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Fixing Australia

Australia is broken. Democracy has holes in it, cracks in it, and it needs fixing. Since the 2004 Federal election we know that our government is not going to fix it. I think we need to do that fixing, and this blog is a start of getting some ideas together.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Eureka 150 years: Howard snubs Australian history

Eureka Flag It really is a remarkable state of affairs when the Head of State of The Australian Commonwealth, John Howard, snubs a major historical event such as the 150-year anniversary commemorations of the Eureka Stockade, which started yesterday with a major celebration in Ballarat, and with events planned in all States and Territories around the country. So, it's not just the ALP member for Ballarat, who should be prepared to speak out about it and name Howard. Everyone around Australia should be clear that Howard really fails in his national duty. Mark Latham: "I am disappointed ... the prime minister won't attend any of the Eureka celebrations, and nor will the senior ministers of his government", as reported in The Australian.

PM's Eureka snubbing shows he is unable to govern for all Australians

Project SafeCom Media Release
Saturday November 26 2004 15:00pm WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

"The fact that prime minister John Howard has snubbed the Australia-wide Eureka celebrations that move millions of Australians, students, children as well as adults and families during this week, shows Howard is too selfish to celebrate the Australian national character and Australian history", Project SafeCom spokesman Jack Smit said today.

"The Eureka stockade was the birth of a defining moment in Australian history, it was the birth of a central piece in our larrikan nature as well as our democratic principles, and it has inspired millions of Australians, old and young people, workers and citizens alike."

"From Eureka we received our model of citizens' protests and rallies for causes. And, as was related during a discussion in Melbourne on Friday evening, Indigenous people as well as women were also amongst the groups that make the Eureka events into what they were."

"Mr Howard would like Australians to believe that Eureka is about a Labor Party celebration, but his shunning of the events and his refusal to fly the Eureka flag from Parliament House, make him into an old and stubborn man, who refuses to celebrate Australia for what it is and participate in it."

"Mr Howard is Un-Australian, and his attitude is an affront to the celebration of modern democracy. Mr Howard would like our country to be an Australia without citizens' protest and workers' rights, he would like to snuff out the strength of the union movement, and all of us need to 'be alert and alarmed' that Mr Howard does not further create a "John Howard's Australia" in his image. This is especially true for Refugee Rights advocates, Aboriginal people, and more recently, people in receipt of a Disability Pension."

Michelle Grattan in The Age reports: Mark Latham last night celebrated the spirit of Eureka and criticised John Howard and the Coalition for missing its symbolism and significance. Mr Latham told the Eureka democracy conference in Ballarat the Eureka story "resonates with Australians today".

He said he might be sentimental, but he loved the thought of Eureka. "The spirit of solidarity. Tough and ambitious self-made men, fighting for their rights against the self-serving establishment. And through this struggle, forging a new national identity: the authentic Australian character with its rebellious, larrikin streak. This is a great Australian story.

"And one that we must always tell. Because ultimately it wasn't so much who won and lost at Eureka - it was the spirit of dissent and defiance that defined the Stockade. It was the struggle, not the victory, that mattered."

He said the story of Eureka was fundamental to Labor's story, but "it's fundamental to Australia's story... it should be embraced by all Australians, across the political spectrum".

Mr Latham said he was disappointed that Mr Howard and senior ministers would not attend any of the Eureka celebrations.

"Labor is the true party of the self-employed, the small entrepreneur, the economic independents," he said. "We know their history here in Ballarat and honour their achievements. The other side of politics has missed the point - the true meaning of Eureka and its economy."

He said the Prime Minister had refused to fly the Eureka flag in the Parliament House precinct in Canberra, saying it was not officially appointed as a flag under the Flags Act. But next week state parliaments and local government authorities would fly the flag "with its dramatic and inspired design".

