Question Time with Chris Berg

The IPA Senior Fellow, articulate champion of free markets and free minds, has a new book in the stores and some contentious views, especially on migration. He spoke with Quadrant Online’s Tony Thomas about freedom, regulation and the need to put a leash on intrusive government

berg chrisChris Berg (left), 33, is the mop-topped, nerdy Wunderkind at the Institute of Public Affairs. He cranks out books on personal liberty that demonstrate startling erudition and a formidable grasp of the history of ideas. Concurrently, he has finished a PhD thesis on Australia’s financial deregulation and more than a score of submissions to parliaments, plus think-tank tracts. He has been a regular gadfly guest – surprisingly – on ABC’s The Drum and an opinion-page contributor to The Sunday Age.

Last week saw the launch of his book The Libertarian Alternative(MUP, 225pp, paperback $32.99 and ebook $14.99). He defines libertarianism as the political philosophy of liberty – the idea that people know better how to live their lives than governments. As he describes it, libertarians want small government dedicated to enforcing contracts, protecting our security, and otherwise getting out of the way. The book applies libertarian ideas on everything from trade and inequality, the environment, free speech, and the nanny state.

The book’s most contentious bit – especially now – is his urging for people to not only trade freely across borders but move their families across too, with legal immigration quotas to be seriously expanded.

So who is this Chris Berg, IPA Senior Fellow, producer of this torrent of classy print?

He says, “I love writing and my productivity strategy is to write at home from 5 am to 7am every single day and get 500-1000 words done. Over time it mounts up to a lot of stuff and ideas.”

Q: How do you relax?
A: With my family, wife Bronwyn Hinz, and kids, Walter, 2, and Leonard, 4. Bronwyn works on education policy for the Mitchell Institute think-tank at Victoria University. She used to be a staffer for Labor Senator Kim Carr. We have plenty to talk about at home!

Q: Did you get your ideological bent from your parents?
A: No, they’re a smart but not particularly political couple. My mother, Sue, was a maternity- and child-health nurse and dad, Ian, was an insurance executive. I went to Camberwell Grammar, where people thought I came across perhaps as a bit of a Leftie. I firmed up my political ideas digging around the internet while studying at Melbourne Uni  and following things up in books. I never got into student politics, a field that gets a lot of people into a lot of trouble. I never started pinkish, and I’ve never been interested in political teams, only in discovering ideas and where they lead.

Q: What’s next?
A: I’m hoping to convert my Ph.D. thesis on Australian banking history into a more readable book. There’s more action in that history than you’d guess. When a bank collapses, for example, there are fascinating human stories of the enormous impacts that collapse brings about. And if we dig enough into the history of even the driest economic policies, we always find rich stories of politics and vested interests at work.

Q: How do you, as an IPA stalwart, get such a good run on the ABC’s Drum and The Sunday Age?
A: “I’ve always found the editors I work with to be eager to run alternative views. I have great relationships with these editors — we’re all friends — and I’ve always found success pitching free-market stories to them.

Q: I can’t follow your book’s argument that globally, people should be welcome to migrate across borders to improve their living standards and benefit their new host countries. Are you suggesting we take a million Syrians or what?
A: No, I’m arguing theoretically for more open borders, but only at the margin. I’d welcome much higher migration here of low-skilled people.

berg bookQ: But how many more? You’re not going to squib the question like Kerry O’Brien did, are you?
A: It’s very clear there are some serious integration issues involving certain communities. Those integration problems must be solved first, which is why I’m not urging wide-open borders but gradual opening.  Migration here is heavily restricted and wrongly so. But now that the government has secured the borders against illegal immigration, there is scope to start talking seriously about much more legal migration.

There’s a serious problem with current treatment of the intake of genuine refugees. They are treated as needing continuing protection so they go straight onto the welfare system, which is terrible for integration and for community cohesion. Instead, they need to get into jobs and join the community.

Q: Your libertarian shtick seems to argue for reduced anti-terror security measures.  Are you happy for the community to suffer more risk?
A: No, the issue is whether the plethora of misguided security measures is actually adding to terror risk, not reducing it, and meanwhile harming our freedoms.  For example, when ASIO asks for more power to get and keep metadata on people, the government hands the same power to non-security bodies like the ACCC and ASIC.

Q: You’re pretty fierce against growth of regulations by governments?
A: Australians have to obey more than 100,000 pages of federal law, plus the masses of state and local demands. These can be absurd. In NSW, some councils are refusing planning permits to businesses that use trans-fats in cooking. A small business here typically spends $30,000 a year complying with red tape, and the total cost of red tape is at least $100 billion a year.

Q: Your book attacks all the anti-discrimination legislation now being enforced here?
A: Australian law is now forcing us to associate with, and not associate with, various groups and individuals. Freedom of association is a fundamental right. One of the examples I bring up in the book is an innovative travel agent, Erin Maitland, who wanted to run women-only tours but fell foul of anti-discrimination law. That’s absurd, and so are laws forcing single-sex social clubs to integrate.

Q: Out of a mark of 10 for excellence, what score would you give Abbott and Turnbull?
A: I’d give both a seven. We and conservatives generally are treating both men more harshly than we treated Howard, partly because the economy is performing less well. Politics is the art of compromise. I’ve been highly critical of both Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull, but I understand that they don’t see their main role as pleasing ideologues like myself.

Q: Why do you claim the Left/Right dichotomy is now meaningless?
A: Classical liberals, conservatives, even Labor and Greens people will sympathise with various aspects of libertarianism. I sometimes find myself agreeing with the Greens on, for instance, gay marriage, metadata retention and privacy. But libertarians are also just as concerned to protect religious freedom, such as ensuring people can object to participating in marriage service that does not conform to their religious convictions. There have been a serious of cases of anti-discrimination law being used against people who objected to baking a wedding cake for a gay couple, particularly in the United States. We don’t want to introduce more liberty for one group and simultaneously take away liberty from another.

Q: Do you have philosophical brawls within the IPA?
A: No, because all our differences are still within the IPA’s ambit of free-market economics, freedom of speech and individual liberty.

Q: The IPA is having a strong 2016?
A: Absolutely. The IPA is now larger than it has ever been, and has a stronger national footprint, than ever. We have 3,700 members across the country. Our young members’ program now has 500 people engaging with the ideas of the free market and liberty. Our funding this year is projected to be around $4 million.  We’re now engaging in the public debate, not just in newspapers but online, on social media, through web-only video, and I think we can see the powerful impact that these approaches are starting to have.

Q: Isn’t it tedious writing all those IPA submissions to governments?
A: No, it’s really productive. You get the chance to get your evidence, written and often in person, directly to law-makers – to challenge their views, to present contrary evidence, and to make the case for smaller government straightforwardly.”

Tony Thomas’s book of essays, That’s Debatable – 60 years in print, launches at Gambero’s, 166 Lygon St, Carlton, at 6.30pm on Thursday, May 19.  The book can also be bought here. Tony blogs at No B-S Here, I Hope.


  1. Peter

    Chris Berg is clearly one of those open border guys who – unfortunately in my view – populate the fringes of the right side of politics. This is part of his favourite song,I guess,courtesy of John Lennon:

    Imagine there’s no countries
    It isn’t hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too

    Personally I would build a wall and keep everyone out (including refugees) who would bring clashing cultural values and/or who wouldn’t pull their economic weight from the get-go. To paraphrase the Donald: Australia first.

    • Jody

      I’ve read one of Chris Berg’s books about Freedom of Speech, but I think he’ll be an even sharper and more powerful advocate when he stacks on some decades of life experience. At that time I’d be very interested to see how some of his views – for example, on immigration – might have changed. And he’ll have two adult children – possibly grandchildren – by then, which will differentiate his world view from those he holds now.
      Good luck, Chris!!

  2. Bran Dee

    Ah to be so young with so much energy and application! Chris Berg impresses but he may still be too young and green to appreciate values and tradition because he does say ‘I sometimes find myself agreeing with the Greens on, for instance, gay marriage,- – – -.
    Young people are notorious for failing to examine all the consequences before supporting a fashionable cause. The Greens thought boat people all came because of push factors and could not entertain pull factors even after Indonesia said ‘take the sugar off the table’. Even now Labor wants to give the landed boat people permanent protection visas rather than the Coalition’s temporary ones on which they are prevented from starting a family reunion chain. What are all, really all, the possible negative consequences of homosexual ‘marriage’? Maybe more Homosexual School Programs, sorry, Safe School Programs, and redefinition of the terms’husband’ and ‘wife’. No, the Greens can b—– off.


    To one of the questions Chris said that integration issues had to be solved first before immigration policies could be implemented. So what Chris, is your yardstick for successful integration of Muslims?

  4. ianl

    > You’re not going to squib the question like Kerry O’Brien did, are you?

    Yes, he did.

    And Bran Dee:

    > Young people are notorious for failing to examine all the consequences before supporting a fashionable cause

    Completely agree. My 34 year old son fits this category perfectly.

    • Jody

      We cannot dismiss people’s ideologies simply because they’re under 40; they just need to be moderated by people with greater wisdom (hopefully) and more life experience. And, boy, don’t the decades make a difference to the way you think and feel!!!

      In my earliest years of teaching (already in my early 40′s) I used to become very angry about youth unemployment. A few years in the classroom taught me that the source of the problem was often the attitudes of the pupils themselves! And their families didn’t seem to talk to them about any of it.

  5. Ian MacDougall

    I notice that the IPA is against any changes to the present arrangements re negative gearing. So I assume Mr Berg is likewise.
    The most basic relationship in markets is between buyer and seller. In the rental property market, what is sold and bought is the exclusive use of the rental property. It is in the interest of the seller that the buyer’s choice be as restricted as possible, and in the buyer’s that there be as few possible rival buyers, and a maximum of competing vendors. In other words, both sides want their own range of choice maximised and the other’s minimised. Government intervention is pretty well never for a level playing field, but in favour of one of the two competing parties.
    At the present time it is possible (literally) for an enterprising rent-seeker to go to a bank and borrow a large percentage of the price of a dwelling at very, one might say historically, low interest. Then said rent-seeker rents said dwelling at a generous (to theirself as landlord) rent to someone who would rather be a first-home buyer, thus keeping the latter relatively poor while the landlord rent-seeker accumulates the deposit for the next property.
    The impact of all this in the market is to reduce net housing supply to small investors and first-home buyers alike, and so to force up housing prices. Which is manifest. And all the while the IPA-approved landlord gets a negative gearing tax break for the interest on the money borrowed. Federal tax receipts go down, no doubt to cheers from the ‘small-government’ (or should that be ‘small-brained’?) IPA: so the Federal Government either slides further into debt or raises taxes, or something of both.
    The only risk is a local financial crisis, or another GFC: generated by such neo-Ponzi scheming.
    The (choke! caaargh! splutter! hawk! spit!*) ABC recently featured a couple in early middle age who had accumulated a portfolio of something like 20 rental properties in this manner.
    And all done at the expense of the rest of us taxpayers: very, very enterprising.
    For an expert (Ian McAuley) elaboration on this subject, see
    *I confess this to be a totally insincere ploy on my part to curry favour with QuadOnline readers.

  6. Jody

    I confess I’d take anything New Matilida said with a grain of salt. Regarding negative gearing; first and foremost NG does not just apply to property but all business ventures where the business needs to borrow money in order to operate. In short, the COST of maintaining the business against the income earned. Many doctors, pharmacists and lawyers, aka Pitt Street farmers, do this and have done for years. The Hunter Valley is full of properties and operating wineries owned by such people. And then there are shares, other businesses and ventures for which one can use negative gearing. So, let’s put aside the bias on home ownership. And, of course, eventually the property is paid off and returns to the market unencumbered. The bank has gained (and banks need business to keep employing staff), the small investor has gained (and won’t spend time on the public purse) and the real estate industry gains because there are buyers and sellers keeping the values maintained. And, of course, renters benefit. In fact, the more properties are NG the more are available and the price of rent is kept down. It is only the SHORTAGE of property which keeps rents higher than they currently are. These are all basic economics.

    Case study: my son is 34, rents in Sydney and wants to buy there. Impossible. But he can buy in Newcastle, negative gear, put in a tenant and then over time sell that property for a profit. This is his ONLY CHANCE to enter the Sydney market at all without being encumbered with debt of over $450,000 by way of mortgage. Well, he can hope that I die soon – that would help too.

    And the government is right; a huge number of negative gearing is undertaken by the middle class. Teachers, nurses, paramedics etc. At least, outside Sydney.

    I wonder why nobody is addressing the huge windfull of tax free profits on the family home in Sydney – the average value now $M1 and climbing? In wonder if I wonder. I’d be buying there instead of wasting time putting money into superannuation so that the government can just TAX that at all points in the process.

  7. Jody

    Oh, and don’t forget; investment properties pay HIGHER RATES of interest than for housing loans.

    • Rob Brighton

      Your points are missing from the debate Jody and are well made. I might note that a property I had negatively geared at one time has completed its progression and is now positively geared, meaning the rental income is now such that it exceeds the interest payments and adds to my taxable income.

