Paraphrased, ‘Drop Dead, Mr O’Brien’

I said I’d keep Quadrant readers posted regarding my ongoing efforts to have Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu expunged from the NSW School’s approved reading list.

Previously, I regaled you with my abortive attempt to have my own book, Bitter Harvest, mentioned in the Dark Emu article in the People’s Republic of Wikipedia.  The upshot of that quixotic endeavour was that ultimately I was cancelled as a Wikipedia editor – not even allowed to post in my own defence on my own talk page. It seems the NSW Department of Education practices the same technique.  On September 6, I emailed the NSW Minister for Education, the Hon Sarah Mitchell, a stalwart of the National Party:

Dear Minister,
I have written to you a number of times in the past regarding the use of Bruce Pascoe’s book Dark Emu as a resource in NSW schools.  You deputed Ms Kate Wootten to reply, which she did but failed to answer my question.  So I followed up with her nominated contact and received another unsatisfactory reply from Ms Jennifer Curtis.  Here is the text of my follow up email to Ms Curtis:

“Dear Ms Curtis,

Thank you for your response to my email.

Unfortunately, you have failed to answer my query.  Ms Wootten has told me:  ‘All historical sources are critically analysed for reliability, usefulness and perspective and no source is used in isolation.’

My question is, who has carried out that critical analysis in respect of Dark Emu and what alternative sources were involved in that evaluation? 

And please do not tell me yet again that Dark Emu is not a mandated text.  As far as I am concerned that is irrelevant.  Would the Department tolerate the inclusion of, say, Mein Kampf in a school’s resources on the basis that it is not mandated?  Does the Department exercise no oversight into what material is regarded as suitable for use in individual schools?

I look forward to your substantive response”

I have heard nothing further from Ms Curtis.

Perhaps you could direct your staff to respond materially to my perfectly reasonable question,


Peter O’Brien

I received the following response from Ms Kate Wootten, Director, Curriculum Secondary Learners:

Thank you for your letter of 6 September 2021, to the Hon Sarah Mitchell MLC, Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning, regarding the book Dark Emu. The Minister has asked me to respond on her behalf.

As indicated previously Dark Emu is not a mandated text in NSW public schools. School principals and teachers, as subject matter experts, in consultation with their school community, are best placed to assess the needs of the school and to determine the suitability of teaching and learning resources that complement the curriculum. This includes the selection of primary and secondary sources in the study of history.

I understand that you have previously raised the same issue, in a number of letters to the Minister and Department officers, and have been provided with the same response.

Please note that future correspondence from you on this issue will be placed on file, but will not receive a reply.

I am still framing my response.  Having been told that I won’t receive a reply, you might wonder why I would bother.   That’s as may be but, on the off-chance that it might at least be read, my reply will certainly contain an assurance that I won’t, under any circumstances, be voting for a Liberal or National Party candidate at the next state election.

I daresay that wouldn’t cause the Honourable Minster to lose any sleep, not least because her term in the upper house does not expire until 2027, but I hope my voice will be heard by many like-minded people here at Quadrant who can make their own decisions about supporting a party that prefers weasel words to principle.

It strikes me as odd that the department would have mandated texts, i.e texts that must be studied, but no category of texts that may not be studied.  What kind of quality control are they exercising before they dole out our hard earned cash to, apparently, unaccountable principals and teachers?

Recently I was invited to address the University of New South Wales Conservative Club on the subject of the Dark Emu controversy, in which I described Pascoe as Australia’s most successful conman ever. You can view the video here. Towards the end of that talk I observed:

Despite the brief furore engendered by Sutton and Walshe, effectively the good ship Pascoe sails serenely on.  So where to from here?  The most successful conmen are defended by their victims and never called to account in a material sense.  Pascoe’s awards and appointments won’t be withdrawn.  His royalties will continue to flow.  The best we can hope for is that he eventually fades into obscurity and with him his book.

My job is to help make that happen sooner rather than later.  And it starts with getting Dark Emu expunged form institutions like the ABC and our schools.  It’s a slow process.

Education Minister Sarah Mitchell’s apparent disinterest in removing what is essentially a blatant left-wing piece of propaganda from the NSW curriculum (mandated or not) says it all about the Left’s long march.

From a culture wars perspective, Dark Emu is the low hanging fruit – debunked from both Right and Left.

If a supposedly conservative minister cannot bring herself to take a stand on something as egregious as Dark Emu, then what id the point of a conservative minister?

15 thoughts on “Paraphrased, ‘Drop Dead, Mr O’Brien’

  • davidmj101 says:

    A reasonable and polite citizen makes a valid question of an elected member of Parliament and then has the temerity to persist when he doesn’t get a thorough answer and he is thrown on the pile labelled ‘Pest’. Piss poor.

