speech.

    Australia strangely lives in perpetual denial of its criminal history or other less salubrious practices such as slavery (Black Birding) in the Pacific or repugnant racial policies toward indigenous peoples both of Australia and the Pacific. It is neither polite nor fashionable dinner party conversation to talk about the era of convicts, the era of Australian slave trade in the Pacific or of White Australia Policy; (enunciated by Barton and enthusiastically embraced by Menzies) that subsisted for most of its 200 year history. Most unlike the hidden hand of a puppeteer at work behind the scene, these eras still influences and form the core basis of Australia’s greater world view in the Pacific. Certainly the core values and tenets of its immigration policy and legislation is based on this.

    Babette Smith in her book Australia’s Birthstain speaks of families who deliberately hide their convict origins and of Australian society that has “culturalized” the fear of its own history. In her largely introspective body of work Smith skillfully seeks to expose the reasons why there has always been this…
    ‘fundamental national silence that the convicts as real life characters- whose stories abounded in success, failure, optimism and in tragedy, triumph and pathos- were forgotten? Was it the crimes they committed in Britain? Or did the source of a birthstain so terrible that it must be hidden lie in the penal colonies?’

    Rather than admitting that Australians have been living a lie as to their history, she admits Australians to have suffered from mass amnesia, that Australians merely
    “… suffered a major distortion of their convict history, a distortion that has been accompanied by a desire to avoid the subject altogether if possible”.

    She goes on to outline a string of national events to demonstrate this distortion where convicts did not even feature a mention. The convict has been written out of the official national records, with some records of convicts permanently destroyed.

    Today, the convict is conspicuously missing in what Australia has paraded as part of its history in events such as the Sydney Royal Easter Show or a parody of other national events. The role of convicts as thieves or farm hands tending to the mighty merino sheep of John Macarthur fame, farm produce beside characters such as gold miners and early explorers is no longer the case. They celebrate bush rangers and wood cutters, shearers, gold diggers, early explorers as heroes, notwithstanding that the gold digger and the early explorer was more likely than not out for himself and the bushranger may have been an outright criminal and outlaw.

    Smith, to her personal credit, has courageously and skillfully brought in to the light of day a great and fascinating body of convict history that is thought best forgotten by contemporary thinking of greater Australia, because it reveals the truth of Australia’s deep dark past.

    The early world view of the indigenous inhabitants shared by the convicts and their penal masters, forged largely by open subjugation of the original inhabitant of the continent, as something less than human, still noticeably permeates bi-lateral discourses with Pacific neighbors and the Pacific Forum. This is seen clearly in Australia’s long prevailing attitudes and perceptions that go toward shaping current dialogue in projects, programs and policy initiatives in the region.

    As a case in point, one only has to look at how many years it took, how many Pacific Forum meetings and how many bi-lateral meetings it took, on the subject of seasonal labor from the Pacific, for Australia to finally entertain the idea as a possibility. In all reality Howard’s Australia was extremely reluctant to have little black or brown fellows running around and touching or picking up bits of its fruit on its farms while it is happy for the European and Japanese hands to pick up the same fruits. Perhaps it reminded Howard of the legacy of his country’s Blackbirding days, something he would rather have seen blotted out of the history books.

    Australia would happily allow the sons and daughters of Germans and Japanese touch their fruit on their farms that they would put to their lips and their mouths, and feed their children with, but not the sons and daughters of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels- all at the same time, they wish to enshrine Kokoda as a hallowed place in their history! What unmitigated racism and hypocrisy!

    Australia would have stood firm on preventing the Pacific seasonal labor push except that New Zealand, much to Australia’s chagrin, took leadership of the agenda and agreed to allow the scheme to be trialed by its farmers. Australia was highly embarrassed into capitulation by a smaller country like New Zealand that has already dealt with its racial and black and white issues. Australia was extremely incensed at the political level, but could not show it. New Zealand in this way and in expressing its difference as a people and a nation always presents a very delicate diplomatic predicament for Australia as far as the Pacific is concerned.

    That certainly was not the first time New Zealand has shown up Australia. Among many incidents, two incidents of recent memory stand out.

    Firstly, New Zealand single handedly successfully brokered the formal peace process in Bougainville, initially in mid-1990 by offering and holding peace talks between the leaders of the Bougainville conflict and the Papua New Guinea government aboard the HMNZS Endeavour, while Australia, Bougainville Copper Limited, [majority owned and operated by Anglo-Australian mining giant Conzinc Rio Tinto Australia (CRA)] and CRA who were initially part of creating the problem stood by and did as little as possible.