      • Jody

        And I forgot to mention that Capital Gains tax is applied to the TOP MARGINAL TAX rate of the investor. So, if you have just $1,000 of your income paying 49% tax then ALL the gains from the investment will be levied at that rate. A 50% ‘discount’ applies but the amount to be paid can still be considerable – especially if negative gearing a valuable asset (homes or otherwise).

        People make statements about negative gearing based upon emotion and not really having a clue about it. And Labor appeals to these people because of simplistic messaging. People sit round and nod their heads and say, “yeah, that’s right; why should the rich get it all”? Unfortunately for most of us, the middle class has now been conveniently re-badged as “rich”. And this also applies to superannuation.

  8. Bran Dee

    I am so pleased Jody is back commenting, erudite but no frills.

The PM’s Perplexing Pivot to China

The PM’s Perplexing Pivot to China

In a confidential briefing paper shared with Quadrant Online and prepared by people whose business it is to keep tabs on the Middle Kingdom’s alliances and ambitions, Malcolm Turnbull’s sanguine attitude toward Beijing is described as being of grave concern

china goosteppersIs Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pivoting to China and away from the US alliance?  It may seem silly to ask, except that he’s been sending subtle signals to that effect for years. Other signals are not so subtle.  They include last month’s decision to buy French submarines, despite their non-compatibility with US and Japanese needs in China-contested waters, and last year’s passivity over the Northern territory’s award of a 99-year lease on the strategic Port of Darwin to a Chinese entity.

During the Abbott era, Turnbull showed enthusiasm for Chinese communications giant Huawei to bid for roles in the National Broadband Project. Abbott scotched that proposal, which had flown in the face of security warnings from intelligence agencies. An anonymous background paper has compiled evidence of Turnbull’s Sinophilia.

I do not know who the report’s authors are or their specific roles. I am reliably informed they have worked extensively in Washington and other allied capitals and are well connected with the Australian business and national security communities. There is no classified material in these sources’ document. I have dealt with the authors through an intermediary, a retired senior federal bureaucrat I’ve known professionally for thirty years.

The paper concludes,

“A strong case can be made that the Turnbull Government is re-orienting Australia’s foreign and security policy away from the country’s traditional allies and closer to China. Key Americans and Japanese are not amused but Beijing appears to be delighted…Turnbull feels an affinity and deep respect for China and is comfortable spruiking Beijing’s views and wishes.”

While Turnbull has good economic knowledge about China, he is poorly informed and perhaps uninterested in Chinese security and defence developments and behavior, and he often makes errors of fact and serious errors of judgement, the authors say. Nevertheless, he appears undaunted, even arrogant, in his opinions. Never one to hide his light under a bushel, the authors’ perceive Turnbull as confident he has the complete and fully correct understanding of China, while Americans, Japanese and others with alternative views do not.

He persists in directing actions and inactions which cool Australia’s security relationship with the US and bolster ties with China. Major changes in Australian foreign and security policy are clearly under way through incremental steps. “It is notable, however, that Turnbull has not yet attempted to convince the Australian public that such a marked shift is warranted or desirable,” they say.

Consistent opinion polling suggests that the public would by a big majority be very uneasy about the shift in attitude. Lowy Institute for International Policy last year found 53% of those polled saw the US alliance as “very  important” and 27% as “fairly important”. The 53% was 17 points higher than the lowest score, recorded in 2007, in the survey’s ten-year history.

Only 37% agreed that “the US is in decline relative to China, and so the alliance is of decreasing importance.” About 61% thought America’s global leadership would be maintained in the future.[1]

The poll also found that 66% of Australians wanted Australia to do more to resist China’s military aggression in our region, even if this affects our economic relationship. A majority (56%) rejected the statement that ‘having China as an important global power makes the world more stable’.

Turnbull’s long-held views

The authors of the confidential paper maintain that, in a low-key way, the question of Turnbull’s links with China has been around for many years. Reviews of Turnbull’s speeches about China raise serious questions about his approach to security policy and future relations, particularly among well-informed Americans.

One example was his speech on October 5, 2011, at the London School of Economics. An extract:

“The best and most realistic strategic outcome for East Asia must be one in which the powers (essentially China and the US) are in balance with each side effectively able to deny the domination  of the other.” 

This, the critics say, is a big departure from long-standing Australian policy of backing the US in retaining strategic predominance in the Indo-Pacific. As they put it,

“Turnbull appears to assume essential political and moral equivalence between China and the US, and that Australia’s and the region’s core interests would not be affected seriously by a major authoritarian state gaining strategic predominance in the Western Pacific. This view is shared by only a few – mostly academic – left wing individuals within Australia’s national security community.”

The Darwin port debacle

Late last year the Turnbull government acquiesced to the NT government entering a 99-year lease for the operation of the Port of Darwin with a Chinese company closely linked to the China Communist Party and People’s Liberation Army. Both federal and NT governments professed to see no security implications. Says the confidential paper:

This development left most of our national security community incredulous, knowing that China for years had been seeking to acquire or manage port complexes across the Indo-Pacific region for strategic, intelligence and economic reasons.

“All major Australian, US and allied military operations to and from northern Australia rely heavily on access to the port, and will do so for many  decades to come.

“The Turnbull government has made no apparent attempt to reverse the lease arrangement.”

The paper continues that Dennis Richardson, Defence Secretary, was called before a Parliamentary committee to explain his involvement. He again defended Defence’s failure to intervene and said the Chinese control of the port was of no strategic value. When asked if he had consulted relevant US authorities, he said [2]that there was no requirement to consult the Americans as it was an Australian sovereign issue.

The paper’s authors add, “There is no evidence that Richardson was disciplined by the PM for his management of the Darwin Port decision. Indeed, all indications are that Turnbull endorsed the lease to the Chinese company.”

Deception at AUSMIN?

The paper claims the Australian government, a few weeks after Turnbull’s accession, misled  its American counterparts  at AUSMIN 2015 (annual Australia-US Ministerial Consultations) in Boston last October about the Darwin lease, adding to the American’s perplexity.

The paper says the AUSMIN conference had involved extensive discussions on the next stages of developing US military rotations and other activities in Northern Australia[3]

“However, at no stage did the Australian party (Defence Minister Marise Payne, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop) inform the Americans about the lease of Darwin Port to a Chinese company.” The following day, as the US delegation was flying from Boston back to Washington, it received news of the port lease from an American journalist. The senior Americans felt they had been deceived. As one remarked privately, “This is not the way close allies are supposed to treat each other.”

Tony Thomas’ new book of essaysThat’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print, can be ordered here

President Obama raised the matter with Turnbull at APEC in Manila a month later. Turnbull’s was a flippant reply, joking “that the President needed to subscribe to the colourful tabloid, The NT News.”  Former US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said he was “stunned” at Australia blindsiding the US  by allowing a Chinese player with  People’s Liberation Army links the  99-year lease. Unease was expressed much more widely, and bluntly, in private discussions in Washington.  US officials became more assertive in asking: What’s going on?

The curious submarines decision

The decision last month to buy French submarines, rather than Japanese or German boats, rejected US strategic logic aimed at the improvement of regional security. This logic involved joint activities with Australia across our north and in the disputed South China Sea.  While US officials would never tell Australia which submarine we had to choose, there was surprise in Washington that the French bid got up. Senior US officials thought we would put at the top of the selection criteria the key issue of regional security and ease of US technical involvement through the life of the boats. The Japanese boat would have scored very highly there. Defence and national security officials in the US and in other allied countries (including Japan and some European countries) are seriously querying the approach of the Turnbull government to defence issues.

Most Australian and US observers’ concerns include

  • The French boat, which will need to be extensively re-worked and converted from nuclear propulsion to copnventional deisel-electric drive, has not even been designed yet
  • Little weight appears to have been accorded to the broader strategic benefits of working closely with Japan
  • Little weight appears to have been given to the critical importance of inter-operability with US and allied forces. The French solution is the weakest in those respects.
  • Senior Americans had indicated that while respecting Australia’s right to choose, they favored the Japanese subs. Some also indicated privately that they would experience security and other practical difficulties  in working with the French in this sensitive area. Yet the Australian government had indicated from the outset that no matter which design was selected, the combat data system (essentially the computers linking the sensors to the command displays  and, thence, to the weapons and combat systems), the weapons and certain other systems would all be sourced from the US. For this ambitious project to succeed, the Americans need to be fully comfortable working within a French-designed and largely French-built sub. Given the limited trust that many relevant Americans express about the French, the sub program may well be headed for very troubled waters.
  • The poor track record of on-time and on-cost delivery of European defence systems in recent years. Particularly poor cases have included the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters and the Air Warfare Destroyers.

Turnbull on the South China Sea

The confidential paper also objects to Turnbull’s soft stance on China’s expansions in the South China Sea.

“That behavior has involved serious breaches of international law and signaled China’s firm intention to gradually turn this major maritime zone into something akin to an internal sea. The response of the US, Japan and the maritime members of ASEAN has been deep concern and significantly expanded security and defence activity.

The Turnbull government has been pressed by allied governments to increase Australia’s military operations in the region and in particular to undertake frequent freedom of navigation patrols close to China’s newly-established islands and military outposts. The Turnbull government has so far declined to make significant changes to its long-standing pattern of military operations in the region.”

Chinese cyber warfare

The paper adverts to China’s intense and growing intelligence and cyber operations against Australia. The recently retired Director-General of Security, David Irvine, stated publicly at the National Press Club in August, 2014: “I can say that we are seeing growth in espionage and foreign interference against Australia, through both cyber and traditional methods.”

Similarly, ASIO’s 2015 annual Report to Parliament says,

“Espionage and clandestine foreign interference activity against Australian interests is extensive…..Foreign interference in Australia by foreign powers is pervasive. It spans community groups, business and social associations and is directed against all levels of Australian Government and the community … In 2014–15, Australian Government and private sector systems experienced an increase in the range, scale and sophistication of hostile cyber activity by foreign state actors.”

Turnbull’s critics say in their paper,

“While the US government has strongly decried such Chinese activities and even brought formal charges against some relevant PLA officers and officials, the Turnbull government has not made any statements about this Chinese activity, nor has it taken any substantive steps to confront the Chinese leadership on these matters.”

Indeed, espionage today is probably running at higher levels than at the height of the cold war.

The war against ISIL

Following last November’s Paris terrorist attacks, Turnbull delivered a national security statement to Parliament. It said our special forces are authorized by our government to help Iraq’s counter-terrorism service in the field at headquarters level only, not “outside the wire” on ground combat.

Turnbull said, “The government of Iraq believes that large scale Western troop operations in its country would be counter-productive…The consensus of the leaders I met at the G20, at APEC and at the East Asia Summit is that there is no support currently for a large US-led Western army to attempt to conquer and hold ISIL-controlled areas.”

The anonymous paper says, disparagingly, that Turnbull was setting up a straw man (“Western army”) and knocking it down, while dodging the substantive issue:

“At the time no senior official in the US or Australia was  seriously considering the deployment of a large US-led Western army  to Iraq and Syria. What had been under discussion for some time was the possible joint deployment of enhanced intelligence and special force elements to probe ISIL weaknesses and leadership systems and then target them for air and other attacks. The total allied force proposed was to number some 400-1000 with Australia possibly contributing 100-150 special force personnel. Washington was keen for ADF personnel to play a core role. There was a little doubt that the Iraqi government would have endorsed such operations if approached accordingly by Washington and Canberra.”

Turnbull’s straw-man talk was considered very strange by US officials and analysts. “Its effect,” the confidential paper notes, was to distance Australia from the central leadership, planning and conduct of the counter-ISIL campaign, led by the US.  Turnbull appeared intent on the ADF continuing to make a modest and low risk contribution to counter-ISIL operations but did not wish to be especially close to the leaders and strategists working to actually defeat ISIL.”

Family Chinese relationships

As a merchant banker/consultant in the 1990s and early 2000s, Turnbull’s biggest funding successes were in China, such as a zinc mine launch in Hubei Province. In that phase he made some enduring relationships with senior Chinese officials and Communist Party members. Turnbull’s son, Alex, is a Mandarin-speaking Sinophile with a long history of personal ties with Chinese peers of his age group, from teenage days to his Chinese wife from 2012, Yvonne Wang (Wang Yi Wen). He studied in Beijing and has been to China many times.

In conversation with intimates, Alex has expressed strong scepticism about US attitudes towards China.  These opinions largely echo those of his father, not least concerning what they perceive to be strong anti-China biases in US and other allied policy positions and intelligence assessments.

In business, Alex followed his father into Goldman Sachs and from 2004-15 worked mainly on investment, equity and distressed credit in Asian companies, including Chinese entities. For several years he was based in Hong Kong developing good relations with senior Chinese business, government and party members. His wife, Yvonne Wang, is a Chinese citizen and public relations adviser for Trip Adviser. The paper says,

“The Turnbulls have always been highly sensitive that Alex was married to a Chinese national who comes from parents with CCP (Chinese Communist Party) and military ties. Speculation amongst the Turnbull’s friends had historically been that Wang’s family is exceptionally wealthy and has close PLA ties. This speculation remains.”

