Originally published in The Examiner 14 July 2020 (Available here)
Child abuse. It makes your skin crawl. It's difficult to imagine anything worse. Children having their innocence callously denied them in the most heinous manner possible by self-absorbed predators.
Your repulsion, my repulsion, indeed society's repulsion at child abuse is so strong we rightly demand unambiguous punishment for perpetrators and the strongest protection for our vulnerable children.
Yet too often our legal system appears to side with the perpetrator and vague prospects of rehabilitation rather than expressing abhorrence and adopting a precautionary principle for the protection of our most precious ones.
Senator Claire Chandler, my Tasmanian Liberal Senate colleague, told the Senate recently, "From 1st February 2014 to 31st January 2019, 40 per cent of Commonwealth child sex offences did not result in a custodial period. For those offenders who did receive a custodial sentence during this time, the most frequent custodial period recorded was just six months."
This judicial failure to appropriately sentence, punish and send a loud, clear message of deterrence to perpetrators or would-be perpetrators is of catastrophic proportions. Which is why the Liberal governments (both state and federal) committed to legislating for mandatory sentencing. The courts having failed, the community rightly wanted action. And so it was that at the last elections (state and federal) the Liberals adopted firm policy platforms for mandatory sentencing for child sex offenders.
Our policy was based on a commitment to protect our children against the horrific statistics that last year saw the Australian Federal Police receive almost 18,000 reports of child exploitation involving Australian children or Australian child sex offenders. These statistics are horrific in themselves. But they aren't just numbers. Even more horrific is the consideration that each number represents a violated life. And the numbers are rapidly rising; confirming the sentencing approach currently adopted is not working.
The legislation to give expression to society's demand for penalties to protect our children was contained in Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes Against Children and Community Protection Measures) Bill 2019. Readers will be surprised and concerned to learn that it was only their Tasmanian Liberal representatives that voted for these vital child protection measures. Labor, Greens and independents opposed the mandatory sentencing provisions thus seeing the defeat of the legislation.
Labor reluctantly allowed the measures through after the Liberal government immediately reintroduced them. The Greens and independents continued to oppose. Talk about misguided writ large.
Under federal law our children now have the protection so desperately needed. In Tasmania under state law our children are still being denied.
For Tasmanian children, it's a different story. The Labor party, Greens and independents are continuing to refuse to implement the Liberals' clear policy platform of delivering protection for our most vulnerable.
In my life as a lawyer, I represented countless victims of child abuse whose lives were wrecked and tormented. From substance abuse attempting to dull the pain, committing crimes and complete disregard for any authority figures, to an incapacity to form a lasting stable relationship, the damage caused by child abuse is like a wrecking ball crashing through most, if not every, aspect of the lives of victims.
Today, as a senator, I have victims' files seeking recognition of, and compensation for, that which they so devastatingly endured.
The personal and economic cost to individuals, families and our community is immeasurable. The facts, the figures, the anecdotal stories are there for all who want to know.
Child abuse devastates lives for life. The impact lingers and debilitates. The punishment of perpetrators needs to be not only proportionate to the life-long, life-shattering impact of their selfish actions to give a sense of justice to the victims but also needs to act as a forceful deterrent.
The victims are entitled to know that the community and justice system is on their side. Mandatory sentencing is the community's expression of support to the victims given the justice system has failed them.
Surely, there is nothing more important than protecting our children. In blocking mandatory sentencing the current Parliament wrongly sided with the perpetrators' interests rather than the victims' interests.
The Rosevears election on August 1 provides an opportunity for the community to express its view on an issue of paramount importance - protecting our children. If that is the only issue on which Rosevears electors cast their ballot and on which the newly elected member votes, they will have made a significant and worthwhile difference - one that will endure for generations and for which countless children will be eternally grateful.
The scourge of child abuse needs to be removed from our society. Mandatory sentencing is a worthy start.
Electors of Rosevears should ask each of the candidates if they support the Gutwein Liberal policy of getting tough on child sex offenders.
Originally published in The Examiner 30 June 2020 (Available here)
"It's moments like these you need Minties" ... or not, if you're councillor Mike Wilson in Tasmania's most southern council (Huon Valley).
