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May 25th 2009 print

Michael Connor

Business Class Radicals

On the Left, it rains money - public money. On the Left, you can say anything - and get away with it. On the Left, they get to see the world - and often someone else does the paying.

On the Left, it rains money – public money. On the Left, you can say anything – and get away with it. On the Left, they get to see the world – and often someone else does the paying.

Fancy a holiday? Henry Reynolds and David Marr were in China recently. March was writers’ festival time. First came the Shanghai International Literary Festival and then the Australian Writers’ Week in Beijing and Chengdu. Marr talked about a book he wrote in 1992. Henry Reynolds talked about a book he wrote in 1999 – and the History Wars, again.

The History Wars have been great fun for the Left. They have flown about the country and overseas for conferences and seminars, they have written “professional” articles and their books, sometimes published with the help of public money, have been happily reviewed and bought them flattering media attention from the ABC. All great stuff for building academic careers.

By choosing the establishment side in the History Wars minor academics and Left intellectuals have stepped onto a careerist escalator. At the moment some of the second eleven, so to speak, are arranging tickets and accommodation reservations for another overseas jaunt – to Berlin’s Free University for a one day (!!) event in October entitled “The History Wars Revisited: A Retrospective Symposium”. Those taking part are professor of history Bain Attwood, Dr James Boyce freelance historian, professor of creative writing Stephen Muecke, and novelist Kim Scott.

You wonder what Noel Pearson’s community could do with the money these four pampered Leftists are wasting in order to spend a day in Berlin. It would probably pay a kid’s tuition fees for a whole year.

The symposium itself, of course, is tired and unoriginal. How could it be otherwise when the outcomes have already been decided? The final point, in a list of topics to be discussed, could be a semester paper from any first year history course in any Australian university:

And finally have the History Wars had a long-term positive or deleterious effect upon the process of reconciliation between indigenous and immigrant Australians [sic], and upon the nation’s confrontation with its own genocidal past?

The odd thing is that they talk as if the History Wars are over.