The first public reference to such ties was in the AFR  (September 17, 2015)  after Turnbull won the leadership battle. This article (paywalled) also referenced the historical animus between Turnbull and Australian and US intelligence agencies.

Wang’s father, Wang Chunming, worked for the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences as an expert in international relations, was a member of the CCP, and was reportedly a close friend of former president Jiang Zemin. In unpublished remarks, Alex told a reporter that Wang’s father served on the Chinese equivalent of the National Security Council in an academic capacity.

Yvonne Wang in a 2014 interview with Sassy Singapore magazine  (no longer online), said she had lived in Hong Kong, Auckland, Beijing, Vancouver, Washington DC, Boston and London. “I’ve moved every few years for the last two decades,” she said.  This “implies that notwithstanding the allegedly modest professional positions held by her father, her family lived around the world during her upbringing,” according to the anonymous paper.

Like his son, Malcolm Turnbull has deep knowledge and affection for many aspects of China and its people, including some senior officials and CCP leaders. Observes the report:

“He frequently expounds Chinese government views and effectively argues Beijing’s case, especially on economic issues. At the same time Turnbull has long expressed scepticism towards more hawkish US and Australian analyses of China and the agendas of intelligence agencies, albeit significantly adjusting his rhetoric when within the line-of-sight of US observers.

“The assumption of many that his pro-China views would evolve materially after he assumed the prime ministership appears to have been proven wrong. As one example, he has privately stated several times following his April 2016 trip to Beijing that ‘the US does not get China’.”

Speech to London School of Economics (LSE) 

Turnbull’s speech on October 5, 2011, was little-reported but frank on his China views. Its title was “Same Bed, Different Dreams – Asia’s Rise: A View from Australia”. When the speech reached beyond China’s economics to the drivers of China’s political elite, strategic posture and very rapidly rising military capabilities, “his understanding is either very weak or his approach is disingenuous.”

He said twice, incorrectly, that China has no interest in exporting its ideology or system of government  to other countries. In fact China has been propagating its “China model” to countries in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere: “Indeed it has frequently backed such efforts with economic and military aid,” the report notes, adding

“Turnbull states that China’s rise has not been matched by any expansionist tendencies beyond reuniting Taiwan.  This is revealing on several fronts. First, it implies no interest in assisting the survival of the 23m people in the liberal democracy on Taiwan. Second, it takes no account of China’s highly assertive island-creation and sovereignty expansion in the South China Sea – and assertion of national sovereignty over more than 80% of this extensive international waterway. Third, it ignores China’s claims and highly assertive actions over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Fourth, it fails to acknowledge the extensive studies undertaken by the PLA into potential future military assaults into parts of East and Southeast Asia.”

Turnbull also erroneously said that Australia’s 2009 Defence White Paper was based on the contingency of a naval war with China in the South China Sea. “In fact, the Paper says no such thing. It states very clearly, (p58) that the primary driver for defence force development should be “to deter and defeat attacks on Australia.”

By most accounts Mao Tse Tung was the greatest mass murderer of the century, but Turnbull quoted him with some reverence, saying China’s success fulfilled Mao’s proud boast in 1949 from the top of Tien An Men:

“Zhong guo ren min zanqilai le: ‘The Chinese people have stood up.’ And so they have – and we are now all taking notice.

The speech prescribed for Australian policy-makers a formula that

  • The scale and speed of China’s rise implies that it would be futile for Australia to attempt to shape or significantly influence China’s further development
  • China is a different type of society but it behaves rationally, is largely benign and is unlikely to cause Australia serious problems in coming decades
  • The central role of trade in China’s prosperity suggests that the country’s rise will be peaceful. Turnbull seems unaware that trade between the UK and Germany was larger in relative terms in the period before WW1, and unaware of the well-studied weak correlation between trade and conflict dissuasion.

In key passages of the speech, Turnbull says, “It makes no sense for America or its allies to base long-term strategic policy on the contentious proposition that we are on an inevitable collision course with a militarily aggressive China.” In fact, the critics say, virtually no-one in Western intelligence believes we are “on an inevitable collision course” with China. In any event, Turnbull seems to be saying we can neither try to deter nor effectively defend against such an eventuality.  The most he envisages is some vague actions to ‘hedge against adverse and unlikely contingencies’.

Turnbull’s speech lauded the historical inevitability of China’s global re-emergence and the futility of seeking to contain or in any way shape China’s future actions.

The anonymity of the authors of the paper shared with me and quoted above is for obvious reasons. Judge for yourself if its argument stacks up.

Tony Thomas blogs at No B-S Here, I Hope


[1] The poll also found that most Australians (61%) in 2015 believed that “China’s aim is to dominate Asia” but a larger majority (67%)  agreed with the more benign view that “China’s aim is to create a better life for the Chinese people”. Nearly 40% thought it likely that China would be a military threat to us in the next 20 years. In the event of a military conflict between China and Japan, 84% thought Australia should be neutral, 11% wanted to support Japan, and 3% supported China.


[2] The AFR reported: “Mr Richardson hit back at suggestions the deal was not properly considered by his department, and suggested the US Embassy in Canberra should have been paying more attention to developments around the port’s privatisation”.



[3]  In advance Julie Bishop described the meeting thus: The Alliance is the bedrock of our foreign and defence policy and we look forward to further developing and deepening our shared regional and global strategic and economic interests.”


  1. nfw

    While I have the greatest respect for what Tony Thomas writes, he and other armchair submarine experts should know submarines are referred to as BOATS! They are not subs! It doesn’t matter how big or small they are, they are BOATS, as in “submersible boats” because the powers-to-be when they appeared didn’t take them seriously. Americans might refer to a big one as “the ship”; and as in a surface ships (targets or skimmers)when the oncoming OOW takes over the watch or when the CO/XO takes the ship from the OOW, he/she might say “I have the ship”. In submarines we used to say “I have the submarine”. We would never ever say “sub”. Let me know when you have your dolphins from BOATS.

    • Davidovich

      This comment is surely a bit of a red herring, if that is the correct naval term, as Tomas is basically commenting on Turnbull’s dangerous and clandestine moves to distance Australia from our ties with the US and to move closer to a China he either doesn’t fully understand or, worse, admires and is quite happy to forget the brutality of the Mao years.

  2. Jody

    On Sunday night Niall Ferguson said, in his lecture, “Australia needs to watch China very very carefully”. He left it at that.

Some Like It Hotter

It can get hot in Adelaide, as all who have endured a summer in the City of Light will know. But hot as it gets, that is not enough for warmists and those who tickle temperature records for a living. Presto! A little computer magic and a lot of “adjustments” transform cooling into the exact opposite

adelaide airportBlogger Ed Caryl at Germany’s NoTricksZone has discovered that the long-term cooling trend at Adelaide Airport has been “adjusted” into a significant warming. The culprit is NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which has form in producing adjusted data to reinforce the global warming narrative.

Other adjustments by GISS, and our own Bureau of Meteorology, to turn actual cooling into adjusted “warming”, have occurred at (among myriads of examples) Alice Springs, Broken Hill,  Willis Island, Bourke and Adelaide. You can see some animations of the adjustments here from blogger Warwick Hughes.

Particularly weird, but purposeful, adjustments by the BOM concern Brisbane Airport, Amberley RAAF, Dubbo, Rutherglen, Rabbit Flat and Carnarvon. “In all those places the adjustments change the trend by more than 2 whole degrees C. It’s a kind of hyper-homogenization,” as Joanne Nova wrote.

Nationally, as much as two-thirds  of the current official  temperature rise of 0.9degC in the past century is due to  BOM “adjustments”. Australia’s manipulators have plenty of company, as UK blogger Paul Homewood has demonstrated by exposing adjustment fiddles for Paraguay.

Concerning Adelaide Airport, blogger Ed Caryl writes:

“While exploring long temperature records in Australia, I discovered a particularly egregious example of temperature changing at Adelaide Airport. GISS now offers easy access to their several sets of data for each station: unadjusted (I assume this is the raw data), adjusted (I assume this is after TOBs, time of observation, and moving adjustments), adjusted after cleaning (whatever that is), and the final step, after adjustments, cleaning, and homogenization.” (TOB stands for “Time of Observation Bias”).

Homogenization is supposed to correct for urban heat island problems, but it is nearly always used to cool the past, rather than cooling the present or heating the past, the opposite of what an urban heat island correction should be.”

Here is the Adelaide Airport record before any adjustments[i]:

adelaide airport tempsFigure 1: Adelaide Airport unadjusted temperature record. The top trace is the annual average summer (December, January, and February) temperatures, the middle is the annual average meteorological year, and the bottom is the average winter (June, July, and August) temperatures, all with trend lines.  

“All the trends here  involve cooling since the turn of the twentieth century, for over the last 100 years, particularly in the summer months. The warmest year was 1914. The warmest summer was in 1880!”

Caryl continues, “Now let us look at the ‘adjusted’ data:

adelaide powst-adjustmentFigure 2: Adelaide Airport after “adjustment”, also with trend lines.

Post-adjustment, we see warming, annually, and in all seasons. The warmest year is now 2007, though the warmest summer (just) is still 1880. But the strange thing about this adjustment is this:

adelaide 3Figure 3: Adjustment applied to Figure 1 to produce Figure 2.

Caryl writes, “Note that from 1880 to 1947, the adjustment is exactly minus one degree, in all months, all seasons, and all years. It is a blanket, obvious, fudge! Someone got lazy. Instead of attempting to figure out an actual time of observation or move adjustment, they simply slapped on a minus one degree change and, magically, the cooling trend went away. But they were not finished! There is still homogenization to be performed, the finishing touch!

adelaide 4Figure 4: Adelaide Airport after all adjustments and homogenization.

Homogenization now adds another tenth of a degree to the warming temperature trends.

These changes further cool the past and mostly leave the present unchanged. The changes are the same for all months, season, and for twenty-or-more year stretches.

Caryl continues, “I found the Australian Bureau of Meteorology  description for their adjustments for Adelaide. They do not resemble the adjustments seen above. They are changes to Tmax [max temp] and Tmin [min temp], and are in both positive and negative directions.

“It should be obvious to all that these [GISS] adjustments to the raw temperature data are an attempt to hide the long-term cooling temperature trend at Adelaide. These changes to the temperature data beg us to examine all station data for similar changes. Is global warming real or just a  product of pencil, pen, and computer?”

Meanwhile, there are controversies in the United States, where the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration is refusing FOI requests for the rationale for its latest and curious “pause-busting” adjustments and in the United Kingdom, where Climategate emails reveal the incompetent state of the HadCRUT global temperature data. A scholarly investigation by a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham is under way.

In New Zealand, the adjusted official record of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) shows warming at a rate equivalent to 1 C°/century since 1900, but the raw data records just 0.3 C° warming per century. NZ sceptics issued a legal challenge to NIWA’s adjusted output but the NZ High Court threw it out, with costs to be paid by the sceptics. The defeat was not on science/data grounds but because the sceptics were deemed to be lacking professional authority and expert qualifications to bring the case! NIWA failed to explain why it had adjusted the raw century-trend of 0.3degC warming to the purported  1.0 degC warming.

Tony Thomas blogs at No B-S Here, I Hope. His book of essays, That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print, launches at Gambero’s, 166 Lygon St, Carlton, 6.30pm Thursday May 19

[i] One commenter on the Caryl piece injects a lot of local gen:

Adelaide has had two airports. The first at Parafield north of the City. It was wide open plains, very dry in summer (and hotter than the City). The only business nearby was the abattoirs. It remained in use for light aircraft for many years after most traffic switched to West Beach, with increasing housing and industrial development until it was almost surrounded.
The current airport at West Beach started operating in the mid-1950’s (1955 from memory). It is west of the city and not far from the beach on Gulf St. Vincent. Planes normally take off to the SW, over the bordering road (since moved closer to the beach as runway lengthened) then over open sports fields for about a kilometre, then the sea. The Gulf is fairly shallow (max. 20-22 metres) and around 90 kilometres at that point.

Adelaide get a lot of its wind from the SW, S or SE (about 70% or more) which comes from the Southern Ocean, hence cooling. These are very evident at this airport, which is open to them. Also the S & N sides of the airport used to have golf courses, watered by discharge from the nearby sewerage works.

So it isn’t surprising that there should be a cooling from before 1955 to after. Since around 1980 there has been a lot of development on the airport lands (warehousing, shopping centres, hotels, newer terminal with multi-story car parking etc.) so some warming is possible, or the adjustments might have been pulled out of a hat (or thin air).”