Can you believe your taxpayer dollars were spent on an inquiry into whether mints are or are not handed out at the start of Huon Valley Council meetings?
Of such great moment is this issue that a Code of Conduct complaint was made against Councillor Mike Wilson. The allegation? He lied about whether mints were handed out or not. Momentous stuff.
First, who would care, let alone think, to elevate such a matter to an official complaint? It was Mr Swan - a serial complainant and each time he complains it costs his fellow ratepayers money that should be spent on potholes.
Second, how could a self-respecting Code of Conduct Panel seriously entertain such a complaint? It should have been rejected.
Instead, the panel pontificated over the significance of this matter and thankfully determined to dismiss it.
Mr Swan also laid complaints against another popular Huon Valley councillor Mick Newell for calling him a "bloody coward" and a "parasite" and for being part of a Facebook group which "calls out the Huon Valley's biggest whinger". Cr Newell also referred to a "faceless group of people" at a council meeting. It seems Mr Swan self-identified although not being named.
All that said, Mr Swan labelled fellow ratepayers as telling "a blatant lie ... and they both know it" at a Legislative Council Committee hearing with the benefit of Parliamentary privilege. It seems what was good for the goose wasn't so good for the Swan.
Luckily I'm a senator and can call this nonsense out without having the panel shut me down for six weeks for giving expression to the views of constituents (the fate meted out to Councillor Newell).
In a robust democracy, people don't sit in circles holding hands humming flower power tunes. They will engage, disagree and yes, use colourful language. The electors will determine whether they like or appreciate that style.
It's not for a panel to pontificate about whether a democratically elected councillor's choice of language was appropriate.
After receiving 5000 votes, Councillor Newell should be able to determine, as will the voters, whether or not he demonstrated good judgement or "poor judgement" as determined by the panel. We have publicly funded panellists determining whether or not a type of language displays good or poor judgement. Pass me another Mintie.
I'm sure none of the panel members have ever exhibited poor judgement in their utterings.
Come on - we all have and more than once. But to suspend a councillor for six weeks from his democratically elected role because he called someone a few choice words is laughable.
Sir Robert Menzies referred to his opponents as "faceless". Bob Hawke referred to an older gentleman as a "silly old bastard". And they're the more printable ones. Just imagine this panel suspending Mr Menzies or Mr Hawke.
Thankfully state and federal parliamentarians don't have such stifling provisions, which would see most of us suspended and in fact would even see many letters to the editor being discarded.
And just in case the discerning The Examiner reader is thinking "typical silly Southerners ", the same problem alas festers in our northern woods as well. Just ask the highly popular Dorset mayor, Greg Howard (who has faced similar issues), or every other northern council other than the West Tamar Council where mayor Christina Holmdahl keeps the peace and Flinders Island.
In fairness to the panel though, it needs to administer the law which includes Part 7 of the Local Government (Model Code of Conduct) Order 2016, which requires that only saints run for local government. You see, according to Part 7 C1 1(b) "A councillor must not cause any reasonable person ... embarrassment".
How often are we embarrassed when reminded of misdeeds? I'm sure Labor was embarrassed when told they were run by "faceless" men and the old fellow in the Adelaide shopping mall being referred to on National TV as a "silly old bastard" was embarrassed.
And feeling "embarrassed" can be as simple as feeling "awkward" associated with mild levels of discomfort.
Tidying up the public discourse is always laudable. It's not for the strictures of official regulations imposed by one level of government (which doesn't bind itself by those standards) on to another.
The Code of Conduct Panel provisions need removal or at least a significant overhaul as otherwise these matters will ultimately end up in the High Court at great expense, which may well confirm an implied freedom of speech.
The current review of the Local Government Act needs to deal with this issue. Hopefully, someone will hand out the mints along with some common sense.
Originally published in The Examiner 16 June 2020 (Available here)
A civil democratic society is a fragile flower which relies on people exercising the virtues of self-discipline and self-restraint.
Virtues which were disappointingly absent in the considerations of those organising the recent copy-cat black lives matter street marches.
