May 30

Republican jottings in The Spectator

Australian vice-regal residences closely reflect the character of the cities in which they are located, writes former ABC Chairman Donald MrcDonald in The Spectator Australia (29/5).

 “ Out of all these important residences only Sydney remains unoccupied,” he writes, “the governor of NSW being denied occupancy by the ideology of a former Premier who astonishingly claims to be interested in history and heritage.”

ACM is maintaining its campaign to return the Governor to Government House which we began in 1996 with one of the largest and most peaceful demonstrations  in Sydney in recent years.


….Sydney Writers’ Festival…


In the same issue, Peter Coleman refers to expatriate novelist Peter Carey’s closing address to the Sydney Writer’s Festival. (Mr. Carey lives in New York.)

In his speech, Mr. Carey “warned us about Christian fundamentalism (never mind Islamicism), the ozone hole (unaware that it is closing), big corporations, the monarchy and Fox News.”

 I wonder what he objects to in the monarchy. I tried to find the text of his speech; it does not seem to have been published and is not on the Festival website.

The editorial refers to the Festival under the heading “Sydney Whiners’ Festival,” and takes Mr. Carey to task. It quotes Paul Sheehan’s observation on Mr. Carey’s speech:

“The novelist’s disdain for the reading tastes of his fellow citizens reflects a deeper disenchantment with societies which do not assess intellectuals to be as important as intellectuals regard themselves.”  

My published once phoned me saying an invitation would come to speak at a session at a Sydney Writers’ Festival.  It never arrived. He told me that when it went to the Premier’s office I was blackballed.

…never a gulag…


Mr. Coleman also reports that Malcolm Turnbull did not attend the recent republican rally in Sydney “but he did the next best thing and launched Tony Moore’s republican “Death or Liberty: Rebels and Radicals transported to Australia 1788-1868.”

Mr. Turnbull supported a proposal to build a national memorial for Australia’s “political convicts.”

Mr. Turnbull has previously referred to the penal colony as a gulag, no doubt reflecting the opinion of his wife’s uncle Robert Hughes in The Fatal Shore. Coincidentally I was asked to address a reception at the Town Hall of the Sydney-Portsmouth Sister City Committee on the  223rd Anniversary of the Sailing of the First Fleet from Portsmouth 13 May 1787.  My theme was ‘The First Fleet: They did not come alone’


I made a point of demonstrating that the penal colony was anything but a gulag. The rule of law prevailed in New South Wales from the moment Phillip arrived, as it never did in any Soviet gulag or indeed any Nazi concentration camp.

There is in the law reports, within months of the foundation of the colony, a civil action brought successfully against a ship captain.


I have no doubt Mr Hughes cannot provide evidence of any similar action brought in any gulag during the long history of the USSR.

During the referendum Mr. Hughes said that anyone who voted No was stupid. In 2002 he said “They could tow Australia out to sea and sink it for all I care.”


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