Start here for the Voice: Townsville, August 1981. A Labor mayor welcomed a national conference of high-flying Left activists to his city. The event was marvellously successful for the Left. It produced the Mabo case, fed racial dissension and hatred and much false history—it was held at James Cook University. Participants at the “Land Rights and the Future of Australian Race Relations” conference dreamed of clenched fists in the face of a broken-apart Australia. Present were politicians, academic activists, lawyers and students including the famous and in some cases infamous: Bob Collins, H.C. “Nugget” Coombs, Marcia Langton, Shorty O’Neill, Al Grassby, Judith Wright, Garth Nettheim, Lyndall Ryan, Henry Reynolds and Eddie Mabo.
The opening resolution thrust stupidity and confusion, freeloaders and hoaxers and Bruce Pascoe into our present. An opening resolution by Henry Reynolds was passed unanimously: “The conference recognises that the prerequisite of Aboriginality is cultural loyalty and not any false nineteenth-century genetic theory.” A magic moment, as the actuality of black people was Max Factored out of existence by a white academic and a predominantly white audience. The book published to record the conference papers is called Black Australians (JCU Union, 1982).
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By 2011 the white takeover of Aboriginality was so complete that at the trial of Andrew Bolt no one voting in the 1967 referendum would have visually identified any of the people in the courtroom as Aboriginal. From the time of the conference the north of Australia and its problems would be ignored for the selfish interests of the un-black south—the Bolt trial was all about white Aborigines and hurt feelings. Rather than solve distant problems, attention would be paid to the vanity Aborigines and the fantasy Aboriginality they created—a world in which a possum cloak, which should be worn next to the skin for warmth, is displayed as a racial accessory over Western clothing: clearly a case of cultural appropriation.
In Aboriginal Sovereignty (1996) Reynolds went a step further in taking control of Aboriginal identification in dismissing race and applying an even more dangerous-sounding “ethnic nationalism”—he was completely ignoring the wishes of the people themselves in this matter:
By viewing Aboriginals and Islanders as either actual or potential nations we can dispense with the concept of race. In doing so we can avoid those constant attempts to relate Aboriginality to racial characteristics, to distinguish between “real” Aboriginals and the rest, to talk of people as being “half-castes” or “mixed blood” [we don’t]. At the same time we can jettison the term “black” which is so often used for people who everyone can see are not. It is, after all, politics not pigment that matters if it is nationality we are talking about.
Hidden behind the Voice is a treaty, new flag, changed place names, dismissed public holidays, and a destroyed Commonwealth. Reynolds’s Aboriginal Sovereignty is clear, and frightening: “If sovereignty could be divided between the six colonies and the new Federal Government in the early twentieth century it can be cut again to accommodate emerging ethnic nationalism.”
In 1982 Reynolds foretold the destruction of our history. His conference presentation was titled “European Justification for Taking the Land” and he offered a version of the past and his vision and strategies for its destruction:
A hundred to a hundred and fifty years ago it was the relationship to the land, which according to the Europeans disqualified Aborigines and other hunter/gatherers from ownership which was put up as the justification for taking the land away. We’ve now gone full circle. That very relationship to the land provides the moral force and the political will to win the struggle to end the vast historical injustice. The Europeans really have not got all that much to lose.
It was a successful tactic—over 60 per cent of Australia is now under native title and the Dark Emu hoax is a best-seller. Strangely, given that he was chosen at this conference to head a case to be presented to the High Court, Eddie Mabo offered a divergent view of the situation in his home islands: “In the Torres Strait, land ownership is the same throughout. It is different from Aboriginal land ownership on the mainland.”
The program Reynolds put forward for destroying Australia’s history has been completely successful:
But of course above all what the Europeans [sic] would have to give up is their own idealized version of their history. They will have to take a much more critical view of their own past, and that in many ways is what they are fighting to avoid.