"Undoubtedly, some federal members and senators will stand up for their rights as parliamentarians and the rights of their constituents by displaying the flag in various parts of the Parliament building," Mr Latham said. "We too shall salute the Southern Cross."

He said that Australians had always interpreted Eureka in the context of their own time in history. In 1904, in a nation that had just experienced bitter strikes, Eureka's 50th anniversary was celebrated as a milestone in formation of the Australian Labor movement. In the 1970s, the Stockade took on special significance. Australia was experiencing a new confidence and sense of independence, and Eureka symbolised its new nationalism.

Rightly so, Catherine King is one of the folks who want the flag registered, as we're told by John Huxley in The Age (PM to snub Eureka's 150th party).

The Eureka flag may have been used by unions and at workers' rights protests, it may have developed an association with the union movement - I keep seeing it on building sites - and it may even have been "hijacked" by some right-wing militant groups around Australia - but this does not diminish its historical significance, it merely confirms it. The Eureka Stockade brought democracy closer, and faster, into Australia. Eureka and The Southern Cross are amongst the most solid foundations underpinning Australian society.

Some exquisite summaries of the Eureka stockage and its historical significance have sprung up in the Australian media, especially in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age - go have a read of them. It's our history, it's our nation, mister Howard. The links are below.

Ballarat: Eureka 150 website

Victorian Eureka Celebrations website

The Age: PM to snub Eureka's 150th party

Sydney Morning Herald: The miner's skirmish that created a legend

Sydney Morning Herald: Eureka Stockade unravelled

The Age: James Button, Children of rebellion maintain the rage

The Age: Birth of a notion

The Age: Eureka legend grows

And a discussion of Howard's stab at "militant unionism" in Victoria:

The Age: Memo PM: unions aren't the only ones at fault

The Age: Have the day of the demos passed?

Latham to visit Eureka 150, while PM says no

The Ballarat Courier
Tuesday, 16 November 2004

FEDERAL opposition leader Mark Latham is to visit Ballarat next week for the 150th anniversary of the Eureka Stockade. Mr Latham is set to arrive on Thursday, November 25, and stay for the official opening at the Eureka Centre on Friday, November 26.

Mr Latham will be the most senior federal politician to attend the Eureka 150th celebrations, with Prime Minister John Howard declining to attend. A government spokesman yesterday said Mr Howard was not scheduled to attend at any stage. Mr Howard has not visited Ballarat since October 10, 2001. Victorian Premier Steve Bracks is to officially open the celebrations on Friday morning.

Ballarat MHR Catherine King accused the government of "snubbing" the Eureka Stockade and its role in history. Ms King said Federal Parliament would be the "odd one out" as all states and territories are to fly the flag during the next month.

Still, more than 200 of the navy blue and white Eureka flags will fly in Canberra. Eureka flags are to be raised outside the ACT's parliamentary building. During this year's election campaign, Mr Latham promised to fly the flag at Parliament House if Labor won.

Ms King vowed to raise the issue again when parliament sits during the anniversary. She added she would fly the flag in her office. "It's ridiculous that the flag is flying in every state and territory parliament across the country but not at Federal Parliament," she said. "The government is snubbing the Eureka Stockade's significance to the development of democratic principles in Australia."

Australian Capital Territory chief minister Jon Stanhope said it was important to display the Eureka flag prominently during the anniversary.

Ballarat Courier: Latham to visit Eureka 150, while PM says no

Importance of Eureka, past and future

The Ballarat Courier
Friday, 26 November 2004

THE Eureka 150 Democracy Conference opened yesterday with Federal Opposition Leader Mark Latham taking the Howard Government to task over its record on Eureka.

The Labor leader said the government had "missed the point" with the historic event in its refusal to fly the Eureka flag at Parliament House and attend the 150th celebrations.

"The celebration of Eureka is an event of national significance, it's at the centre of our history and our national identity," he told the audience at the opening.

"So I'm disappointed that the Prime Minister won't be attending, nor any of the ministers of his government."

