Australians are a modest people. Australia’s coat of arms features a kangaroo and an emu, prompting confused tourists to ask, “Why not a koala?” Why not? Because that would be bragging. Among Australians, bragging just isn’t the done thing, unless it’s the humble-brag of listing the country’s many poisonous snakes and spiders. Any real Australian claim to having the biggest or best of anything is always suffixed with the humble qualifier “in the southern hemisphere”. In its national anthem, Australia even struck out the braggartly “young and free” in favour of the supposedly more inclusive “one and free”. The Royal Australian Navy doesn’t contain a single Seawolf or Vengeance, the Australian Army roams the world’s battlefields in “Bushmasters”, and the RAAF’s locally-developed drone aircraft is called the “Loyal Wingman”. Australia’s capital city is … Canberra.
Salvatore Babones appears in every Quadrant.
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Australia’s modesty carries over into its national holidays. Every year on Anzac Day, Australia commemorates not a victory, but a defeat. And not even a particularly Australian defeat. Australians accounted for a little over 10 per cent of the allied troops at Gallipoli, where (believe it or not) the French actually contributed more men—and suffered greater losses. If the French complained loudly enough, the Commonwealth would probably rechristen April 25 the Fête du Corps Expéditionnaire d’Orient, or at least fly the Tricolore over Parliament House. Not for Australians the glory of liberating Jerusalem from the Turks, or spearheading the Hundred Days Offensive that ended the First World War. Australians feel more comfortable being memorialised as the “desert rats of Tobruk” than as the “jungle tigers of New Guinea”.
Even in their moments of national shame, Australians insist on humble-bragging. In the summer issue of Quadrant (according to Wikipedia: “a conservative Australian literary, cultural, and political journal … having a strong right-wing bias and even engaging in extremism”), editor-in-chief Keith Windschuttle decried the “statistical manipulation” behind the claims that “more than 100,000” Aboriginal Australians were killed in Australia’s “frontier wars”. A mere 100,000? That’s chump change. Some American historians claim that nearly 5 million Native Americans were killed in the European settlement of the United States. And the Spanish claim 65 million deaths for Central and South America. Compared to numbers like these, Australia’s “genocide” hardly counts.
Nor is size the issue. The Hawaiian genocide alone outdoes all of Australia: the current number is that 96.5 per cent of Hawaii’s indigenous population was wiped out by Euro-American colonialism (no one mentions the Japanese), resulting in a total loss of life topping 650,000 souls. Eat your heart out, Captain Cook. Actually, the Hawaiians did eat his heart out. Look, it’s just an expression. And anyway it’s Cook’s fault. He sold them the very knife that they used to butcher him. Maybe that’s where Khrushchev got the idea about buying the rope for hanging the capitalists. Or was it Stalin? Or Lenin? Damned Bolsheviks—can’t get their invoices straight.
The communists could learn a thing or two from America’s genocide historians. For example, compound interest. Every good capitalist since Benjamin Franklin has understood that a penny saved is $5 trillion earned. Similarly, the death of every indigenous person in the process of colonisation is associated with the non-lives of that person’s putative future progeny. The standard compound death multiplier in American genocide studies is currently 2.5, although obviously there is scope here for future improvement. That propels the pan-American genocide total into the hundreds of millions. Eat your hearts out, Germany. Figuratively, of course.
Australia can hardly hope to compete with numbers like these. But the Lucky Country does have an ace up its sleeve. The standard fact claim among historians (one hesitates to call it a “fact”) is that 250 languages comprising 800 distinct dialects were spoken in pre-settlement Australia. These figures suggest there could have been upwards of a thousand indigenous “nations” on the continent, some of them having been exterminated before ever being recorded in the settlers’ (admittedly primitive) knowledge systems. These lost nations are remembered only in Aboriginal Dreamtime songlines, in which the figures expressed are somewhat … imprecise. The back-of-the-songsheet estimate of a thousand pre-settlement Aboriginal nations could be parlayed into hundreds of distinct genocides. American historians, eat your hearts out. Figuratively, of course.