    By way of background, over 75% percent of profits from the huge Bougainville mine were remitted to or through Australia, its citizens and companies who benefitted immensely through supply, sub-contracting and employment over 15 years from one of the largest copper-gold mines in the world when CRA was effectively operating the mine.

    Bougainville was allowed to develop into an armed conflict that resulted in the loss of thousands of lives and destruction of hundreds of millions of dollars worth property and closure of the Panguna copper mine costing CRA, the State of Papua New Guinea and individual investors Billions of dollars in lost revenue and profits. It remains closed today.

    The seeds of such deadly conflict lie in the manner CRA operated the mine, and both CRA and the PNG Government’s failure to meet and discuss the traditional Landowners’ grievances, again centered largely around the manner in which CRA was operating the mine through the operating company, Bougainville Copper Limited. After experiencing over 15 years of mining, the Landowners soon saw that their natural and social environment was being destroyed beyond repair with very little corresponding wealth to them forthcoming as was promised before the open cut mine began. The social fabric of their society was destroyed, the birds were gone, the fish no longer swam in the rivers and the sea was slowly but surely being poisoned. They wanted to talk to CRA and their government to air their grievances and find solutions. Neither CRA nor their government, both as shareholders and signatories to the Bougainville arrangements, find time to meet, despite of the Bougainville Agreement and the statutory laws constituting that Agreements called for such meetings to review the landowner arrangements and address any on-going concerns.

    CRA and the government let the people down. The Australian Government viewed this solely as an internal law and order problem, thereby plunging the seeds of discord further into Bougainville’s shimmering magma of malcontent, forcing the landowners to the point of germinating armed agitation.

    It is a little known fact that in 1989, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, then Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea and his then Finance Minister Paul Pora, before the situation in Bougainville blew its top and became an entrenched full scale armed conflict, met with the landowners of the Panguna mine and gauged very quickly that they could avert full closure of the mine, restore order and resolve the outstanding issues with a suitable compensation package.

    Namaliu and Pora, both highly buoyed by the talks with the landowner leaders on Bougainville, approached the Australian government and CRA Board to match the K45million package that the Papua New Guinea government had appropriated for the purpose. CRA refused to come to the party and the Australian government took the view that the local people of Bougainville (who owned the land on which the huge mine stood) were nothing more than common criminals that required subjugation by the strongest arm of the law. If Sir Rabbie and Minister Pora expected a certain level of mate-ship or fair go for the land owners of Bougainville from the Australian government or CRA, they were to be bitterly disappointed. Much to the dismay of Sir Rabbie and Paul Pora, Australia conveniently preferred to view it as a Papua New Guinean internal law and order problem wherein the natives needed to be subjugated. Even John Ralph, the CRA nominated Bougainville Copper Limited Chairman who possessed intimate understanding of the issues did not even raise a finger.

    The issues raised by the landowners were justifiably related to the mining activities of CRA. The Land owners objected to CRA’s environmental practices and the destruction of their way without proportionate compensation to them. There were also discrepancies with compensation packages that the colonial Australian government had negotiated with people who were not the true landowners of Panguna. As time went by the discrepancies became more and more apparent and this early mistake of the Australian colonial administration came back to haunt the government of Papua New Guinea and the company. It clearly was not a law and order issue as it was made out to be by CRA and the Australian government. It was an issue of environmental mismanagement coupled with an issue with recognition and rewarding of the wrong people where the real landowners, in particular the womenfolk of matrilineal society were not given a fair go on.

    CRA and successive Papua New Guinea governments failed to review the Bougainville Agreements on two occasions of six year intervals in the 1980s; which would have provided the forum for landowners as original stakeholders to air their grievances on many issues including the pollution by CRA of the Jaba River and the destruction of their traditional lifestyle.

    The subsequent events are now matters of history, save to say that an attempt by British interests (and the newly elected Chan/Haiveta government of Papua New Guinea) to launch the now infamous bold covert operation to carpet bomb and totally annihilate the population of Bougainville to re-take the Panguna mine in March 1997, springing the Sandline Affair, now stands as a chilling reminder to all, of the ever present darker side of humanity and of government assisted corporate greed.