For the record, surely no-one thinks that black lives do not matter.
The recent narcissistic, self-indulgent, virtue signalling, self-righteous black lives matter protests are to be condemned given the current pandemic we face.
In a democracy, we celebrate the freedom of people with all manner of views having the right to show their support or opposition for a particular issue, subject to consideration for their fellow citizens.
At a time when we deny the bereaved from gathering to farewell a loved one, the faithful from attending worship services and people from attending Anzac Day marches (when we commemorate those who paid the ultimate sacrifice so we still have the freedom to demonstrate) it was as disappointing as it was predictable to witness the Left so defiantly virtue signal at the expense of others.
The Chief Medical Officer urged people not to attend gatherings "of any kind, including protests".
The advice could not have been clearer or more urgent unlike the purpose or need for the protest.
Ostensibly people marched for black lives while knowing full well their actions could prejudice black lives the most and set back our economic recovery.
They put virtue signalling before responsibility or reason.
The left-wing who once agreed that a lockdown (is) 'the right move to minimise loss of life' and also agreed that the 'risk lingers of an even deadlier second wave' cynically turned around stating that the 'protests must be managed with pragmatism and a sense of history.'.
If the Left didn't have double standards they'd have no standards at all.
The vast bulk of Australians are justifiably dismayed at the authorities who justified fining an old lady sitting on a park bench by herself wearing a mask as an egregious threat to public health but approved gatherings of thousands where social distancing was defiantly ignored.
Whatever the motivation - be it weakness or wokeness - it definitely was not wisdom.
Consistency, let alone equality before the law are concepts that seemingly are no longer in vogue with some authorities.
If you want to gather, simply tell the authorities it's a 'protest.'
So 'protest' your religious fervour by gathering in your church or chapel, 'protest' your loved ones passing at a funeral, 'protest' your commitment to citizenry at your service club's next meeting or 'protest' your solidarity with our veterans with an Anzac Day march- after all, they ironically protected those protestors' freedoms to march!
Have our authorities really descended to this?
History will rightly judge the protesters and the weak leadership that enabled the marchers as exposing everything which is wrong with woke identity politics.
As to the issue of the protest.
The rate of black deaths in custody in Australia is no greater than those of different colour. Yes, their incarceration rate is greater.
Is this because of racial bias or because they've been convicted of crimes often perpetrated against their own?
A similar argument could be offered for white males who are clearly over-represented in gaols in comparison to their female counterparts.
Is this indicative of the systemic oppression of white males?
Of course not. But I would like to see the Left argue that one.
Setting up unsustainable arguments does not assist the cause.
Failure to take responsibility for one's actions doesn't assist the cause. Rallying when everyone else is sacrificing by abiding by social distancing requirements to protect the vulnerable including our indigenous brothers and sisters does not assist the cause.
Racism in all its forms needs to be unequivocally condemned, as does the selfish virtue signalling of the demonstrators.
Originally published in The Examiner 2nd June 2020 (Available here)
The insidious tentacles of the Communist Chinese dictatorship need to be reined in. And quickly.
The world has witnessed and experienced the ugliness and reach of the dictatorship with the devastation of COVID-19. Hundreds of thousands killed. Millions of livelihoods destroyed. All the while it ensured the World Health Organisation was its ventriloquist doll – run by a Marxist from Ethiopia whom it helped get appointed.
The denials, belligerence and obfuscation by the dictatorship’s ambassador in Australia were yet another display of the ugliness.
Five days ago Beijing unilaterally passed draconian oppressive rules against the people of Hong Kong through the so-called National Security Act in direct breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. This fundamental breach of the Declaration calls into question the regime’s commitment to stand by any agreement it has signed. The heavily armed crackdown and arrest of people (including children) protesting these draconian laws should send a shiver down the spine of freedom-loving people throughout the world.
And in the mix is the dictatorship’s approach to our barley and meat – slapped with a huge tariff after Australia had the “audacity” to ask for an independent enquiry into COVID-19. Their bully tactics unashamedly put on display for all to see and observe. Stand up to the dictatorship and there will be consequences.
All this is part of a disturbing trend that aims to suppress freedom and exert control over other nations.