  1. Ian MacDougall

    As long as you concentrate your attention on trivialities, like temperature records and apparent disparities between such, you will miss the main event.
    Temperatures can do as they please, but the consistently rising ocean level, due to glacier melt and/or thermal expansion of sea water, shows that the Earth is warming: no getting round it or away from it. Not even for the ostriches of the world.
    GMSL Rates
    CU: 3.3 ± 0.4 mm/yr
    AVISO: 3.3 ± 0.6 mm/yr
    CSIRO: 3.3 ± 0.4 mm/yr
    NASA GSFC: 3.2 ± 0.4 mm/yr
    NOAA: 3.2 ± 0.4 mm/yr (w/ GIA)

    • Tezza

      I must have missed the bit of the article where Ian thinks Tony argued that there has been no global warming. But I’m reassured that Ian has no curiosity about counter-intuitive homogenisation of original temperature recordings. Everything must be OK.

      • Ian MacDougall


        ….But hot as it gets, that is not enough for warmists and those who tickle temperature records for a living. Presto! A little computer magic and a lot of “adjustments” transform cooling into the exact opposite….

        Perhaps for you that is not a blunt enough summary of Tony’s argument and position on global warming. But it is for me.

  2. Lawrie Ayres

    The question is why is the ocean rising and what is causing any glacial melt? Some rise can be caused by tectonic activity but how much? The seas are still expanding as they rebound from the additional land ice accumulated in the Little Ice Age as is the overall temperature. You would like to pin all on CO2 but the rapid growth in emissions were not matched by a commensurate rise in temperature so CO2 seems not to have the effect on temperature as was promulgated by Al Gore’s acolytes. You see Ian no one disputes that temperature changes or that sea level rises; it is very hard to argue against reality, but equally there are a multitude of facts overlooked by the keepers of the Green faith because they do not support the hypothesis. Likewise one is entitled to question adjustments to raw data when the adjusters are not prepared to give an explanation and are determined to withhold data that rightly is the property of the Australian people.

    If the sceptics had a fraction of the funding available to the BoM for example there would be a number of legal challenges to the refusal to allow an independent audit. What is the BoM afraid of? The truth is what.

    • Ian MacDougall

      The question is why is the ocean rising and what is causing any glacial melt? …tectonic activity but how much? The seas are still expanding as they rebound… … You would like to pin all on CO2 but the rapid growth in emissions were not matched by a commensurate rise in temperature….

      You have ransacked the junk room of the ‘sceptics’ for anything to throw at the mainstream science and AGW/Paris agreement it endorses. My interpretation of this is that you give top priority to business-as-usual, and your attitude to the science flows entirely from that.

      • Warty

        With all due respects, Ian, you’ve almost resorted to ‘name-calling’ and haven’t really engaged with Lawrie’s comment. Personally, I’m quite open, and ignorant, about the whole climate change debate, but I was looking forward to a hard-fought rebuttal of Lawrie’s argument (which you haven’t, unfortunately).

        • Ian MacDougall

          Go to my comment of May 9, 2016 at 6:13 pm (above). But OK:

          The seas are still expanding as they rebound from the additional land ice accumulated in the Little Ice Age as is the overall temperature.

          What are these ‘expanding seas’ of Lawrie’s made of? Liquid rubber?
          I think Lawrie means isostatic rise of the continents following relief of the weight of overlying glacial ice.
          Melting glaciers raise the sea level, which is why the original Tasmanians got cut off there, thousands of years ago.
          However, consider the (CSIRO) present rate of sea-level rise: 3.3 ± 0.4 mm/yr.
          That is ~ 3.3 metres per millennium, or around 7-8 metres since ancient times. That would have been noticeable to historians, navigators and Graeco-Roman city planners.
          So it cannot have been going very long in historical terms.
          Mainly CO2 -driven: starting with the Industrial Revolution and accelerating from there. I think that gives us a better fit with the facts.

Hundreds More Reasons to Detest 18C

The law that makes it an offence to ruffle the sensitive tends to get headline attention only when a high-profile target, such as Andrew Bolt, is dragged before the courts. The truth is that it is deployed often — it’s just that we don’t hear about those cases, or of their legal costs and settlements

18c logo IIIPeople think Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act has only really caught Andrew Bolt, plus a few luckless students and staff at Queensland University of Technology. Not so. Right now the Human Rights Commission (HRC) is considering eighteen more complaints – a fact elicited by the Institute of Public Affairs via a Freedom of Information request. And in the past six years, as we now know, aggrieved citizens have lodged a stunning 832 complaints.

This extraordinary data was disclosed today (April 28) by IPA Policy Director Simon Breheny at the launch in Carlton of a new Connor Court book on Section 18c: No Offence Intended: Why 18C is Wrong (270pp, $29.95). The authors are Murdoch University trio Joshua Forrester (Ph.D candidate), Lorraine Finlay, (lecturer in constitutional law), and Dr Augusto Zimmerman (senior lecturer in constitutional law and a WA Law Reform Commissioner). For those who need reminding, Section 18C makes unlawful any act reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group of people because of race, colour, nationality or ethnicity.

Breheny said the QUT case involved legalized extortion, secret legal proceedings, and the pursuit of left wing political aims using the federal court system.

“The complainant is Cynthia Prior. Ms Prior was a university administrator at QUT until she decided she simply couldn’t work any more for fear of being offended. The basis of her distress were a number of remarks  made online by QUT students, including the factual statement by one student that Indigenous-only computer labs were an example of ‘QUT stopping segregation with segregation’.

“Three respondents have each handed over $5000 to make the issue go away. But the case continues for the remaining respondents. But this complaint is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Mr Prior, whose trauma must be extreme indeed, wants $247,570.52 compensation.

Breheny was asked how much the current 18 complaints emanated from Muslim, Aboriginal and Jewish complaints. He said he considered race and religion to be irrelevant to the issue. But from a back-of-envelope tabulation, he noted complainants include Lebanese (1), Pakistani (1), Sinhalese (1), Indian (3), Australian (8), Chinese (1), and non-specific Asian (1), “dark-skinned” (1) and uncategorized (1).

“The progress of these complaints ranges from an acknowledgement to a final response following conciliation at the commission,” he said. “Details of these complaints are not made public. The documents provided to the IPA under FOI are heavily redacted. They include some basic procedural information, dates, and the race of the complainant but none of the conduct which forms the basis of the complaint.

“The conciliation process within the commission is shrouded in secrecy.  HRC Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane admitted this last year: ‘To give you a sense of how the law currently operates, last financial year the Commission received 440-odd complaints [including s18c complaints]. Only about 3% of those complaints ended up in proceedings before a court.’”

Breheny says, “That means that 97% of all complaints are dealt with behind closed doors. Only in 3% of cases, where the matter is not resolved at conciliation, is the public ever made aware of the details of a complaint.

“Why is this relevant? Because had it not been for the QUT complaint advancing from conciliation to litigation, the public would never have known the extent to which s18C threatens freedom of speech. And without transparency around the conduct, the public doesn’t have the opportunity to assess the practical operation of the law.

“Many people, including the former Prime Minister (Abbott), have made the mistake of believing that S18C cases are aberrations.[i] But the HRC’s own statistics show S18C has restricted freedom of speech in hundreds of cases over the last six years alone.

“Malcolm Turnbull would do well to learn from the lessons of Tony Abbott’s time as prime minister in taking the leadership of the Liberal Party. Turnbull promised to lead a ‘thoroughly liberal government’. In line with that statement, Turnbull should make the case for freedom of speech to his colleagues and the public, and recommit to the repeal of S18C.”

In their  book No Offence Intended, the authors argue that s 18C is not only philosophically wrong, but also unconstitutional.  They note that there is no international human right not to be offended or insulted, and that s18C is so broad and sweeping that it infringes the implied freedom of political communication found in the Australian Constitution.

At the launch, co-author Lorraine Finlay said that Section 18C was having a real impact on public debate in Australia.  “Because of laws like Section 18C, certain topics are now off the table.  You can’t talk about them for fear of being sued.  What is worse is that this law doesn’t even achieve what it’s meant to.  We’ve had Section 18C for over twenty years now and all that it has proved is that banning supposedly racist speech doesn’t actually help to stop racism at all.”

Footnote: The QUT case involved three students entering a vacant  Aboriginals-only computer lab and being told to leave by Ms Prior because they weren’t Indigenous. Various students then commented on a QUT Facebook, including

# “I wonder where the white supremacist computer lab is…today’s your lucky day, join the white supremacist group and we’ll take care of your every need”

# A QUT lecturer wrote: “It seems a bit silly to kick someone out of an indigenous computer lab  for not being indigenous when there are computers not being used” and queried whether Prior was in breach of QUT anti-discrimination policy  by asking the students whether they were indigenous.

# Another student wrote that the lab was “more retarded than a women’s collective”

# Another wrote: “My Student and Amenity Fees are going to furbish rooms in the university where inequality reigns supreme? I believe if we have to pay to support these sorts of places, there should be at least more created for general purpose use, but again, how does these sorts of facilities support interaction and community within QUT? All this does is encourage separation and inequality. The psychology of living in the past is dangerous, and these ‘disadvantaged’ people will only stay in their given ‘seat’ in society iif that situation is reinforced.  There is a hypocrisy and bureaucratic taint in all attempts at making ‘special’ things for people who are ‘deemed unequal’ in order to ‘help make tem equal’. If you deem them unequal, well those poor bastards have no hope now. You’ve tainted them. I think the worst thing to do to a human is to tell them they’re unequal. They will forever doubt their integrity and ability.”[ii]

Tony Thomas’s own Connor Court book, “That’s Debatable…60 Years in Print” will be launched at Gambero’s, 166 Lygon St, Carlton, 6.30pm Thursday May 19. Buy it here

[i] Abbott writes in the May edition of Quadrant that his failing to repeal S18C was a significant reason for his loss of office. He wrote, “S18C is clearly a bad law. Our debates should be polite  but they should never be guaranteed not to offend. With hindsight, I should have persisted with a simpler amendment along the lines of Senator Bob Day’s later private members’ Bill.”

[ii] Forrester, J et al, No Offence Intended. Connor Court, 2016 p 180-182


  1. acarroll

    I don’t see there being any real chance of 18C being removed. The ethnic lobbies, especially the powerful and connected ones, are all for it for very practical reasons — it’s beneficial to their group strategy.

    Ain’t multiculti just dandy!

  2. ianl

    > With hindsight, I should have persisted with a simpler amendment …

    Abbott’s comment. Note the self-serving use of the word “hindsight” … pathetic. Foresight is accurate here; he had the chance and squibbed it. He won’t even list here the names of the slippery little groups that whispered in his ear to keep 18C. He should list them openly, without omission or sympathy. Never happen of course – politicians are genetically incapable of truth.

    • Mr Johnson

      Yeah, Abbott got some re-eeeaallly bad advice here. Someone, somewhere, said to him that he could attract the Muslim vote by avoiding making any changes to 18c. But also, the Jewish lobby came out hard against modifications. The moment was there, and now its gone, like you say, probably for good.

  3. Tony Thomas

    Comment from James Hargrave:
    As a natural contrarian I helped financially and, I like to think emotionally, a young man in old South Wales who, in drink, had written some impolitic things on ‘Facebook’ or one of these damned things, received abuse, returned the abuse and then been convicted and imprisoned (2 months nominal) for a ‘racially aggravated public order’ offence’ (had a publicity-milking ‘district judge’. i.e. a stipendiary magistrate). He was drunk i/c a smart phone, as far as I could tell. Crass comments and his invective lacked style. But most appalling were the threats (inc. arson) that his family received – mother was off work with the nerves for a month or two. ‘Ordinary’ family, rugby (union) mad, from an erstwhile mining town at the mouth of the Rhondda. His local rugby club, for which he had played and, as far as I could gather, which multiple generations of the family had supported was cajoled into a public disavowal and suspension of him (they the quietly let him back once the caravan of disapproval had moved on to another target). His university suspended him (what had it got to do with them?) and issued the usual vomit-inducing, self-important, public-posturing drivel you expect from such a place. And so on and so forth. He took and failed his finals a year late, but has been in gainful employment in his chosen field of chemical-analysis, been promoted, moved jobs, etc. Sports mad chemistry students aged 21 are not really my natural company, but I thought (accurately) that I recognised the type from my time in Aberystwyth. And in the still rather close and culturally homogeneous communities of the South Wales valleys they presumably don’t know what you can’t say in the equivalents of Fitzroy, because you certainly can say it in Pontypridd. And it was the usual collection of wowsers who took offence.

    A bit of a sideways rant, but I am a virulent supporter of people being able to say what they like and the law keeping its distance.

  4. Renato Alessio

    Excellent article thanks.

    One thing that I don’t understand about 18C is whether expressing an opinion can constitute “an act likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person”? My understanding is that it is pretty hard to get sued for defamation if one expresses an opinion, as opposed to stating something as fact. Mainly because an opinion is neither right or wrong. Does 18C go beyond defamation law?

    The other thing I don’t understand is exactly what power does the Human Rights Commission have when it calls one before it after a complaint is made. If one goes to a Conciliation meeting – does one really need a barrister? What penalties can the Commission give out, if any? Or is it just a prelude to going to Court – like having to go to mediation in disputes about Wills?

