Turnbull’s statues

By August 27, 2017Australian Politics

This is becoming a habit. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has made a fool of himself again, in stating that the defacing of statues of James Cook, Queen Victoria and Lachlan Macquarie with spray painted slogans such as “change the date” and “no pride in genocide” was a “totalitarian campaign to not just challenge our history but to deny it and obliterate it”1. No, it isn’t, it is simply a campaign to change the date of Australia Day.

While there are better ways to campaign, the damage to the statues was apparently not permanent. While Turnbull likened the vandalism to Stalin’s purges, this is overstating the case to the point of idiocy. Stalin was into totalitarianism, and likely caused the deaths of more Soviet citizens than did the Nazis during his purges, either by simply ordering their murder, or their incarceration in the gulags, which often led to their deaths anyway. He also ordered the rewriting of Soviet history to suit his own ends. Turnbull is also using this vandalism to his own ends, in a bid to appeal to the white blindfold section of the Australian population and indeed, his own party.

Some in the white blindfold sector of the population and the Liberal Party may believe that some are trying to rewrite history by vandalising statues. However, unlike Stalin, this rewriting does not extend to purging university history departments, or purging libraries of history books. So, Turnbull’s assertion is simply ludicrous. But the white blindfold mob probably don’t read history books, nor do they tend to frequent history departments, so Turnbull’s statements probably sound rational to them.

At the base of the James Cook statue, it says that he ‘discovered this territory – 1770’. That is essentially saying to Aboriginals that they do not count, despite the 1967 referendum. Ever since the concept of ‘terra nullius’ (nobody’s land) bit the dust with the Mabo case in 19922, there is no justification, not even a legal one, to state that Cook ‘discovered’ Australia. Cook3 was one of the greatest navigators in history and is probably worthy of having numerous statues erected in his honour, but perhaps, instead of maintaining that he discovered Australia, it could be argued that he was the commander of the first ship to navigate and map the eastern coast of the continent.

When I was at school, I was also told by my history teacher, and believed, that James Cook discovered Australia. However, I then grew up. It is time our politicians did too.


  1. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/aug/26/captain-cook-statue-and-two-others-in-sydneys-hyde-park-attacked-by-vandals
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terra_nullius
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Cook



  • Jon says:

    The pathetic mentality of those responsible for defacing of statues unfortunately harms the purported cause, especially in such an immature nation which can’t deal with simple issues such as anthems, flags, marriage, specific mention of the first people in our constitution etc. Mind you they should find out who was responsible for approving the utter nonsense that Cook discovered Australia and put him in stocks (it will have been a white caucasian male almost certainly). Surely they don’t still teach that horseshyte in school curriculums in modern Australia?

    • admin says:


      I would hope they don’t still teach it, but I wouldn’t put it past some of the upper crust schools, and perhaps some Christian schools.

  • Jim says:

    I would be very surprised if the concept of Cook discovering Australia is still taught in schools. Even when I was at school in the 1950s it was made clear that Cook “discovered” only the east coast of Australia and it was the Dutch who were the first Europeans to see the West Coast, not to mention Tasmania. The aborigines were, of course, not mentioned.
    Re the vandalism of the statues, that was just plain silly and extremely immature. Apart from anything else the Cook statue reveals the thinking of the time–not sure when that was.
    On a different matter re history books in University libraries. I think you will find that a lot of books, on all subjects, are currently being thrown out of some university libraries these days. Any thing that has not been borrowed in the last five years is at risk. One of the local high schools in Adelaide threw all their books out several years ago on the grounds that everything is now available on the web–the mind boggles.

  • Jon says:

    There is no doubt that Cook’s visit was greatly significant but the implication of the claim that he “discovered” Australia is obvious I’d have thought Arthur, especially but not solely to the descendants of those who occupied the land for thousands of years previously. The claim is a relic of our past British-centric written history, long since exposed as inaccurate and incomplete – like much historical “fact”.

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