The conversion of the South China Sea Islands into a massive and aggressive military base is yet another blatant example of the regime’s disregard for international law and sensitivities of other nations.
Its human rights record toward its people is just as reprehensible. Ask the Christians, the Uighurs, the Falun Gong, the Dalai Lama or any dissident. Not to mention the forced human organ transplants from prisoners of conscience. A matter on which the China Tribunal under Sir Geoffrey Nice QC recently made some damning findings.
The best, indeed only, way to defeat a bully is to stand up to them. The longer you leave it the harder it becomes because they become emboldened by each unchallenged act of aggression.
The bullying is so much more difficult to counter when mixed with charm and largesse. China’s outreach program, along with its Belt and Road Initiative, has seen numerous nations ensnared by indebtedness to the regime. They wake up when it’s too late, like Sri Lanka with its port.
How did all this come to pass? Too many believed that with China’s emergence from isolation and its economic liberalisation there would follow personal and democratic reforms as well. For a while, this was the case and many (including myself) were lured into a too trusting attitude toward the regime.
Some of us woke up earlier than others. Former Minister Senator Fierravanti-Wells (responsible for Pacific Island affairs) called out China’s Belt and Road Initiative and its provision of loans that severely compromised the independence of the Pacific Islands. At the time she was repudiated by her senior Minister Julie Bishop.
Similarly, I recall telling the Party Room in Canberra I would cross the floor if an extradition treaty with China (as advocated by then Prime Minister Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop) was to proceed. Similar repudiation and retribution followed. Our views are now mainstream.
In the face of all this overwhelming evidence, how can Labor in Victoria sign up to the Belt and Road Initiative, the details of which are hidden from the public and flies in the face of our national interest?
Freedom is fundamental. Advocates for freedom cannot sit idly by as a dictatorship breaches not only widely accepted standards but repudiates its own written agreements. Only a multi-lateral approach can rein in such a rogue regime. It was done with the Soviet Union. It can be done again.
We need freedom-loving countries and even some of the not so freedom-loving ones to unite to rein in the ugly repressive Marxist regime under which the Chinese people suffer. There is no time to waste.
SENATOR THE HON. ERIC ABETZ
LIBERAL SENATOR FOR TASMANIA
24th May 2020
Abetz joins international call to protect Hong Kong from communist China
Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz has added his weight as a former Senate leader and current Chair of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Committee to a list of international signatories calling on the Chinese Communist dictatorship to honour its agreement to protect the freedoms and liberties of the Hong Kongers.
The 201 Parliamentarians and policymakers from 23 different countries around the world (of which Senator Abetz is one) have publicly called on the Chinese Communist dictatorship to honour the Sino-British Joint Declaration which was part of the arrangement of China regaining control of Hong Kong from Britain.
The unilateral introduction of national security legislation in Hong Kong is a fundamental breach of the Declaration and calls into question the Chinese Communist dictatorship’s commitment to stand by its agreements, Senator Abetz said.
This latest action by China is part of a disturbing trend that aims to suppress freedom and exert control over other nations. We must remain vigilant to the increasingly insidious influence that China tries to exert domestically here in Australia (as seen with Victoria’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative) and on the international stage.
Freedom is fundamental. Advocates for freedom cannot sit idly by as a dictatorship breaches not only widely accepted standards but repudiates an agreement to which it is a signatory.
Having met with pro-democracy representatives from Hong Kong, I have heard firsthand their inspirational and principled commitment to protecting the freedoms which they were promised by China. China needs to honour its commitments if it is in any way concerned about its standing as a keeper of its agreements.
I am heartened so many have signed the statement from diverse countries and political persuasions which indicates the gravity of the breach of commitment by China.
The senator calls on all freedom-loving countries and parliamentarians to add their name to the list and be counted.
The joint statement from 201 Signatories:
We, the co-signed, write to express grave concerns about the unilateral introduction of national security legislation by Beijing in Hong Kong. This is a comprehensive assault on the city’s autonomy, rule of law, and fundamental freedoms. The integrity of one-country, two-systems hangs by a thread. It is the genuine grievances of ordinary Hong Kongers that are driving protests. Draconian laws will only escalate the situation further, jeopardising Hong Kong’s future as an open Chinese international city.