    The main thing wrong with the Act is that it is so subjective.
    Consider this example. A woman goes up to three separate Muslim or Chinese women and says to each,
    “Your dress is terrible, you Muslims/Chinese have a hopeless sense of style”.
    Woman A is offended, insulted and humiliated – lodges a complaint.
    Woman B thinks “There goes that silly old woman again, trying to put me down like she does everyone else around here. I can ignore her or say ‘Tell someone who cares’ ” – no complaint is lodged as the woman isn’t offended, insulted or humiliated, just annoyed.
    Woman C thinks “Hmmm – maybe she has a point, she has pretty good judgment in relation to clothes. I’ll discuss this with friends and coworkers, see if my sense of clothing style needs improvement.” – no complaint is lodged as the woman isn’t offended, insulted or humiliated.

    Thus the exact same act is done to three separate people, but only one is unlawful.

A Hypocrite of Titanic Proportions

The troubles of this carbon-plagued world weigh heavily on Leonardo DiCaprio, who uses every tool at his disposal to save the planet from global warming — tools that mostly consist of CO2-spewing private jets, jumbo yachts, energy-gobbling private palaces and his own hot air

dicaprioDon’t tell my wife but I’ve had a man-crush on Leonardo DiCaprio. At this bit in Titanic, I just couldn’t take my eyes off him:

Kate: Jack, I want you to draw me like one of your French girls. Wearing this…
 All right.
 Wearing only this….

But now my man-crush for Leo is over. If I could live my life again, I’d be kinder to my mother, but I wouldn’t see Titanic.

My about-turn came after reading DiCaprio’s speech to the UNgabfest on April 22  pledging more gabfests. He doesn’t just talk  about warming’s armageddon. He wants you and me to catch a bus, while he gets around on his private jets and mega-yachts. And the media reports his frothings in a reverential way, as if he were the Dalai Lama or Gillian Triggs.

At the UN he  conflated 19th century slavery in the US with current global warming (under 1degC in the past 100 years) as “the defining crisis of our time… a runaway freight train bringing with it an impending disaster for all living things.”  Quoting Abraham Lincoln, he concluded:

“The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the last generation… We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. That is our charge now – you are the last best hope of Earth. We ask you to protect it. Or we – and all living things we cherish – are history.”

Two years ago, Ban Ki-Moon appointed DiCaprio as the  UN’s climate-change Messenger for Peace, saying, “Mr. DiCaprio is a credible voice in the environmental movement. I am pleased he has chosen to add his voice to UN efforts to raise awareness of the urgency and benefits of acting now to combat climate change.”

Six months later, DiCaprio was paparazzi’d lounging between parties at Cannes on his 140-metre superyacht, Rising Sun, borrowed from Dreamworks Studio co-founder David Geffen. It’s the 11thlargest yacht in the world, cost $US200m, takes a crew of 45 and runs on 48,000 horsepower-worth of diesels.

Ban Ki-Moon, who lacks any sense of the ridiculous, last March followed up on DiCaprio’s appointment  by appointing Red of the cell-phone game “Angry Birds” as “Honorary Ambassador for Green” with the task of persuading us to associate happiness with combating global warming. This was part of the hoo-ha leading up to the UN’s “International Day of Happiness” on March 20. Red’s voice-over actor squawked, “Polluting the air really ruffles my feathers! Make the angry birds happy by taking public transport.”

  • In June, 2014, Caprio flew privately with a score of pals to Brazil for the World Cup, renting or borrowing accommodation in Rio de Janiero harbor on the $US 500-million, eight-deck yacht Topaz, at 482 feet and 12,000 tonnes the world’s fifth-biggest. Powered by two 8000HP diesels, it can push Topaz to 25knots, burning $US16,000 worth of  fuel a day. Various minor diesels alone burn 1000 litres of fuel daily. The yacht’s owner is UAE sheik Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan (two wives, five kids), whose family has a $US150-billion fortune from the oil Leo wants kept in the ground. Such yachts rent for around four million euros a week.
  • Two months earlier, he held a  celeb party for 100 on the same yacht in New York, hosting the show in a velour pant-suit.
  • In January, he flew by private jet to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to  attack the “greed” of the energy industry and pick up the Forum’s “Crystal Award” for alerting the planet to the perils of climate change. The Davos audience had themselves arrived via about 1700 private flights into Zurich and nearby airports.
  • On September 21, 2014,  DiCaprio was out there with Spanky Banki[1] and other celeb riffraff on New York’s  climate change march, demanding that oil be kept in the ground and tar-sands mining be halted “as an existential threat to our planet”.
  • Wikileaks in its Sony hacks exposed that Leo boarded a private jet six different times within six weeks early in 2014 on $US200,000 worth of New York-Los Angeles hops, not to mention a mini-hop LA-Las Vegas.
  • In 2011, DiCaprio flew into Sydney from New York by private jet. His story was that he does fly privately occasionally to “remote locations”. Melburnians would agree Sydney fits that bill.
  • He collects private homes, viz a $US17m Malibu beachfront complex (recently sold); a $US4 million home in Manhattan’s Battery Park City and adjoining $US8m apartment; a Palm Springs mansion, $US5.2m; and a $US10m  Greenwich Village apartment including “dawn simulation” by circadian lighting. He also owns an island in Belize which he’s developing  in an eco-friendly way, of course, for 45 condos.

But forget all that. As DiCaprio puts it,

“The idea of pursuing material objects your whole life is absolutely soulless. Steve Jobs sat on his deathbed talking about how greed and wealth is the root problem of everything. I believe that too. My career has given me so much from a material standpoint. I feel that I absolutely need to give back in whatever capacity I can. It’s my moral obligation…We’re absolutely digging our own ecological grave.”

DiCaprio told the Davos fly-in crowd that

“…dirty, carbon-intensive fuels” have to be left in the ground “where they belong…We simply cannot afford to allow the corporate greed of the coal, oil, and gas industries to determine the future of humanity.

Together we are fighting to preserve our fragile climate from irreversible damage and devastation of unthinkable proportions.”

As he averred at the UN last September, “None of this is rhetoric, and none of it is hysteria. It is fact.” Not one to understate his case, he told celebs at his Oscar award:

“Climate change is the most fundamental and existential threat to our species. The consequences are unthinkable and worse, it has the potential to make our planet unlivable… if we do not act together, we will surely perish.”

He’s making a pious environment documentary film,  explaining how “we’re literally going through an extinction right now. We’re changing our climates irreparably.”

We all know that the Prince of Climate Hypocrites is Al Gore, whose 20-room Tennessee mansion at the time of his Nobel Peace award was running up $US30,000 a year in power bills.[2]   It’s less well-known that the producer of his Inconvenient Truth fiction movie, the-then Mrs Laurie David, was another “Gulfstream liberal”. “It’s so easy to marginalise people,” she said in self-defence. “Yes, I take a private plane on holiday a couple of times a year, and I feel horribly guilty about it. I probably shouldn’t do it. But the truth is, I’m not perfect. This is not about perfection. I don’t expect anybody else to be perfect either. That’s what hurts the environmental movement — holding people to a standard they cannot meet. That just pushes people away.” Well, yes, and so does green hypocrisy.

The plot thickened when the gossip magazines reported she was also canoodling with Gore (her husband, Larry, was creator of the Seinfeld TV series). She denied it, especially some  claims that she and Al had made out in the back seat of a Prius. Mr Gore divorced his mate Tipper and Mrs David divorced Larry about the same time, but that was coincidence.

Australian actors don’t get the same reverence as the Hollywood set.[3] Cate Blanchett (current net worth $60m) starred in a Rudd carbon tax ad in 2011, and a decade ago blamed climate change for the drought (that was followed soon after by floods).[4] She had done her bit for our parched continent by cutting showers to two minutes and occasionally choosing not to wash her hair. Her taste in real estate is not all that emissions-conscious. Last year she bought Highwell House on 13 acres in East Sussex for $6m. It includes eight bedrooms, ten bathrooms, and a 40-foot drawing room lit by crystal chandeliers. Cate and hubby Andrew Upton were cashed up after selling their Hunters Hill pad, Bulwarra, for around $20m last September.

Celebs can spend their cash how they like. But please, pause the preaching.

Tony Thomas blogs at No B-S Here, I Hope. His book of essays, That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print, launches at Gambero’s, 166 Lygon St, Carlton, 6.30pm Thursday May 19.

[1] Kevin Rudd’s soubriquet. Don’t blame me.

[2] In 2013 Gore and his partners sold his Current TV channel for $US500m to  the oil-rich Qatar ruling family’s Al Jazeera. When the Qataris sought to welsh on $US65m of the price, he deposed that  his deeper motive for the sale was “to help foster deeper mutual understanding between the United States and Arab World”.

[3]  Woody Harrelson in 2014 did a TV ad for Tom Steyer: “Now they tell us climate change is a hoax. Some powerful people want to hold us back. But the truth is undeniable. This is a fight we will win.” But a few years earlier at the Cannes film festival, he discovered he’d left his vegan belt and shoes behind, so he had them flown out from California by Fedex.

[4] Cate  was chauffeured out to “drought-ravaged Lake Samsonvale, north of Brisbane” in 2007 by the Australian Conservation Foundation, which conveyed her in a “fuel-efficient hybrid four-wheel-drive”. While posing there for photographers, she complained of Australia lagging behind on emissions targets and boasted of putting solar panels on her Hunters Hill mansion. Lake Samsonvale today is about 70% full (a year ago, 90%).


  1. Bill Martin

    Logic and reason would suggest that such extreme hypocrisy is simply not possible. Apparently it is.

  2. ianl

    About 10 (?) years ago, a respected Detective finally retired from the NSW Police Force. At his farewell, he was asked:

    “What is the most potent memory you have ?”

    “I have never found any bottom to human hypocrisy”, he answered.

    The Greens demonstrate this every day. The woman who owns the Huffington Post (HuffPuff), including the Aus variation, just one year ago flew in her private jet from Texas to a destination in Switzerland to attend a seminar on how to get people to use less air travel – I kid not.

    My gut feeling is that in about 10 years, DiCaprio will try a Reagan, ie. run for President.

Brand-New Timeless Traditions

It seems no public event can begin without a Welcome to Country, quite possibly involving an ochre-daubed performer with a smoking bark pot and lots of ethno-gibberish neither star nor audience understand. Let us hope the quest for ‘authenticity’ does not embrace penis-touching and cannibalism

indigenous smokoWelcome to Country and smoking ceremonies involve professional mock-ups of supposed thousand-year Aboriginal traditions. Someone hires a local troupe to dance in body paint and laplaps to didgeridoo and clapstick music. The leader says a few words in the traditional language and self- translates it into New Age platitudes about peace and goodwill. Everyone goes home smug.

Matilda House-Williams, an elder of the Ngambri Clan, went home particularly happy with an undisclosed sum  for a welcome-to-country speech of six minutes for Kevin Rudd at the opening of the 42nd Parliament in 2008.[1]  She was back (as plain Matilda “House”) in 2010 for Gillard’s 43rd Parliament (fee undisclosed), and again for the 44th Parliament, led by Tony Abbott. This time her fee was disclosed: $10,500, for “entertainment services”. With stakes like that, it’s not surprising that the Ngunnawal clan, led by Aunty Agnes Shea , themselves claimed to be Canberra’s traditional owners. Parliament has now squared the circle by naming both clans as owners.[2]

In Melbourne’s inner-city suburb of Abbotsford, the Wurundjeri Tribe Land & Compensation Cultural Heritage Council Inc.   quotes (below) $570  for a Welcome to Country (Community not for profit clients, $470); $300 for a Smoking /Cleansing Ceremony ($300); $820 for a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony ($720); $1700 for Jindyworabak Dancers ($1700) and $250 for didgeridoo player ($250). Travel and parking are included; 10% GST to be added.

welcome rates

Sydney’s Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council quotes Welcome to Country speeches at $385-450, with a 20% surcharge after 5pm and weekends.  Dancers, didgeridoo players and smoking-ceremony handlers are not supplied by this council and come at extra expense. The council warns that its three “uncles” providing welcomes “are in high demand”, unsurprising given that welcomes are becoming mandatory.

Even the CSIRO, an organisation nominally pledged to rational inquiry and scientific rigour (OK, there is that climate-change hysteria), has bought in to the ‘welcome’ business, having issued guidelines for pay rates and accommodations when its laboratories need to be cleansed of “evil spirits” by an ochred contractor waving fiery foliage. Exposed and widely ridiculed, those guidelines were quietly removed for the internet. They remain available via Wayback Machine’s web archive, however, and can be read in full here.

