June 14, 2016 | Graham

Manchurian candidate or just a cuckoo?

I said to my good friend David Davies that I thought Australia had been invaded by the whites. He looked at me and said he was sure it was settlement. This would have been around about 1978 or 1979. He was studying law, I was studying English literature.

I had a lot of respect for David, so I thought harder about the issue and came to the conclusion that we were both right. At times it had been an invasion, but mostly it was just settlement.

Two hundred years ago the world was quite different. There was a lot of spare land around, and the might is right model of international governance still held sway.

When the English turned-up in Australia in 1788 the continent was underutilised and there was little governance. Aboriginal tribes had areas that they tended to visit and live in from time to time, but there was no idea of title in the modern sense.

When the strangers turned-up the evidence is that the Aborigines tended to disperse to accommodate them. It wasn’t much different to what happens on Fraser Island in the summertime. People camped, and as long as it didn’t create too much trouble everyone was happy.

But what happens when the newcomers start putting in infrastructure and invite their mates over?

The camping model doesn’t work so well after a while. Tensions arise, and fights break out. Were these wars? Some might have been, but most were skirmishes.

One might just as well call the movements of refugees around the world today invasions, as to call what happened in Australia between 1788 and the twentieth century, one.

The end result might be dispossession, but it is much more a consequence of demography than it is military might.

I doubt whether the Anglo Saxon and then Danish settlements of England were much different. There was certainly more pillaging and looting, but most of it must have been poor families from Europe looking for a better life and finding plenty of spare land in England in 400-800 AD.

The idea that Australia was conquered is a political tool used by the opponents of current Australian society to deligitimise that society. As an English Literature student I was exposed to that culture in a way that a law student (at least at that time) wasn’t.

I wasn’t across the reality of what actually happened and was fair game for a fantasy version of how it worked out. Except that when confronted with a conflicting point of view I was capable of examining the facts anew.

Malcolm Turnbull is a law graduate. He has the tools to understand the reality of the settlement of Australia. What is he on about when he says it is an “invasion”, and more, that Australia is still “Aboriginal land”?

I do not know.

What I do know is that week by week this election is drifting away from him.

His position on this issue will further alienate him from the Liberal base, and from the minor party voters whose preferences he needs to win.

I’ve been poring over my polling, and he is not now winning votes in the middle and on the left, despite his early success, because they want him to go much further than he is on this and other issues like climate change.

So he loses preferences from minor party voters, because they see him as a less sympathetic politician than Bill Shorten, but one who has a similar political position, so where is the reason to vote for him over Shorten?

The end result, if this continues and the Liberal campaign fails to find an authentic voice which appeals to minor party voters, will be the first Shorten government.

If this happens it will be because Malcolm Turnbull was not a contemporary Liberal in the first place, so the campaign never had an authentic voice to start with.

Some people will suggest Turnbull was always on the other side, and others that he had  no idea in the first place.

Posted by Graham at 10:41 pm | Comments (4) |