Capitalism, white supremacism, pride in servility and the ‘laid-back’ de-poo-tee sheriff

A 1908 postcard welcoming the ‘Great White Fleet’ to Australia

Emma Shortis, ‘There’s a lot of blame to go around for the chaos in the Capitol, but some belongs to Australia’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 08.01.21

Australians woke on Thursday to an unfolding coup attempt in the United States. One by one, leaders from across the world condemned what was happening in the US Capitol and called for peace. From Ireland, to Greece, even Boris Johnson in Britain, governments expressed their horror and dismay.

Our own government took a little longer to react. We shouldn’t pretend we don’t know why.

There is a lot of blame to go around for what is unfolding in the United States. Aided and abetted by extremists in the White House and in Congress, and white supremacists across the nation, Trump is orchestrating nothing short of an attempted authoritarian takeover of what we have been taught to believe is the greatest democracy on earth and the guardian of peace in our world.

But some of that blame also lies here, with us.

The Australian government’s relationship with Donald Trump got off to a rocky start. But once Scott Morrison assumed the leadership, Australia went all in with the man trying to steal the presidency.

In September 2019, Morrison told President Trump that “Australia will never be accused of indifference in our friendship to the United States”. He was right.

Morrison made those remarks at a rare state dinner hosted in his honour in Washington, DC. He was one of very few world leaders to receive such a prestigious invitation from the President. It came to him when it did because the Trump administration, with so few friends in the world, knew that the Australian Prime Minister would provide the President and his administration with valuable international credibility and support, and the photo op that he wanted. And that is what he got.

Australia’s former ambassador to the United States, Joe Hockey, was widely praised for his diplomatic skill in facilitating the invitation and for how close he had managed to get to Trump. And while Hockey played golf with the President, Australian parliamentarians gleefully wore MAGA hats and appeared on conservative television, expressing their unqualified support for the white supremacist in the White House and spreading his misleading theories. There was no rebuke from their leader.

The links between the Australian government and our right-wing media ecosystem are clear. While Sky News monetised and spread American conspiracy theories, Hockey went on Australian radio to say that Biden’s margin in Washington DC, for example, was “hard to believe”, and MP George Christensen posted on Facebook about “Democrat vote fraud”.

Elsewhere, leaders from across the world called on Donald Trump to concede defeat and ensure a peaceful transition of power. Asked to comment, Scott Morrison said only that American democracy was “great” and dismissed calls for him to say something meaningful as “divisive”. Called on at the time to condemn members of his own government for spouting conspiracies, he said nothing.

A few weeks later, Morrison was awarded a Legion of Merit for his trouble. The Prime Minister was “honoured” to receive the award that recognised how he had “strengthened the partnership between the United States and Australia”.

Australians cannot avoid the truth of our complicity. Morrison’s warm friendship with the President, our conservative media ecosystem’s promulgation of American conspiracy theories and giving a platform to US white supremacists – all of it helped Trump and the fascism he encouraged and unleashed. That can’t just be put back in the box.

Yesterday, Trump supporters flew Confederate flags in the Capitol. Even during the Civil War, that symbol of white supremacy didn’t make it to Washington, DC. But it has been held up, in similar fashion, by Australian soldiers serving alongside Americans in Afghanistan.

Australians are told that having such a close relationship with the United States is essential to the maintenance of our national security. But what kind of security is this? And what damage has it done to our relationship with the incoming Biden administration? There was never any security or strategic justification for the closeness of the Trump administration and our own government. The only reason for it was ideological.

It is only through an honest reckoning with that ideological closeness, and with our complicity in Trumpism, that Australians might be able to re-consider our place in the world. We did not have a binary choice between subservience to an anti-democratic white supremacist and abandoning the alliance. There were – and still are – other options.

Once, an American President assured us that the United States only wanted to make “the world safe for democracy”. Perhaps we should try to think about making our world safe from America.

‘Let’s disengage from China…slowly and carefully.’

Kamala Harris

I just watched the debate between Harris and Pence. He was clearly favoured by the ‘moderator’. She allowed him to repeatedly go back over previous topics, to repeatedly speak and continue speaking much longer than she did Harris. With Pence, her protestations of ‘Thank you’ were much weaker than her more forceful insistence on shutting Harris down for going over-time.