The supposedly ancient ‘welcome’ tradition goes back 30-40 years, whereas the House of Commons goes back  nearly 700 years. Indigenous entertainers Ernie Dingo and Richard Whalley, of the Middar Aboriginal Theatre, claim to have invented the “welcome to country” in 1976 because two pairs of Maori visitors from NZ and the Cook Islands wanted an equivalent of their own traditional ceremony before they would dance at the Perth International Arts Festival.[3]  Another version is that activists shrewdly created the ceremony at about the same time to buttress land-rights claims. And Aboriginal Rhoda Roberts, head of indigenous programming at the Sydney Opera House, says the ceremonies were developed in the 1980s by members of the Aboriginal National Theatre Trustwhich she co-founded. Her speaker-for-hire profile claims she personally invented the term “welcome to country” along with the protocols involved.  She would like welcomes to include marking guests with ochre and Aboriginal sweat. Eccch.

Not to be outdone, current ABC chair and then NSW Chief Justice, Jim Spigelman, said in 2011 that he created first official use of the ceremony for the Court’s 175th anniversary in 1999, and that ceremony inspired the NSW Parliament to take it up too. Spigelman, with all respect, erred. Governor-General Sir William Deane did the deed in his annual Vincent Lingiari Lecture in 1996.[4]

Whatever the motives, the welcome meme fitted perfectly into the zeitgeist. Welcomes To and/or Acknowledgements Of Country  are now mandated by Parliaments, governments, departments,  the military, shires, corporates, educators and right-thinking groups all around the country. The mandating is normally done by Labor powerbrokers, while conservatives drag their feet but are too intimidated to resist.

Anthropologists and early settlers failed to record anything much resembling “welcome to country” ceremonies. Bess Price, CLP Aboriginal member of the Northern Territory Parliament and Minister for Community Services, has described “welcomes” as  “not particularly meaningful to traditional people anyway. We don’t do that in communities. It’s just a recent thing. It’s just people who are trying to grapple at something that they believe should be traditional.”

Tony Thomas’s new book of essays, That’s Debatable, will be launched at 6.30pm Thursday, May 19, at Il Gamberos Restaurant, 166 Lygon St, Carlton.
Order your copy here

Anthropologist Ron Brunton found in WA some evidence for permissions being required to enter neighbouring clans’ land (although more honoured in the breach these days) but saw no evidence of any welcome-to-countries  in the state where the ceremonies were (probably) first invented.

Adelaide archival researcher and geologist Alistair Crooks says,

“During years of geological site inspections, I have never seen or heard of a welcome ceremony being performed when entering tribal land (invited), nor have I seen the ceremony performed when transporting Aborigines into or across various tribal boundaries. Nor is any such ceremony described by any of the early explorers or anthropologists that I am aware of.”

Except, of course, the rather simple penis-touching ceremony around Oodnadatta described by Berndt and Berndt and Roheim.[5]

The Berndts recorded,

“When a man with a subincised penis enters a strange camp, he takes up the hand of each local man in turn, pressing his penis flatly on the palm.[6] This gesture, of offering and acceptance in a close physical contact, signifies the establishment of friendly relations, and is associated with the settling of grievances.”[7]

Explorer Edward John Eyre also describes the permissions of one group wanting to enter the land of a neighbouring group for ceremonial reasons, and what the process involved. There didn’t appear to be any “welcome” ceremony.

Crooks says,

“Central to Eyre’s notes is the aboriginal belief that only the old and young can die of natural causes. All adults only die as the result of contact with sickness country, by the action of malignant spirits, or by the intervention of sorcery by neighboring tribes.

Thus when two tribes meet at one tribal boundary, they first settle accounts for all the tribal deaths attributable to sorcery by each tribe since they last met. After a discussion a group of men would be selected out and would allow themselves to be speared by the other tribe. After this settling of accounts, normal relations were established and they could get on with the business.” [8]

One early observer, a certain Mrs Smith, wife of a Mt Gambier missionary, noted that welcomes don’t always end well: “The tribes, like most savage peoples, were in continual dread of each other; and although they occasionally met up on friendly terms to hold a murapena (corroboree), it usually eventuated in a fight, in which one or two were killed and afterwards eaten.”[9]

A typical modern “welcome” was the 2014 ceremonial year-opening for the Australian Command & Staff College in Canberra.  About 170 middle-ranking officers took part, preparatory to a year’s “intensive course which includes strategic policy, leadership and ethics, joint operations, single service studies and capability development components”. Nearly all officers wore ribbons signifying their valor and active service.

The welcome ceremony was by Canberra’s popular Wiradjuri Echoes Dance Troupe (or “troop”, as the ADF  misprinted it). It comprises Wiradjuri man Duncan Smith and his four teenagers, who’ve performed for Denmark’s Prince Frederik and Princess Mary and three of our Prime Ministers. As Duncan explains his career, “Having five kids, it isn’t easy to raise them, I’ll start a business up in culture. But I had no idea about doing it, I sat in business seminar after seminar [laughs]. ‘Yes, I can do this!’ I got the ABN and stuff and started building a business and reputation.”  His much-awarded Echoes are the go-to group for high-level  performances.

Good luck to the  Echoes as a thriving small business catering to whites’ liking for color, movement and exotica. But it was the reverential behaviour of the 170 military officers that intrigued me.  After the dance, Duncan stood on the pathway into the lecture theatre with a bark holder containing smoking gum leaves. Every one of the officers filed past and mimed pushing the smoke into their faces. Their expressions were as solemn as at church-going. Inside,  Ngunnawal elder Aunty Agnes Shea (Matilda House’s rival claimant to Canberra land) presented the commander, Brigadier Peter Gates, with a nicely-painted message stick. Any officer raising an eyebrow at possible inauthenticity, would kiss his/her career goodbye.[10]

Lisa Phelps, head of the ADF’s Directorate of Indigenous Affairs, joined the speakers. Like those responsible for the  national school curriculum, the ADF wants “a cultural awareness piece in every training package continuum that is developed.” The ADF has also committed to more than double its intake of Indigenous recruits, to 2.7% of the force. This quest is seriously chewing up resources that could otherwise be recruiting more successfully elsewhere to help eventually push back ISIS and other bad guys. I sometimes wonder if the ADF has any inclination for combat after all this cultural correctness. See also here.

These days, Indigenous ceremonies are everyone’s feel-good exercise, but not long ago, with Indigenes more stroppy, there were glitches. The greatest was the Pageant of Australian History organized by the National Trust at Old Government House at Parramatta to celebrate the Federation Centenary in 2001.  The audience included the mayor, state and federal parliamentarians, and local Indigenes.

As recounted by anthropologist Kristina Everett, the Trust’s plan was to round up some local Darug to welcome attendees and display pre-contact Australian life.[11]  White actors were lined up to orate as Governor Philip, the MacArthurs, the Macquaries, Marsden, Greenway, the Rum Corps etc. The Indigenes were to do their picturesque things and then conveniently disappear after  dispersal by Red Coats firing muskets.

The Darugs, embittered by failed attempts to establish land-claim title to the end on which Sydney is built,  played along with the script at rehearsals. But for the performance, they dispersed only temporarily at the musket fire and re-instated themselves in the shrubbery, shouting at the Governor Philip actor in their ersatz Darug tongue and then re-emerging, Everett said, “moaning, groaning, clutching their stomachs, their heads, their hearts, and then ‘dying’ on the lawn of Old Government House.”

 “I became increasingly concerned that the theatrical ‘Governor Philip’ would retaliate by calling the Red Coats. ‘Governor Philip’ began to lose his concentration when delivering his speech concerning his mission to establish a new British colony and to treat Aboriginal inhabitants according to British justice and fairness. His words became labored as dancers began to ‘die’ at his feet.”

The audience, both black and white, got queasy, unused to disrespectful interruptions of theatrical performances. Plus it was obvious that the Darug had a  point.

“Stifled giggles, soft murmurs, and puzzled expressions emanated from the audience as many shifted in their seats.  As ‘Governor Philip’ exited back into Old Government House, I, for one, felt relieved when the Darug performers ‘rose from the dead’ and disappeared into the shrubs followed by spirited applause.”

The actor playing Francis Greenway came out on the portico  clad in powdered wig, velvet knickerbockers, ruffled blouse and buckled shoes, and the painted-up Darug in loin-cloths returned in force to writhe, moan and expire once more “on the grass at his feet.” Each time colonial worthies came out for inspired oratory, the Darug repeated their counterpoint.

“The pageant became for me, almost impossible to watch. It was programmed to take only one hour, but seemed interminable. It was clear from the tension, comments and restlessness of other audience members that I was not alone in my distress. One Aboriginal man near me complained to a woman beside him,  ‘Gawd Lornie, I dunno if I can take much more o’ this. It’s embarrassin’.”

The actors playing   founding white mothers and fathers stuttered awkwardly, whether at being interrupted or feeling their roles had been subverted by the bodies littering the lawn.

One of the female dancers later explained to Everett, “Feelin’ uncomfortable in our own country is what bein’ Aboriginal is all about. It don’t do no harm for whitefellas to get a taste o’ it.” She writes:

“’Dead’ bodies remained on the lawn until some National Trust organisers discreetly escorted them out of sight. The audience did not know how to respond. A few people began to applaud but it was not taken up by everybody.  It was not until a ‘thank you and good night’ speech was made by a National Trust representative that the audience broke into applause.”

Everett in her preamble explains that “the Darug” as a group only emerged in the 1980s after genealogical research by a biologist Dr James Kohen identifying 6000 suburbanites as Darug.  The “vast majority” didn’t identify even as Aboriginal before or after Kohen’s research. But between 200 and 300 took up the cause of being Darug and began creating a Darug identity, putting in three unsuccessful land rights claims to Sydney. She wrote, “The process of becoming an Aboriginal community has not, however, been without its share of sweat, blood and tears. Over the last thirty years Darug people have been experimenting with various ideas about how to be Aboriginal.” Over time they convinced themselves:

“It seems that the expressions of group identity they have developed over some decades have now become such values in themselves that they cannot and will not be relinquished. Welcome to country ceremonies are one of these articulations.” (author’s emphasis).

Facets include learning from academics about original Darug ancestors, “to some people actually behaving in ways that they imagine Darug ancestors behaved.” Those facets include forms of ‘primitive’ dancing, ceremonies and speaking a claimed version of Darug language.

One group leaned towards the academic knowledge, the other group towards “more cultural and behavioral forms of expression”, causing the original group to split, sometimes with acrimony. Notwithstanding, local councils, governments and schools have fallen over themselves to invite Darugs to give welcome to country ceremonies, even to massively-attended shows like the 2000 Olympics, the 2006 Commonwealth Games torch relay and the 2001 Federation shows, along with numerous minor shows, flag-raisings and conferences. About the only group that does not invite Darugs to do welcome-to-country shows are rival Aborigines.

Everett gets particularly interesting on the re-creation of Aboriginal languages for use at such ceremonies. This is symbolically important in claiming pre-contact ancestry — although, at best, only a few vestiges of the language remain in urban settings. Everett says current Darugs have virtually no knowledge of the old Darug spoken language, other than a few words.

“There is no Darug language community. Nor are there any records in full and very little in part of Darug language…The Darug descendants…use what they insist is a version of Darug language that they have developed with the help of word lists from a white supporter in the early days and then by themselves over the last thirty years to conduct welcome to country ceremonies.”

When they use it, “it is not understood either by the audience or the speakers themselves” – since it is  “a recently invented verbal ritual affirming Darug identity…and is hence more of a dramatic ritual performance than a language”.  Everett cites the following example of Darug “language” as spoken by a senior woman in the 2001 Federation pageant:

Tiati murra Daruga pemel,
Koi murra ya pemel ngalaringi bubbuna.
Ban nye yenma wurra nang.
Ney dice gai dyi ya nangami dyarralang.
Ngalaringi tiati nglararingi gai.
Gu-ya willy angara gu-nu-gal dag u-nu-gal
Da la-loey gnia tarimi gi-mi-gal.
Jam ya tiati nglararingi eorah jumna.
Mittigar gurrung burruk gneene da Daruga pemel.[12]

Make of all that what you will. Everett says this speech was received with great audience enthusiasm, spirited applause, head-nodding and warm smiles at this ‘authentic’ display.

Meanwhile, state education departments are handing authority over Aboriginal teaching and curriculum to local Aboriginal groups. This is seen as being culturally sensitive, but in reality endows the Aboriginal lobby with classroom control. As last year’s Victorian official guideline on the courses puts it, “Any education materials produced must be developed directly by or in partnership with Koorie community representatives — at the local level this work must be in consultation with LAECGs [Local Aboriginal Education Consultative Groups].

As Ronald Berndt noted 30 years ago,  “Aboriginality is sought in an Aboriginal past. Not in the reality of traditional Aboriginal life, contemporary or otherwise, but in their idea of what it was (or is) like…in re-creation of what they think Aboriginal life should be…

“A great deal of interesting myth-making is going on.”[13]

Tony Thomas blogs at No B-S Here, I Hope


[1]  She concluded the speech: “With this renewed hope and our pride, our strength is refreshed. Like our ancestors, we can reach new heights soaring on the wings of the eagles. Thank you very much, and welcome to the land of my ancestors.”

[2] The President now says, “I acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples who are the traditional custodians of the Canberra area and pay respect to the elders, past and present, of all Australia’s Indigenous peoples.”