  • gareththomassport says:

    I suspect the Nationals have moved now to a position on the political spectrum slightly to the left of where the Greens were 10 years ago. Maybe yesterday’s earthquake was actually turning in the graves of Doug Anthony, Ian Sinclair and Tim Fisher. It will be interesting to see how many conservatives turn to the Liberal Democrats, United Australia and One Nation at forthcoming elections.

  • ArthurB says:

    Peter: I was disappointed, but not surprised, to read about your experience with the NSW Ministry of Truth about Bruce Pascoe. Perhaps you could present the apparatchik with a copy of W D Rubinstein’s recent article in Quadrant on Aborigines and cannibalism, or — even better — give her a copy of James Cook’s Anthropophagitism in the Antipodes. However, I doubt whether the said apparatchik would even bother to read them, in this country bureaucrats now determine what it true, and what is not. I would not be surprised if Trove were to be purged of all articles that describe the savagery and violence that were part of Aboriginal culture before colonisation.

  • Peter Smith says:

    There is a story of a chap in England who, when cheques were the go, got into a dispute with his bank which was not resolved satisfactorily in the mind of the customer. He took to writing his cheques, for example, thus: “Eight pounds seven shillings and fivepence and not a penny more.” Eventually, the bank got sick of it and gave way. Motto Peter, keep on keeping on.

  • James Franklin says:

    Surely it ought to be mentioned that the federal minister, Alan Tudge, has said that Dark Emu should only be in school libraries “with clarification”, as it’s false https://ministers.dese.gov.au/tudge/interview-ben-fordham-2gb-radio

  • maxpart27 says:

    I kept sending emails or messages about Dark Emu and Pascoe to the ABC Board and Ita and eventually got the same response.

  • Biggles says:

    Peter O’Brien. If you compare notes with Tony Thomas you will, I am sure, find that you are both facing the same enemy; scatter-brained hysterical leftist women.

  • Daffy says:

    Truth has no meaning today. Only posture. Having worked for the NSW public service, I can attest that posture is well and truly entrenched with activist officials rather than disinterested civil servants. The last thing you want is an activist official, they will work for their own agenda in the delusion of ‘the right thing’ but only by their own lights,. Nothing to do with democracy.

  • STD says:

    Peter, they don’t give a stuff about content, their only interested in how things are perceived to be at face value. All politicians are just glorified scum.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    I have been trying to find a reason to vote for the Coalition at the next Federal election. And now they have given me one, but only one – and that is to keep Peter Dutton at the helm of Defence.

  • nfw says:

    That’s how the NSW governmnet acts. You point out the reality of a situation and then you are just ignored. Don’t forget we serfs are just there to provide the taxes for the never worked so hard in their lives public servants and the corrupt stupid lying politicians so they can be paid each fortnight. They are all in this together for themselves.

  • john.singer says:

    Your sentiments on the next election Peter O’Brien are shared by many.

  • irisr says:

    As many like-minded voters, I will not vote Liberal next time. The danger is that UAP and ON will split the conservative vote and we risk having a Labor-Green federal government for the next few years.
    Where is the strong voice that will pull Australia out of Paris, Glasgow and the same, out of WHO and most UN quangos? Abolisy the Covid panic, abolish vax certificates and give an undertaking no emergency powers decrees will be tolerated at state level? That leader will pick up a lot of disenchanted voters, perhaps enough to matter.

  • Adam J says:

    O’Brien has experienced what I myself experienced 2 years ago.
    I contacted my MP about a minor legal issue, and received no response except that they would contact the Attorney-General. When 6 months passed I wrote to the AG asking what happened and was told they already answered me and the answer was no. But my comments were placed on file for future review, which naturally means they will be ignored forevermore.
    At that point I decided to seize the day and submit a more formal policy proposal. I spent 3 weeks writing an excellent 5-page letter explaining the history of the issue, identifying the exact problem, proposing solutions, and concluded with 3 separate case studies (with references) showing the importance of taking action. And all that would be needed would be a minor and trivial legislative change that most people wouldn’t even notice, and which had already been done in the other states.
    The response was a single paragraph from the Minister’s Chief of Staff saying they had already responded to me. 3 weeks, 5 pages – and 1 dismissive paragraph. Absolutely useless. Politicians in this country hate the average person.
    Separately, I will also be putting Morrison last. He has been so weak it is embarrassing. He clearly hates fighting, like all good marketing men. There is no reason to worry about what the Labor Party would do because it’s already being done anyway.

  • brandee says:

    Caps in the air for Peter O’Brien and his indomitable effort to expose deception.
    Also his hope in Peter Dutton is now widely supported but Dutton is constrained by PM Morrison and his position over Dutton was connived by former PM Turnbull.
    Because Morrison has declared against any intention to lease the nuclear powered submarines Greg Sheridan today says in The Australian that he thinks it unlikely that Australia will ever get nuclear submarines.

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