The ‘moderator’ sounded fearful of him.

But, within the bounds of capitalism, Harris impressed me very much. She showed greater intelligence and humane personality than any modern American Republican/Democrat political leader I am aware of.

Within the bounds of capitalism, it would be most interesting if she were to become President.

But, just as certainly, she will not be up to what is emerging. Others presently in the wings will lead the ultimately overt struggle in America between the representatives of capital and those of socialism.

Saturday Matinee: The War on Journalism: The Case of Julian Assange — Desultory Heroics

 

WATCH: The War on Journalism: The Case of Julian Assange A new documentary by Juan Passarelli can be seen here on Consortium News, followed by a panel discussion with Passarelli, director Ken Loach and filmmaker Suzie Gilbert. Source: Consortium News Journalists are under attack globally for doing their jobs. Julian Assange is facing a 175 year […]

Saturday Matinee: The War on Journalism: The Case of Julian Assange — Desultory Heroics

Servile Australia – the ‘perfectly behaved alliance partner’

U.S. spy base at Pine Gap

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/pine-gap-peace-crimes/12674824

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free: America’s state within a state

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Five part documentary on the state within a state in the United States – what those who comprise it think of the citizens of that nation and how they behave towards them and what they think of and how they behave towards others around the world. A study of megalomania, lies and mass deception, greed and absolute brutality – for that reason, highly recommended.

For me, the worst instances of the behaviour of this state within a state discussed in this series  (particularly because of their implications) are the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (at the beginning of Part 4, which is appropriately named ‘Necrophilous’. The part begins with an excellent quotation.).

The exposure of the justification given for those bombings is consistent with what I already knew and have posted about (‘War Crime or War Winner? The Truth about the Bomb’ – an article written by Murray Sayle).

Oppenheimer’s megalomaniacal false modesty (quietly spoken, sage-like, eyes downcast – knowing not to look at the camera, to prevent his eyes being read) as he links the destructive power of the bomb to Indian religion is truly repulsive.

Robert Oppenheimer and General Groves at Trinity Test Ground Zero, 1945. The white canvas overshoes were to prevent fallout from sticking to the soles of their shoes.

J.Robert Oppenheimer and General Groves at Trinity Test Ground Zero, 1945. The white canvas overshoes were to prevent fallout from sticking to the soles of their shoes.

The coup in Australia on 11.11.75 is discussed from thirty minutes into Part 1.

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/counter-intelligence/

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War crime or war winner? The truth about the Bomb

J.Robert Oppenheimer and General Groves at Trinity Test Ground Zero, 1945. The white canvas overshoes were to prevent fallout from sticking to the soles of their shoes.

J.Robert Oppenheimer and General Groves at Trinity Test Ground Zero, 1945. The white canvas overshoes were to prevent fallout from sticking to the soles of their shoes.

From Murray Sayle, ‘War crime or war winner? The Truth about the Bomb,’ The Sydney Morning Herald, 15.07.95

…the head of the Manhattan Project, Major-General Leslie Groves, a determined military man feeling responsible for spending $2 billion on the bomb and worried that the war might end first, at that point was pushing strenuously for its immediate use. When Leo Szilard, who had drafted Albert Einstein’s letter to President Roosevelt warning of a German bomb six years earlier, drew up a scientists’ petition opposing the use of the atom bomb against Japanese cities, Groves had the petition classified top secret, thus restricting its impact to a tiny circle…Szilard’s petition got as far as Groves’s office, where it stayed. …

What did the first atom bombs achieve? Well, it will be instantly answered, they ended the war, didn’t they, and so saved many lives – the estimates vary from 50,000 to several million – both American and Japanese, and considering that there was still fighting going on in Borneo and elsewhere, and ill-treated prisoners of war were still dying, probably many Australian lives as well. Anyone around at the time will remember the striking evidence for this conclusion. With the Japanese still full of fight, the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, another on Nagasaki on August 9, and the very next day the Japanese Government announced that it would accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration – that is, unconditional surrender, subject to some guarantee for the future of Japan’s Emperor Hirohito.