[3] The Middar Theatre was actually founded in 1978, hence the invention date may be 1978 rather than 1976.

[4] “We acknowledge that we are meeting on country for which they and their forbears have been custodians for many centuries and on which Aboriginal people have performed age-old ceremonies of celebration, initiation and renewal. We acknowledge their living culture and unique role in the life of this region”

[5] The author studied under the Berndts in 1961 at UWA

[6] In the Western Desert a boy becomes a man by having an upper central incisor pounded out of his head with a rock, without anaesthetic, without permission to express pain or terror; by having his foreskin cut off in little pieces with a stone knife and seeing it eaten by certain of his male relatives, and as a climax of agony, by having his penis slit through to the urethra from the scrotum to the meatus, like a hot dog… Professor of Anthropology John Greenway, Down Among the Wild Men. Little, Brown, 1972. p3

[7] Berndt R. and Berndt C., The World of the First Australians. Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra 1999. p176

[8] To be whimsical, such ritual spearings   of white leaders by Aboriginal performers at Welcome ceremonies could lend an authentic touch and generate some literal healing of past wounds.

[9]  Mrs. James Smith, 1880. The Booandik Tribe of South Australia. South Australian Government Printer. 1965 facsimile produced by the SA Libraries Board.

[10] To some extent, the ADF was providing some local culture for the 25 or so foreign officers taking the course, as occurs on a reciprocal basis in defence circles. But the ADF is suffusing this culture through its total systems.

[11] Kristina Everett, Welcome to Country…Not. Oceania, Vol 1/79,  March 2009, pp53-64.

[12] Coincidentally, I assisted noted linguist Dr Carl Georg Von Brandenstein on his work translating Pilbara song-poetry from four dialects (Taruru, by Brandenstein and Thomas, Rigby, 1974). To give the flavor of some authentic Aboriginal language, however remote from NSW,  here’s a sample,  “Air Raid on Broome”, Karierra dialect, by Billy Thomas-Wombi:

palanamu jiaanimalgu wajangaarnu
savan nulikadaer jiaanimalgu
palanamu jiaanimalgu wajangaarnu


They’re coming in from the east
– terrifying!
Seven they are – coming in from the east.
Coming in from the east
– terrifying!
Those chaps with the protruding eyes.

(We’re not sure if “protruding eyes” refers to the pilots’ goggles).


[13] In Johns, G. 2011. Aboriginal Self-Determination, The Whiteman’s Dream. Connor Court Publishing.



  1. Tig

    I would have thought the ADF would be much too practical to be blindsided by Left political correctness and falderal but they seem to be out there leading the way of late.

  2. Richard H

    As potent a sign of how degenerate our governing institutions have become is what how happens in our parliaments.

    Since the seventeenth century, parliaments in the Westminster tradition have refused to allow the Sovereign or the Sovereign’s representative to enter the popularly-elected chamber, such as the House of Representatives. The symbolism is stark: even the most mighty power in the land cannot intrude into the solemn precincts of the people’s representatives.

    Now we have an inversion whereby the location of those solemn precincts is deemed to be the traditional home of some tiny band of painted frauds, and our elected representatives allow themselves to be “welcomed” there.

  3. Geoffrey Luck

    The Darug racket has been shrewdly advanced by picking the soft targets. The official website of Macquarie University, built on what were market gardens as recently as the 1950s, acknowledges that the university is on the land of the Darug people. Not – what was once the land of the Darug people, mind you. In a presentational video featuring one Jacinta Tobin, she adopts an arrogantly proprietorial attitude: “Our family has learnt in this country for forty, fifty thousand years. We ask you to come here and learn again.” Tobin concludes with a song which she has cleverly copyrighted – as if many would want to borrow it. It’s not exactly a “Happy Birthday!” Welcome to country and/or smoking ceremonies are now part of all graduation ceremonies and official conferences on the Macquarie campus; the University boasts its own resident “elder”. Uncle Lexodious (Is that poking fun at white man’s law?) Dodd has his own office and telephone (02 9850 8653) and when not welcoming people to his country, “informs our teaching and research practice within the discipline of Indigenous Studies.” In 1974 when the University hosted a high tea for foundation alumni to celebrate its jubilee, Dodd and one of his mates gave not merely a welcome but also a ten minute historical harangue. When I wrote a lettr of protest about this nonsense to the new Vice Chancellor, I received a peremptory rebuke about my cultural insensitivity, with the implication that he would have taken away my MBA if he could have. Sentimentality, guilt and childish fascination with ersatz cultural performances have gripped the nation. Tony has done well to expose what is really a surreptitious part of the campaign to establish a two-nation Australia.

  4. Davidovich

    Given that we are now being forced to accept that white men invaded Australia, it seems incongruous that there would have been any welcome to country ceremonies back then.

  5. Alistair

    Nice article Tony.
    I noticed in your translation in the footnotes “seven they are coming”. This surprised me as I know of no aboriginal language which has a word for a numeral higher than three. The word “seven” though is presumably a translation of that ancient indigenous word “savan”. Perhaps this proves a link between aboriginal languages and proto-indo-european languages. From the time of first settlement they been considered to part of the Caucasian family.

    • padraic

      I just about puke when I am at a function where this patronising “Welcome to Country” is trotted out. To me it is saying we native born Australians of the paler variety are not real citizens of our own country. Well, sorry guys. I’ve got news for you.

Genuflecting Before Savagery

The University of NSW demands a keen reverence for the ways and customs of “pre-invasion” Aborigines — an astonishing admonition in the light of current attention to domestic violence. Were those same standards embraced on campus, few female professors, lecturers or students would go unscarred

indigenous woman beatenOK, the University of NSW wants its students to refer to Australia from 1788 as “invaded, occupied and colonized”. Moreover, students should be reverential towards the, er, invadees. For example, “the word ‘Elders’ should be written with a capital letter as a mark of respect.”

These Elders, say the guidelines, are “men and women in Aboriginal communities who are respected for their wisdom and knowledge of their culture, particularly the Law. Male and female Elders, who have higher levels of knowledge, maintain social order according to the Law.” The guidelines note that the “sophistication of Indigenous Australian social organization (is) starting to be more recognized.”

This is all terrific, but I don’t think it quite gets the flavor of pre-contact, and sometimes post-contact, Aboriginal social customs. Helpfully, the earliest white arrivals jotted down their impressions. Sensitive UNSW students and their lecturers, professors, administrators and campus thought-police, may find the rest of my piece upsetting. So I immediately issue them a ‘trigger warning’ and ‘need for safe space’ alert.

Newly-arrived British and French were shocked at the local misogyny they encountered. First Fleeter Watkin Tench noticed a young woman’s head “covered by contusions, and mangled by scars”. She also had a spear wound above the left knee caused by a man who dragged her from her home to rape her. Tench wrote,

They  (Aboriginal women) are in all respects treated with savage barbarity; condemned not only to carry the children, but all other burthens, they meet in return for submission only with blows, kicks and every other mark of brutality.[1]

He also wrote,

When an Indian [sic] is provoked by a woman, he either spears her, or knocks her down on the spot; on this occasion he always strikes on the head, using indiscriminately a hatchet, a club, or any other weapon, which may chance to be in his hand.

Marine Lt. William Collins wrote, “We have seen some of these unfortunate beings with more scars upon their shorn heads, cut in every direction, than could be well distinguished or counted.”

Governor Phillip’s confidant, Bennelong, in 1790 had taken a woman to Port Jackson to kill her because her relatives were his enemies. He gave her two severe wounds on the head and one on the shoulder, saying this was his rightful vengeance.

Tony Thomas’ new book, That’s Debatable: 60 years in print,
can be ordered here

Phillip was appalled that an Eora mother within a few days of delivery had fresh wounds on her head, where her husband had beaten her with wood.

In 1802 an explorer in the Blue Mountains wrote how, for a trivial reason, an Aboriginal called Gogy “took his club and struck his wife’s head such a blow that she fell to the ground unconscious. After dinner…he got infuriated and again struck his wife on the head with his club, and left her on the ground nearly dying.”

In 1825, French explorer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville wrote “young girls are brutally kidnapped from their families, violently dragged to isolated spots and are ravished after being subjected to a good deal of cruelty.”[2]

George Robinson in Tasmania said in the 1830s that men courted their women by stabbing them with sharp sticks and cutting them with knives prior to rape. The men bartered their women to brutal sealers for dogs and food; in one case, such a woman voluntarily went back to the sealers rather than face further tribal violence.[3]

Also in the 1830s, ex-convict Lingard wrote: “I scarcely ever saw a married woman, but she had got six or seven cuts in her head, given by her husband with a tomahawk, several inches in length and very deep.”[4]

Explorer Edward John Eyre, who was very sympathetic towards Aborigines, nevertheless recorded:

Women are often sadly ill-treated by their husbands and friends…they are frequently beaten about the head, with waddies, in the most dreadful manner, or speared in the limbs for the most trivial offences…

…few women will be found, upon examination, to be free from frightful scars upon the head, or the marks of spear wounds about the body. I have seen a young woman, who, from the number of these marks, appeared to have been almost riddled with spear wounds.[5]

Louis Nowra visited outback communities and found them astonishingly brutal: “Some of the women’s faces ended up looking as though an incompetent butcher had conducted plastic surgery with a hammer and saw. The fear in the women’s eyes reminded me of dogs whipped into cringing submission.”[6]

Bashing of women’s heads appears to have been the custom for millennia. Paleopathologist Stephen Webb in 1995 published his analysis of 4500 individuals’ bones from mainland Australia going back 50,000 years. (Priceless bone collections at the time were being officially handed over to Aboriginal communities for re-burial, which stopped follow-up studies).[7] Webb found highly disproportionate rates of injuries and fractures to women’s skulls, with the injuries suggesting deliberate attack and often attacks from behind, perhaps in domestic squabbles. In the tropics, for example, female head-injury frequency was about 20-33%, versus 6.5-26% for males. The most extreme results were on the south coast, from Swanport and Adelaide, with female cranial trauma rates as high as 40-44% — two to four times the rate of male cranial trauma. In desert and South Coast areas, 5-6% of female skulls had three separate head injuries, and 11-12% had two injuries.

Webb could not rule out women-on-women attacks but thought them less probable. The high rate of injuries to female heads was the reverse of results from studies of other peoples. His findings, according to anthropologist Peter Sutton, confirm that serious armed assaults were common in Australia over thousands of years prior to conquest. Settlers reported that sexual violence, including pack rapes and horrific genital wounding, was inflicted in many groups on girls barely out of the toddler stage.

Solicitor/historian Joan Kimm wrote: “The sexual use of young girls by older men, indeed often much older men, was an intrinsic part of Aboriginal culture, a heritage that cannot easily be denied.”[8]

Nowra quotes Walter Roth (1861-1933) a doctor, anthropologist and Chief Protector of Aborigines in Queensland.[9] Roth described at the turn of the 20th century how, when a Pitta-Pitta girl first showed signs of puberty, “several men would drag her into the bush and forcibly enlarge the vaginal orifice by tearing it downwards with the first three fingers wound round and round with opossum string. Other men come forward from all directions, and the struggling victim has to submit in rotation to promiscuous coition with all the ‘bucks’ present.”

Even worse was his description of practices around Glenormiston:

A group of men, with cooperation from old women, ambush a young woman, and pin her so an old man can slit up the shrieking girl’s perineum with a stone knife, followed by sweeping three fingers round the inside of the virginal orifice. She is next compelled to undergo copulation with all the bucks present; again the same night, and a third time, on the following morning.

In Birdsville, a hardwood stick two feet long with a crude life-sized penis carving at the top, was used to tear the hymen and posterior vaginal wall.

In the Tully area, a very young man would give his betrothed to an old man to sleep with her and train her for him. The idea was that the elder would ‘make the little child’s genitalia develop all the more speedily’. There was no restriction on age or social status at which the bride would be delivered up. As Roth observed, ‘It is of no uncommon occurrence to see an individual carrying on his shoulder his little child-wife who is perhaps too tired to toddle any further.

Accounts from the missionary era are daunting. In 1905, the local telegraph operator at Fitzroy River reported that a five-year-old half-caste girl, Polly, “was out with the old woman, Mary Ann, when a bush black took her away for two nights during which time the blacks here said he made use of her. Such actions as that of Polly and the men are very common among the natives.”[10]
Anglican lay missionary Mary Bennett in 1934 testified,

The practice to which I refer is that of intercision of the girls at the age of puberty. The vagina is cut with glass by the old men, and that involves a great deal of suffering…I remember my old Aboriginal nurse speak with horror of the suffering which she had been made to undergo.

A practice as bad as female genital mutilation is still inflicted on hundreds of boys annually – involuntary sub-incision, the slitting open of the urethra.