Patriotic Australian genocide scholars, take note: there’s gold in them thar hills. The involuntary death of every people, nation or tribe constitutes a countable genocide, regardless of how many people were killed, or indeed if any people were killed at all. Have you lost the last speaker of the Kukatj language in Cape York? Genocide. Are there no Wadi Wadi speakers left in New South Wales? Genocide. Can’t get directions to Darwin in fluent Ngarnji? Genocide. Can’t even pronounce the name of the Arritinngithigh language? Genocide—and racism.
Other countries may have had bigger genocides, or more recent ones. More people may have been killed in Germany, or never have been born in the Americas. But when it comes to the sheer number of genocides, Australia takes the cake. Figuratively speaking, of course. There’s nothing to celebrate about genocide … unless you’re an over-modest Australian genocide scholar, in which case, you’ve missed a trick. There’s no better way to commemorate Invasion Day than with a celebratory genocide cake, featuring one candle for every named group exterminated—and an extra for the unknown group, exterminated before it was ever discovered. Yes, “indirect genocide” is a thing, and when it comes to genocide, ignorance is no defence. Just ask the barristers.
So there you have it. Australia is the most evil country in the history of the world. It out-evils not only Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, but even the Great Satan of today’s world, the United States itself. When it comes to hiding historical crimes, the repeated rewriting of history in Mao’s China was but a pale shadow of the perfidy of Samuel Griffith’s Australia. This Anzac Day, Anthony Albanese might as well visit the Yasukuni Shrine as give a speech at the Australian War Memorial. The entire site should be off limits for any morally-minded Australian politician, at least until Kim Beazley opens the new genocide wing.
Humble Australians, you read it here first. Guardian Australia and the Monthly may have the political will to guide Australia towards a Voice, a republic and a reckoning, but they lack the imagination. If you want genuinely useful ideas about how to ruin Australia, come to Quadrant. Only in these politically-incorrect pages will the forces of disunity find the fearlessly provocative analyses they need to support their subversive agendas. Who says Quadrant isn’t open-minded? Oh, that’s right: Wikipedia.
For only Quadrant publishes the hard facts (in both senses of the word: “solid” and “challenging”) that are needed to inform Australia’s debates over national identity. Admittedly, those facts may sometimes be dressed in satire, but they’re here. Whether it’s Michael Connor’s “massacre map” research, Peter O’Brien’s Dark Emu exposé, Keith Windschuttle’s many contributions to Australian Aboriginal and constitutional history, you won’t find the truth about Australian history anywhere else. Certainly not in the academy. Whether you embrace a monarchist vision of an English-heritage Australia or prefer a republic founded on indigenous custom and international law, your history inevitably runs through Quadrant.
Yes, Voice advocates and republican fellow-travellers need Quadrant as much as (if not more than) their ideological opponents. If they ever do get the non-Western country they so fervently desire, they’ll have to learn to live with the non-Western institutions and non-Western histories that come with it. Right now, safely ensconced within what are (let’s face it) legacy colonial institutions, they can safely indulge their indigenist fantasies. Forced to fend for themselves, they’ll soon discover how fortunate they were to be born British. As the one-time Quadrant editor Donald Horne wrote in 1964, “Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck.” They may yet have the opportunity to run it again.
If an unlucky country is what they want, God help them. King Charles III certainly won’t. For those who seek to redefine modern Australia as the heir to what they call the “oldest continuous culture on Earth” are in reality the ultimate “little Australia” patriots. What they crave is true independence: intellectual, cultural, institutional independence. The Australian genocide scholars, the republican movement they seem universally to support, the prominent Anglo-Australian advocates of an indigenous Voice to Parliament, and Prime Minister Anthony “opportunity to unite the nation” Albanese are all thoroughly patriotic Australians: “patriotic”, on their own terms, for the Australia they wish they could have, and hope to leave to their children. Figuratively speaking, of course. Since if they really do get the Australia they want, there won’t be much left to leave.