Like many writers I require a Eureka moment of insight to write an essay for The AIM Network. This morning, 6/08/2020, I found inspiration in the words of Richard Cooke.
In his long-form analysis of the fate of the arts, titled A unitary theory of cuts published in the August edition of The Monthly Cooke enumerates the singular policy of the IPA/Morrison Government, namely absolute victory in the Culture Wars.
I urge you to read Cooke’s discourse which although thorough, misses one vital point.
Cooke does not mention the suspension of the Australian Parliament. And it is this void in the life of the nation which gives the IPA/Morrison Government a free hand to dismantle the ABC, the Arts and the Public Service — the trinity of its Culture War targets. Add to this the dismemberment of Australian universities, and the future of this wide brown land appears distinctly bleak.
And so to the remainder of the Eureka metaphor.
In the United States, Brazil, the Philippines, Iran, and Turkey – the list is long – COVID-19 is being deployed as a shield to further the aspirations of right-wing nationalist governments. The same is happening in Australia. A casual read of the propaganda output of the Murdoch/IPA/Morrison Government, reveals non-stop criticism of the Andrews Government of Victoria as well as the feisty government of Annastacia Palaszczuk in Queensland. Mark McGowan the Premier of Western Australia, is Satan Incarnate, and yet there is little by way of criticism of the Liberal premiers of New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania. The Labor governments of the ACT and the Northern Territory, daily endure local press vilification.
But it is Victoria, home of the Eureka Stockade, which is enduring the worst of the twin plagues of COVID-19 and daily attacks in The Australian newspaper led by an entitled brat named Adam Creighton. And let’s not forget the egregious contributions of Tim Smith MP, Rowan Dean, Andrew Bolt, and Miranda Devine and so on and so on. Worst of all are the actions of the so-called wolverines hell bent on matching Chinese nationalism with their own post-modern Australian version of jingoism. But this propensity for provincialism can spin out of control, and morph into something far darker than attacks on cultural icons.
In the absence of a federal parliament Australia has the National Cabinet, which thus far is keeping much of the country safe from the ravages of the COVID-19 plague. But as the virus spreads in Victoria, old enmities of the pre-Federation era are emerging. None more so than the sniping between Annastacia Palaszczuk of Queensland and Gladys Berejiklian, Premier of New South Wales. Each year both states play out this old rivalry in the Rugby League State of Origin series. Palaszczuk seems to understand the politics of this visceral combativeness far better than her counterpart, the NSW State Member for Willoughby.
Ms Palaszczuk is ramping up appeals to the innate patriotism of Queenslanders, especially those who live in far northern regional seats where the Eureka flag is worn by workers as a tattoo and displayed as a logo on the back of many a ute and four wheel drive.
This brings me back to Victoria, birthplace of the Eureka notion, and Premier Dan Andrews.
Each day Andrews faces a phalanx of television cameras to update his fellow citizens on the ravages of COVID-19. And each day he answers hundreds of media questions from the likes of Adam Creighton and his ilk, in a way that makes the Federal Parliament’s Question Time look insipid. Andrews has the uncanny knack of speaking directly to his fellow citizens.
When Dan Andrews said he would not put his parents into an aged care home in Melbourne, he spoke truth to tragedy.
The nationalist push by ScoMo and his enablers, especially in Victoria, might well result in a political manifestation long pursued, but thus far not attained; namely an Australian Republic. More than a century on, this phrase from the Ballarat Reform League Charter lies at the heart of contemporary Victorian identity; that it is the inalienable right of every citizen to have a voice in making the laws he is called upon to obey.
With a Federal Labor Party waiting in the wings with a broad suite of far-reaching and easily modified public policies, a shocked and possibly impoverished electorate will not make the same mistake twice.
By the time the next Federal election comes around, I’m fairly confident every citizen, like the diggers at the Eureka Stockade, will clamour to ensure they too have a genuine voice in making the laws [all] are called upon to obey.
Henry Johnston is a Sydney-based author. His latest book The Last Voyage of Aratus is here.
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