In contemporary Australia, polygamy and traditions of promised- brides continue in Arnhem Land and other remote areas. Until recently, the judiciary was lenient in such cases involving forced under-age sex. Jarrett writes,

There are Aboriginal men who still claim these modern young girls as their promised possession, and have cars, guns, outstations and kin to help them secure and punish these resistant girls, well away from public purview … A man’s traditional sense of entitlement, and use of violence to enforce it, can still triumph over the emancipation of a young Aboriginal woman’s mind.[11]

In 2004 , at Yarralin near Katherine, a 55-year-old married man physically and sexually assaulted his 14-year-old promised bride for two days even as she pleaded she was too young for sex. In August, 2005, in an under-the-tree session, Justice Brian Martin noted the cultural context and gave the man a one-month suspended sentence. On appeal the sentence was increased to three years and a defence appeal to the High Court was lost. Justice Martin later admitted he had been too lenient.

In 2002, at Maningrida, Jackie Pascoe Jamilmira, a 50-year-old wife killer, had forced sex on a 15-year-old promised bride, for whom he had given presents to the ‘bride’s’ parents. He then fired a shotgun into the air to warn off the girls’ family members. Justice John Gallop of the NT Supreme Court sentenced him to 24 hours jail for unlawful sex, saying the matter should never have come to court. Pascoe, he said, was exercising his conjugal rights in traditional society and the girl ‘knew what was expected of her. It’s surprising to me [that the defendant] was charged at all’.[12]

The North Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service relied on expert anthropological evidence to argue that promised marriages were common and morally correct under Aboriginal law, and supported his application to the High Court. Nowra cites the case of a middle-aged Aboriginal man who anally raped a 14-year-old promised bride, and who was sentenced merely to detention for the duration of the NT court session.[13]

Tribal warfare and paybacks were endemic. In Journey to Horseshoe Bend, anthropologist T.G.H. Strehlow described a black-on-black massacre in 1875 in the Finke River area of Central Australia, triggered by a perceived sacrilege:

The warriors turned their murderous attention to the women and older children and either clubbed or speared them to death. Finally, according to the grim custom of warriors and avengers they broke the limbs of the infants, leaving them to die ‘natural deaths’. The final number of the dead could well have reached the high figure of 80 to 100 men, women and children.[14]

Revenge killings by the victims’ clan involved more than 60 people, with the two exchanges accounting for about 20% of members of the two clans. When Pauline Hanson, then member for Oxley, quoted this account in 1996, an Aboriginal woman elder  (or “Elder” as UNSW would write it) replied, “Mrs Hanson should receive a traditional Urgarapul punishment: having her hands and feet crippled.”

Escaped convict William Buckley, who lived for three decades with tribes around Port Phillip, recounted constant raids, ambushes and small battles, typically involving one to three fatalities. He noted the Watouronga of Geelong in night raids ‘destroyed without mercy men, women and children.’[15]

Historian Geoff Blainey concluded that annual death rates from North-East Arnhem Land and Port Philip, were comparable with countries involved in the two world wars, although Blainey’s estimate could be somewhat on the high side.[16]

Other black-on-black massacres include accounts from anthropologist Bill Stanner of an entire camp massacre, an Aurukun massacre in the early 20th century, Strehlow’s account of the wiping out of the Plenty River local group of Udebatara in Central Australia, and the killing of a large group of men, women and children near Mt Eba, also in Central Australia.

Strehlow’s wife, Kathleen, wrote:

It would be no exaggeration to say that the system worked as one of sheer terror in the days before the white man came. This terror was instilled from earliest childhood and continued unabated through life until the extremity of old age seemed to guarantee some immunity from the attentions of blood avenger or sorcerer alike for wrongs real or imaginary…children were not exempted from capital punishment for persistent offences against the old tribal code.

The Murngin (now Yolngu) in north-east Arnhem Land during 1920s practiced a deadly warfare that placed it among the world’s most lethal societies. The then-rate for homicides of 330 per 100,000 (which author Stephanie Jarrett suggests could be grossly under-estimated) was 15 times the 2006-07 “very remote national Indigenous rate” of 22, and 300 times the 2006-7 national non-Indigenous rate. That Murngin rate was worse than in Mexico’s present Ciudad Juarez drug capital (300 homicides per 100,000), and more than three times worse than the worst national current rate (Honduras).

Aboriginal practices extant during white settlement were not all that worthy of current required genuflection by academia. Nor, of course, did the settlers effect much, or any net improvement, given the fatal diseases they introduced and the  dispossession and cultural collapse they precipitated. What was, was; what happened, happened. There’s no need for UNSW to smother historical realities in a haze of political correctness.

Tony Thomas blogs at No B-S Here, I Hope




[1] Louis Nowra, Bad Dreaming. Pluto Press, North Melbourne, p10

[2] Joan Kimm, A Fatal Conjunction: Two Laws Two Cultures. Sydney, Federation Press, 2004, p76

[3] Op. cit., Nowra p12

[4] Op. cit., Kimm p46

[5]  Stephanie Jarrett, Liberating Aboriginal People from Violence. Connor Court, Ballan, Vic, 2013, p123

[6] Op. cit., Nowra p6

[7] Stephen Webb, Palaeopathology of Aboriginal Australians. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995, p2

[8] Joan Kimm, A Fatal Conjunction. Feeration Press, Leichardt, 2004, p. 64

[9] Op. cit., Nowra p15-16

[10] Keith Windschuttle, The Fabrication of Aboriginal History: The Stolen Generations. Macleay Press, Sydney, 2009, p. 443.

[11] Op. cit., Jarrett, p329

[12] Hannah McGlade, Our Greatest Challenge. Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 2012, p.149.

[13] Op.cit., Nowra p7


[15] John Morgan, The Life and Adventures of William Buckley. Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1980 (1852), p189.

[16] Peter Sutton, The Politics of Suffering. Melbourne University Publishing, 2011,



  1. Real Oz

    Some 60 years ago as a young Engineer in Central Queensland I came across a drover’s camp which had quite a few aboriginal stockmen. There were also a few aboriginal women.
    It was lunchtime and I was asked by the lead Dover to have a cuppa with them – which I gladly accepted.
    I noted that the aboriginals had their own fire a distance form that of the “whites”.
    I somewhat gingerly asked why the separation.
    I was told, somewhat abruptly’, that was because the aboriginals wanted it that way apparently because they had their women with them.
    I couldn’t help but notice that the aboriginal men sat around the fire cooking and eating. Behind them were their dogs whom they fed with scraps.Their women were huddled further back from the fire and being completely ignored.
    I was told that when the men were finished they would wander off and the women moved in to eat whatever scraps were left that the dogs didn’t get to first.
    When I remonstrated that we must give them some food my host made it very clear to me to mind my own business.
    While the aboriginal men were great horsemen they were savage and easily stirred to violence he told me and by not getting involved in their way of doing things was the only way to keep the peace.
    He went on to inform me of other niceties of this culture which are (as best remembered) similar to those revealed in the piece above.
    Every time I see an Aboriginal Woman dressed in pearls and twin suit under a becoming possum skin cloak presiding over an important cultural event (eg a smoking ceremony) being reverentially addressed as “Aunty Whatever” I am reminded of those poor females huddled together waiting for the dogs to leave them their lunch and I am filled with disgust at the lies we are being told of the Noble Savage Culture we white (males) destroyed!

  2. ianl

    > Paleopathologist Stephen Webb in 1995 published his analysis of 4500 individuals’ bones from mainland Australia going back 50,000 years. (Priceless bone collections at the time were being officially handed over to Aboriginal communities for re-burial, which stopped follow-up studies)

    Tony Thomas records that almost as an aside. Yet anthropology when properly done uses quite a few hard scientific disciplines – geology, chemistry, physics, survey, pathology, genetics etc etc. The UNSW (a *University*, FFS !!) has decreed such research as “inappropriate”. This literally leaves me speechless.

    The short answer, and probably the only sensible one, is to ignore that little diktat completely. I do hope the UNSW academics responsible for that childish inanity are reading here.

    • ArthurB

      In my research on the nineteenth century history of Western Australia, I have found that the settlers soon came to be familiar with Aboriginal customs, and often wrote about them. As early as the 1840′s there are reports about the tribal elders prostituting their women to the settlers, in exchange for tobacco and food. There was also a custom, possibly unique to WA, known as revenge or payback killings: when a person died, his relatives believed that his death had been caused by evil spirits, and it was necessary to kill someone from another tribe, which in turn led to more payback killings. As one settler said, many more Aborigines were killed by other Aborigines than were ever killed by the whites. I know a number of independent historians who agree with me about the violence of traditional Aboriginal society, but such things are ignored by academic historians or anyone who has a stake in the Aboriginal industry.

    • Lawrie Ayres

      I can’t imagine them reading here; they already know everything so further study is superfluous. Beside there must be a consensus since the modern academic is not equipped to argue another point of view. Thankfully these educated morons will make themselves irrelevant as their disciplines stagnate in ignorance.


    I have read books and biographies on Governor Phillip other early explorers an settlers and quite a fair proportion of them mentioned the barbaric way aboriginal women were treated. As many were written over half a century ago they were done before the political re-writing of history occurred so I suspect that they had no ‘agenda’ and were undoubtedly accurate.

  4. Alistair

    I think it is instructive to read the actual words written by Full-blooded Aborigines who lived through the actual “invasion” experience to get a complete picture of Aboriginal life at that time. Two books come immediately to mind – “I, The Aboriginal” and “Moon and Rainbow”. It is near to criminal that such books are widely ignorred in favour of the invented fantasies of people a generation or two separated from the events. This quote from Waipuldanya in “I, the Aboriginal” describes the fear implicit in all traditional pre-settlement cultures.

    “All aborigines smile and laugh easily. We are a naturally happy people. … While I lived in the camps this seemed natural, but lately I have realized that it is probably a cloak of bravado for the many fears that every aboriginal lives with throughout their lives. From my earliest youth I have been afraid of the Doctor Blackfellows, the Medicine Men who sing their victims by using hyperphysical powers. During my hunting walkabouts I was afraid of the Burgingin, the immensely strong pygmy people who can crush a man’s bones in a bear-hug. They were our bogymen. Their haunting memory has stayed with me always. I have never lost my inherent fear of the spirits of the Malanugga-nugga, the Stone People who lived near the Ruined City in the Arnhem Land escarpment. Even though they are gone, no Alawa tribesman will gladly visit their country today. I am frightened of the Shades of dead men, and the Mulunguwa executioner. I would commit any sin or pay any price not to incur the wrath of my Kangaroo Dreaming (totem). But there is another fear, common to all my tribesmen, a dire physical threat by one man to another, or by woman to woman: ‘I‘ll have your kidney fat.’ “

    • LBLoveday

      Wouldn’t “emancipation” be a more accurate term than “invasion”. I’d be in agreement with Jan 26 being renamed “Emancipation Day”.

    • Ian MacDougall

      I the Aboriginal is the autobiography of Waipuldanya, a full-blood Aboriginal of the Alawa tribe at Roper River in Australia’s Northern Territory, as told to Douglas Lockwood.
      To my knowledge, ‘full-blood’ Aborigines are not usually found south of the Tropic of Capricorn. This, and the attendant genetic changes, can only have come about by the places of young Aboriginal men in the Aboriginal breeding population, being taken by young white men, or by young men of mixed ancestry: one way or another.

  5. Bran Dee

    The Australian writer and Gallipoli veteran Ion Idriess in his many books on the Outback in the early 1900′s mentions in passing, occasionally with photographs, some of these violent and misogynistic aboriginal practices. That he sometimes without criticism used the phrase ‘the worlds last stone age culture’ may be one of the reasons his books were dropped from elitist circles in the 1960′s.

  6. Bill Martin

    Aborigines, men in particular, are a perfect fit with Islam. In fact, they could teach the Muslims a thing or two. After all, they had some 45000 years to “develop and refine their culture” as against the Muslim’s 1400 years. Their treatment of women, compulsive warring between tribes (think Shia/Sunni) and a raft of superstitions are uncannily similar to “Muslim culture”. Who would have thought ….

  7. Nezysquared

    …and one wonders why the terms of reference of the child abuse royal commission were limited to Catholics…. Perhaps Professor Dodson could be persuaded to speak on behalf of Aboriginal Culture and defend this sort of behaviour.

  8. Wayne

    Given that it was inevitable that the Australian continent was going to be colonised by somebodywe can all celebrate invasion day on the basis that it could have been the Portuguese doing the honours rather than the British.

    • Ian MacDougall

      There were at least three waves of Aboriginal arrivals preceding the first Europeans. The first documented arrival was that of Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon, in 1606. Though the British were not here first, they were first to create a settlement. The Aborigines, with their tools and weapons of wood and stone were still in a ‘stone age’, and when Phillip arrived in 1788, the least technically developed people on Earth came face to face with those most technically advanced.
      I celebrate January 26 (under whatever name) because if it had not occurred, my mother an father would never have met and I would not be here. Nor would any of my descendants.
      Ironically, all of the prominent Aborigines who revile ‘Invasion Day’ are themselves part-European. So they are cursing the arrival of some of their own ancestors: and thus their own individual existences.
      ‘Australia Day’ is good enough for me.