If the international community cannot trust Beijing to keep its word when it comes to Hong Kong, people will be reluctant to take its word on other matters. Sympathetic governments must unite to say that this flagrant breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration cannot be tolerated.
Labor’s growing conga line of apologists for the communist dictatorship in China needs to be brought into line by Labor leader Anthony Albanese according to Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz.
Senator Abetz is the Chair of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Legislation Committee.
The antics in Victoria yesterday with yet another State Labor minister defending the indefensible and avoiding scrutiny of State Labor’s funny money deal with the Chinese communist dictatorship needs to be unequivocally repudiated by Mr Albanese.
If Mr Albanese wants any credibility as a leader who will put Australia first, he needs to publicly disown and repudiate the ever-growing number of these apologists in his party.
From influential former Premier Bob Carr and former Senator Dastyari in NSW to powerbroker Senator Kim Carr, State Treasurer Tim Pallas and Ministerial colleague Jacinta Allan in Victoria, not to mention Premier Andrew's unconscionable decision to embrace the communist dictatorship’s Belt and Road Initiative, the line is growing by the day. And it needs to be stopped.
The recent kowtowing, grovelling pro-communist China speech by powerbroker Senator Carr in recent times together with the Victorian treasurer's outrageous and unacceptable speech in effect backing China over Australia, over our, and indeed Victoria’s very own barley, exports have been met with a paralysed silence from Anthony Albanese.
These are half a dozen highly influential Labor figures who seem to be more comfortable talking up the Chinese dictatorship’s interests in Australia than they are in promoting their own nation’s interests and its values. All the while Mr Albanese sits quietly by, seemingly impotent to deal with them.
The Australian people are entitled to know where the Leader of the Opposition and his party stand. Do they stand with Australia and its interests or this group of severely misguided, yet influential Labor figures?
Originally published in The Examiner 19th May 2020 (Available here)
The story of Teddy Sheean is the stuff of folk-lore. It will continue to be celebrated, honoured and passed down to future generations with or without a VC. But future generations will be right to ask why and by whom the independent tribunal’s findings recommending a VC for Sheean were rejected.
The rejection of the tribunal’s unanimous recommendation is wrong. Wrong as a matter of process and outcome.
The public advocacy for a VC while well-motivated had the potential to demean the currency of the award. It shouldn’t be a popularity contest. It shouldn’t be determined by the mob. Such a highly regarded award needs to be carefully and soberly considered to protect its currency. Invidious comparisons, details determined and one assumes even confidential records scoured are all part of the process.
Given the public support and campaign for a VC for Teddy Sheean, it was right and proper that the matter was referred to an independent tribunal.
The issue needed to be elevated above a demeaning popularity contest. It was.
We were all therefore duty-bound to respect and accept the decision of the tribunal (irrespective of its finding) unless some egregious fault in procedure or determination could be identified. No such egregious failing has been asserted. Accordingly, the finding needs to be honoured and a posthumous VC awarded to Teddy Sheean.
In 1999 I read into the Senate Hansard the Teddy Sheean story as told in HMAS Armidale – The Ship That Had To Die by F.B Walker:
"Ted Sheean, just 27 days short of his 19th birthday, could see his shipmates were being ripped to bits. His ship was being attacked by Japanese warplanes.
“He was himself unwounded and could have scrambled to some sort of shelter. He could have dived overboard and trusted to luck by duck-diving to escape the bullets.
“He did none of those things. Instead he scrambled back to the Oerlikon gun abaft the bridge, a distance of some 10 difficult and hazardous metres, thrust his shoulders into the semi-circular grips at the rear of the gun and strapped himself in.
“The ship was sinking fast. It was only three minutes since the first torpedo struck until she vanished. The moment Sheean fastened that strap he must have known he would go down with the ship.
“He poured stream after stream of 20mm shells at the strafing Japanese fighters and sent one cartwheeling into the sea. A Zero flashed in, its guns blazing, and slashed Sheean's chest and back wide open.