Mr Latham was one of about 200 guests and dignitaries at a cocktail party officially opening the Releasing the Spirit of Democracy Conference.

Other dignitaries included East Timor Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta, Premier Steve Bracks and former Northern Ireland Secretary of State Marjorie Mowlam.

The two-day conference - hosted by the University of Ballarat - has attracted delegates from across the world and kicks off an 11-day calendar of events across the city.

Mr Latham will attend part of today's conference and said it was a great honour to take part in celebrating "one of the great stories of Australian history."

"The Eureka story is vitally important not just to Australia's past but also to our future. I reckon Eureka says a lot about the Australian character, our love of the underdog and support for those who have a go... our tradition

of defiance and dissent (and) the larrikin spirit that makes us truly Australian."

University Vice-Chancellor Kerry Cox said 270 delegates had registered to take part in the landmark conference.

"It's fantastic, we have a very diverse group of extremely experienced people who have a deep understanding of the levels of democracy and are willing to discuss how democracy can be made even better."

Ballarat Mayor David Vendy said a democracy conference was a fitting way to begin the 150th anniversary celebrations.

"Eureka was essentially about the right for a fair go, it was a defining event in the development of democracy and our great way of life. It was the birthplace of the Australian spirit and indeed the birthplace of democracy," he said.

Ballarat Courier: Importance of Eureka, past and future

Rebellion over Eureka Walk
December 2, 2004

THE father of suspected al-Qaeda terrorist David Hicks has defended his decision to lead Sunday's Eureka dawn lantern walk in Ballarat.

Walk organiser Graeme Dunstan is understood to have invited Terry Hicks to lead this year's walk on the theme of fighting injustice.

The walk, which is being held as part of a ceremony marking the 150th anniversary of the Eureka Stockade uprising, will include about 1000 people following in the path taken by police and troopers in 1854.

But Former Ballarat Liberal MP and Senator-elect Michael Ronaldson said the choice of Mr Hicks to lead the walk had angered Ballarat residents.

"I've got no personal issue with Terry Hicks," Mr Ronaldson said.

"My issue is with the organising committee who at best have been stupid and naive and at worst are giving recognition to an alleged terrorist.

"This is totally opposed to the principles of Eureka."

Mr Hicks today said he was invited to lead the walk.

"I was invited to walk, and I thought a lot about this, and the overall picture is that it (Eureka) was something that changed the democratic face of Australia," he said.

"I can see a similar line with what the miners fought for - they fought for their rights and their say - and I can see a similar line with what I am fighting for now."

Mr Hicks has fought hard for the rights of his son who been held in a US detention camp at Guantanamo bay, Cuba, for almost three years on terrorism charges.

The march will follow the 3.5km track the police and soldiers used before their dawn attack on the diggers at the stockade at the Eureka goldfield on December 3, 1854.

About 150 miners established the stockade to protest against the 30 shilling fee for a digger's licence and to demand a charter of rights.

About 400 soldiers and police overpowered the diggers in about 15 minutes.


Link to the article at


  • At Tuesday, April 19, 2005 8:35:00 PM, Blogger premier said…

    This media statement gets a bit carried away.

    Take this For example:

    "The fact that prime minister John Howard has snubbed the Australia-wide Eureka celebrations that move millions of Australians, students, children as well as adults and families during this week, shows Howard is too selfish to celebrate the Australian national character and Australian history", Project SafeCom spokesman Jack Smit said today.

    The 'Eureka 150' celebrations didn't get much publicity in Sydney at all. I recall Clover Moore's campaign to 'get Christ out of Christmas' was the big story in the media at the time. The Eureka flag flew on Sydney Harbour bridge but when I bought the Sydney papers the next day to cut a clipping out to record the event for posterity I was interested to note that no newspaper apparently though it was worth mentioning! I do not beleive for one moment that 'millions' of Australians even knew about this anniversary much less were moved by it.


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