He would then go away and, using Australian Research Council funding for research in the UK and a fellowship to work in the National Library, produced the history needed to envenom Australian race relations. The book was The Law of the Land (1987). Nobody ever cared that his attack on James Cook was carried out by fabricating evidence—using instructions given to Cook for his third voyage and abbreviating the text by excision. Nobody cared, least of all the High Court judges in Mabo, that his influential definition of terra nullius was half right and half invention—the sources he provided for the invention did not mention the term. He was completely successful and at the end of the Mabo case Justice William Deane sent him a note of appreciation—he even reused the words from his judgment, “a national legacy of unutterable shame”. And later Sir Anthony Mason would write the introduction to a poisonous Left polemic by two academics called The History Wars.
The destruction of our history has been accepted and carried out by academic historians for Left political goals—their eyes are wide open as deceit and confusion invest public discourse. In 2006 an academic who wrote a torturing review of my book The Invention of Terra Nullius was so blinded by hatred that he actually agreed with me, forcefully making my point that the misuses of the term terra nullius had created utter confusion:
Connor is aided by a motley collection of strawmen—amateur historians, non-historians, archaeologists, graduate students, cultural studies fruitcakes—who, in aggregate, have attached such a diverse range of meanings to the term terra nullius that the resultant semantic hodgepodge could not possibly have a single coherent real-world referent.
Naturally, his list-making omitted his fellow academic historians who made up most of my finest examples of stupidity. Noting a rising political star, I also cited Linda Burney, then a member of the New South Wales parliament and now the federal Minister for Indigenous Australians:
Captain Cook’s claiming of Australia as Crown Land on the basis of the legal fiction of terra nullius—land belonging to no one—denied the property rights, the humanity and even the existence of Aboriginal people.
This is the history Burney brings to the House of Representatives, and this is the rubbish that will poison a successfully imposed Voice. Neither my critical academic reviewer nor the historians who read him acted to restore sanity even as some of the most notorious cut or modified embarrassing usages they had made when their books were republished. The denigration of Cook and the misuses of terra nullius are standard elements in school education courses which have simply become grooming exercises intended to make children hate their own country. Add in massacres and all the rest and bad history will flood through the Parliament and the nation via the Voice.
Conservatives are the silenced voices in Australia. Recently in Quadrant Hilary L. Rubinstein wrote on William Cooper and Rod Moran wrote on the Forrest River “massacre”—these are sensible critical voices. In their search for the truth the two authors are exploring the archives and auditing the work of other historians—they deserve to be heard. If this was normal practice the famous, and misnamed, “history wars” would have been seen as the usual academic head-banging and footnote exploring. The rotten history the Voice uses like a weapon is corrupt Left politics and a failure of academic standards under the weight of those politics—don’t get me started on plagiarism at the University of Newcastle. If the Voice is adopted, critical voices may expect to be further silenced, even legally silenced—this in a country where unpopular historians are already labelled “massacre denialists”.
In 1981 land rights were tactics and the real goal of self-determination was masked from public view. As Reynolds said:
Yes, it’s very much a matter of tactics. Do you ask for the immediate and most realizable first, and when you’ve got that, then ask for the other things, or do you ask for them all at once?
Nothing has changed, the tactic was successful—we are being misled. Keith Windschuttle in The Break-Up of Australia (the title is absolutely accurate) wrote that “The voters in the proposed referendum need to recognise that its ultimate objective is the establishment of a politically separate race of people, and the potential break-up of Australia.”
In 1981 Reynolds was eager to associate violence and the creation of land rights:
If it has to be done by force, by using the army, as the Federal government in Washington had to do, I’d accept that. If necessary you could parachute them in and take over the [Queensland] reserves. That wouldn’t concern me one bit.
The Left have changed over the years, they have become more violent. The final goal of the Voice is disaster for our much loved Australia—it’s what they want.
Michael Connor is Quadrant’s Theatre Editor and a frequent contributor on Aboriginal history