"With blood pouring from his wounds Sheean kept fighting, forcing some of the Japanese planes to sheer away. The ship was now sinking fast and the water was lapping Sheean's feet but still he kept firing.
“The men in the water gasped in amazement as they saw the bloodstained, desperate youngster wheel his gun from target to target, his powerless legs dragging on the deck.
“Then came the most incredible sight of all. The ship plunged down and the sea rose up past Sheean's waist to his shattered chest. Still he kept firing. As the gun was dragged into the sea its barrel kept recoiling and shots kept pouring from it.
“Even when there was nothing left of the ship above water, tracer bullets from Sheean's gun kept shooting from under the water in forlorn, bizarre arcs."
It was, said author Walker, an act of sublime, selfless heroism.
"It was not the result of years of training and discipline—Sheean had been in the Navy only a few short months," Walker said. "He was not acting on orders. It was his decision and his alone. It was not a question of duty—the order to abandon ship had been given and he was free to try to save his own life.
He chose to try to save the lives of shipmates and to inflict as much damage on the enemy as he could. It was valour above and beyond the call of duty."
More recently I pursued the issue of the release of the tribunal’s funding’s at the last Senate Estimates in February.
It’s not too hard to understand why the tribunal found as it did. What is hard to understand is the decision to reject its findings. One suspects Sheean’s heroism and sacrifice will live on in our folklore a lot longer than those that denied him a VC.
Arguing against protection for religious freedom is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, given its overwhelming acceptance. Therefore resort is had to outright untruths and gross misrepresentations both of which were littered throughout Mr Croome's contribution along with the all too prevalent sneering and belittling of people of faith.
First, the pandemic rules of social distancing apply to all. The proposed Bill will not alter that for the future in any way shape or form.
Why the contrary is falsely asserted can only be based on gross ignorance or malicious mischief-making. To suggest anyone of faith could or would deny a COVID 19 vaccine injection is fanciful.
Suggesting a doctor of faith would tell a COVID19 patient they are "sinful or bound for Hell" is fanciful on steroids.
But these myths must be pedalled to try to justify the unjustifiable. A sure sign of the desperation of the campaign seeking to deny people this basic human right.
Secondly, the medical personnel in any hospital or aged care facility (faith-based or otherwise) are required to be fully medically qualified for their relevant role. This, of course, will not change.
To falsely suggest they will be chosen on religious belief and not competence has no basis. Newsflash ... you can be both qualified and a person of faith. They are not mutually exclusive.
Thirdly, to bizarrely suggest COVID19 sufferers would get lesser treatment at a Catholic hospital is an ugly throwback to the sectarianism which has thankfully long been discarded by mainstream society especially those who genuinely believe in equality and don't just virtue signal with the title while campaigning for the opposite.
Or to suggest "The people who will suffer most from derogatory and humiliating statements will be those who fall foul of traditional religious beliefs... like people with disability" is perhaps the most ignorant statement out of many.
Centuries ago it was people of faith that created hospitals and cared for the disabled and vulnerable when the rest of society would leave them to suffer and die. It took many years before the governments of the day started to provide this type of support.
The legacy of faith-based charities lives on today as they are amongst the largest providers in the world of healthcare, education and care for those with disabilities.
Fourthly, the derogatory descriptors employed against people of faith such as "more holy", "most pious" and "prejudice" exposes the ugly underbelly of so-called "equality" advocates. They disparagingly seek to divide Australians against people of faith.
"Diversity" was all the rage for the "equality" campaigners at one stage. Now it seems some diverse beliefs are more equal than others.
When an Archbishop can be dragged before a Discrimination Commission for promoting his Church's teachings which was accorded with the law of the land you know there is a defect in our laws - a major defect.
The recent increase in litigation against those expressing their religious beliefs is now becoming an alarming trend that spares no-one, whether you are a professional rugby player, medical worker or a school in Ballarat employing teachers who uphold the school's beliefs.
In the USA, Christian baker Jack Philips' case was taken all the way to the Supreme Court after he refused to bake a cake that supported same-sex marriage. Only last month he has been targeted and sued again, this time for not baking a cake celebrating a "gender transition." There is a clear and urgent need to protect freedom of religion.