    The operatives of the mercenary army had strong connections to the British Government and it is doubtful that the Australian government was, again, as ignorant of the genesis of the operation as it subsequently conveniently claimed to be granted the long standing intelligence sharing arrangements between the British and Australian government intelligence arms. As a matter of fact the much celebrated foreign correspondent Sean Dorney in his book aptly titled – The Sandline Affair, reveals prior monitoring by Australian Intelligence on the ground through the various eaves dropping mechanisms they already have on the government offices of Papua New Guinea, through telephone traffic listening centers and through human spying operatives coordinated by the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby. Sean Dorney further reveals in his book that the Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer was made aware of the events surrounding the engagement by the Government of Papua New Guinea of mercenaries for Bougainville, through the spying operations in Port Moresby by Australia and through private briefing of events by the ABC’s Mary Louise O’Callaghan.

    Mr Downer, on his departure after a 3 day visit to Papua New Guinea, on 21st February 1997 urged the Chan-Haivata government of Papua New Guinea not to change direction with its Bougainville Policy. He urged the government to pursue the course already set by it.

    Although Downer may have been referring to the course of peace, those who know about Australia’s spying operations in the country, which would include every government Minister and every person in the know in Port Moresby, this may well have been an open and clear endorsement of the Chan government’s planned mercenary operation on Bougainville. After all, no one else knew of what transpired in an earlier one on one meeting between Downer and Chan. Chan’s subsequent revelation in a televised news conference that Downer was certainly not ignorant and that he already knew what was going on. This seems to lend credence to the possibility of a possible tacit support of the Chan government’s plans by Australia. Chan also revealed that he had earlier informed Howard by telephone of the Sandline contract while Downer was visiting at the Waigani Parliament House. It is therefore reasonable to assume that Downer’s farewell endorsement was a reference to the government’s plans in respect of the engagement of Sandline and to annihilate Bougainvilleans.

    Indeed to the Chan-Haiveta government they took this as positive endorsement from Australia for the course of engaging Sandline, and to the Bougainvillean leadership, they also took this as a positive message for peace initiatives, except subsequent events were to reveal that they were both contemplating two separate policies. Whichever way it all played out Downer flew back to Canberra in his airforce jet to patiently await the outcome.

    The stage was set for the carpet bombing and mass slaughter of Bougainvilleans, had it not been for a man of conscience, a man endowed with nerves of steel, and an indelible understanding of honor and service, called Jerry Singirok. He took an oath to protect his country, and this he did. The rest is, again, history as they say.

    It was only after New Zealand’s initial intervention to secure peace and normality in Bougainville that Australia later hosted the Cairns and Townsville peace meetings. New Zealand through the tireless efforts of Hon. Jim McKinnon, initially as Member of Parliament and subsequently in serving as Secretary General of the South Pacific Forum, brought about cease fire and a Pacific Peace Keeping Force as a precursor to settlement and return to normalcy on those Islands of sorrow.

    After peace was secured, the Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer ran around like a cat with its tail on fire with a cheque book in hand trying to look and sound as important as possible. Australia was quietly seen languishing in the reserves bench while New Zealand throughout the crisis took a leadership role. Howard and Downer were never in sight in the Pacific during that part of their reign, let alone in Bougainville when the people were suffering for a cause that Australia was perceived as having helped create, and could have helped avert earlier in the piece. The unobservant eye would have been very impressed by that little latterly cheque book waving dance by Downer, but thankfully in the Pacific we don’t miss much when it comes to appreciating the difference between form and substance.

    The second occasion, in which New Zealand took leadership over indigenous Pacific Affairs, and led Australia, was in relation to Fiji. Australia had driven Fiji into the arms of China and this recently caused the US to, for the first time, intervene in the Pacific Forum dialogue to separately engage with Pacific countries. New Zealand had the unenviable task of saving Australia’s face over Fiji by being the first to open diplomatic relations with Fiji and ushering Fiji back into the commonwealth and the Forum. The Fiji Foreign Minister has not indicated whether it wants to accept New Zealand and Australia’s supplications, and has opted to take advice on it.

    New Zealand and what it stands for understands the Pacific people better than Australia has ever been in a position to do. How New Zealand plays its hand in the Pacific in the long term will define how it is perceived, whether as Australia’s hand maiden, messenger or puppet.

    There is always the other option for New Zealand to assert an independent position as a unique people with a unique place in the region – thus rejecting the ‘me too’ tag it presently enjoys.

    Certainly Pacific Islanders and Melanesians in particular, have a better rapport with New Zealanders, and New Zealanders are not racist and Australians can sometimes come across. In construction fields and in enterprises that require expat leaders and supervisors, most Melanesians respond well, work harder and longer hours for a Kiwi supervisor than they would do for an Australian. That difference may have something to do with the Treaty of Waitangi.

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