Religious freedom is a fundamental human right guaranteed in our common law and more recently enunciated very clearly in a plethora of international human rights treaties. The fact Mr Croome failed to mention either is telling.
The lack of protections for religious freedom has been rightly identified by the Australian Human Rights Commission as a major gap in our laws. The Liberal Government is correctly committed to rectifying this omission in our laws.
A simple reminder to all... the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states very clearly in Article 18: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion...and...to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."
Seeking to deny religious freedom is akin to denying freedom of thought and conscience as well. That is why protecting religious freedom actually protects all of us from authoritarian forces.
Opinion piece published in The Examiner, 4 May 2020 (available here).
Captain James Cook's world-class navigational skills changed the world when he landed at Botany Bay in April 1770.
This historic and heroic achievement is worth celebrating even after 250 years. The fact it was not celebrated as it should've been is to be regretted. Not only was it a class act of navigational expertise for the era. It was also a world-changing event.
As our national treasure and pre-eminent historian, Prof Geoffrey Blainey AC said: Captain Cook
"...indirectly made possible present-day Australia which, despite its many failures, is surely one of the success stories of the world."
Australia as a modern nation 250 years after Cook's magnificent discovery stands amongst the best, if not the best, in the world. Blessed with a civil society, a democratic constitutional monarchy, rule of law, personal freedoms, peace, and comparative wealth untold, we are home to a nation full of people from the four corners of the world living in harmony. It's no secret we are the envy of the world. And for good reason. Their judgement and assessment of us as a people and a country of opportunity is not wrong.
Cook and his crew would never have been able to imagine what their discovery would usher in. For his time Captain Cook's advancement through the ranks was an exception as he came from humble beginnings working on the ships delivering coal from Yorkshire to London. His sheer capacity and personal skills allowed him to advance and be the quite rightly celebrated hero navigator of his era. His achievements based on the opportunities afforded him based on merit is worthy of celebration and passing down to the next and following generations.
Failing to pass on the history of this giant and his integral involvement in the establishment of modern Australia is to do not only Captain Cook and his crew a disservice but an especially huge disservice to our children who are entitled to know the history of their nation.
And let's remember, Captain Cook set out on a voyage of scientific and geographic exploration - not invasion. He was a man of his time, not ours. As such his legacy must be viewed in that context.
We should never reduce our nation's great history to a narrow grievance fault-finding focus. Our history, like that of every country (and indeed every individual), has its unattractive elements. But these elements should never be allowed to define our national narrative given we and our forebears have achieved so much.
As predictable as night follows day so there are the few who seek to shroud the Cook achievements in darkness with a smattering of alleged negative missteps. In doing so they very capably look past the log in their own eye to identify a speck (real or more likely imaginary) in Cook's. The one imponderable question the naysayers will never dare to ask, let alone answer is: But for the Cook discovery and English settlement what would've been the destiny of this great south land?
The meeting and indeed clash of cultures 250 years ago can't be undone. While a few busy themselves feverishly finding fault with our past, true leaders busy themselves building for the future.
As a migrant from a non-English speaking background, I for one am thankful for Cook and his legacy. It should be celebrated. So from me at least, a big thank you to Captain James Cook and his crew. Your legacy lives on in the foundations of the best country in the world.
Likening COVID-19 to the heroic and historic arrival of Captain Cook in 1770 by Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer has been dismissed as ill-informed, ill-timed and terribly ill-advised by Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz.
“The Deputy Chief Health Officer might do well to learn from the relevant experts in the field like Professor Geoffrey Blainey AC before she foolishly wallows into disciplines of which she clearly has no understanding,” Senator Abetz said.
“I’m sure her medical expertise is exceptional. Her attempt in the discipline of history would be hysterical if she didn’t expect to be treated seriously. This tortured, non-relevant attempted analogy may enhance her “wokeness” credentials amongst the few but will leave the vast majority of Australians demanding a focus by her on the urgent task at hand,” he continued.
“She should delete the tweet and stick to the task at hand,” Senator Abetz concluded.