At the time (as I remember well myself) this looked like obvious, iron-clad evidence that the bombs had ended the war, thus greatly simplifying the moral question about their use. Unfortunately, 50 years on this is still the only evidence that the bombs did in fact end the war and thus save all those valuable lives. And there is much better evidence, long obscured by the Cold War, that points to quite a different conclusion.

Well, if the atom bombs did not end the war, what did? It has long been known that by mid-1945 Japan was in much worse shape, both economically and militarily, than was generally realised at the time. American submarines had sunk almost the whole Japanese merchant fleet, cutting off food, raw materials, oil and reinforcements for the home islands; American B-29 fire raids had destroyed 40 per cent of Japanese housing, most of its industry, and had burnt out 68 major cities even before Hiroshima and Nagasaki were atom-bombed. As early as June 1946, the economists of the US Strategic Bombing Survey, after visiting the ruined Japanese cities and interviewing most of the surviving Japanese leaders, gave their opinion that:

“Certainly prior to December 31, 1945, and in all probability prior to November 1, 1945 (the planned date of the American invasion of Kyushu, the southernmost home island), Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.”

However, Russia had indeed entered the war – at dawn on August 8, 1945, with 1.6 million men, fighter-bombers, parachute troops and a huge tank army – and although this was little-reported at the time compared with the enormous official publicity lavished on the atom bombs, modern scholarship increasingly sees the Soviet invasion of Manchuria as the real, immediate cause of Japan’s surrender. My own research, conducted over the 20 years I have been in Japan, fully endorses this conclusion.

It came about like this. While publicly declaring that Japan would fight to the end and “killing with silence” (an Oriental way of saying “no comment”) the Allies’ demand for unconditional surrender issued at Potsdam on July 26, 1945, Japan was secretly trying to arrange a negotiated peace, with the Soviet Union, still officially neutral, to act as mediator. This may seem an absurd idea until we recall that the US had mediated the end of the war between Russia and Japan in 1905. These half-hearted “secret” approaches (all the Soviets were asked to do was to receive Prince Fumimaro Konoe, a former prime minister and distant relative of Hirohito) were, however, no secret from the American leaders, who were reading the Japanese diplomatic messages passing between Tokyo and Moscow – the so-called MAGIC intercepts. Only declassified in full as recently as last year, the MAGIC summaries gave tantalising hints that there was a a pro-peace party in Tokyo, centred on the Foreign Ministry, to which Emperor Hirohito apparently belonged, but no indication of whether the peace party was strong enough to overcome the Army leaders who wanted to fight a “decisive battle for the Homeland” (after the expected American invasion) and then, having won it, to negotiate a peace that would guarantee, as a minimum, the continuation of the monarchy with Hirohito as monarch – something less than unconditional surrender.

Matters came to a head in Tokyo on the night of August 8, two days after the atom-bombing of Hiroshima. With all communications with the ruined city knocked out, very little information reached Tokyo, 1,000 km away, about what had happened. What there was came via the Japanese Army which downplayed the damage and insisted (correctly) that no military installations affecting Japan’s ability to continue the war had been damaged. Nevertheless, Hirohito, via his confidential adviser Lord Privy Seal Marquis Kido, summoned a meeting of the Supreme War Council, known as the “Big Six”, for 10am the following morning, August 9, to meet in the air-raid shelter under his burnt-out palace.

We will never know what they might have decided about Hiroshima because overnight news came through that the Soviets had invaded Japanese-occupied Manchuria, scattering the poorly equipped Japanese armies there. This meant that virtually the entire world was now fighting Japan but, more immediately, the plan to ask the Soviets to mediate peace negotiations with the Allies was now in ruins and there was now a real threat that Japan itself might be partitioned and partly communised, as had just happened to Germany.

News of the atom-bombing of Nagasaki came through while the meeting was in progress but had no effect on the deliberations. The “Big Six” were still unable to agree and the same thing happened when the full Cabinet met that afternoon. Finally, late that night, the still-divided Cabinet agreed to ask Hirohito, who had not said a word, what he thought. Asked for his opinion (against all Japanese constitutional practice), Hirohito said the time had come to “endure the unendurable” and accept the Potsdam terms. After a last appeal to continue the fight from the War Minister, General Korechika Anami (“We can still achieve something and get better terms than these,” he claimed), the Emperor helped draft the surrender declaration. It was Anami who, in Hirohito’s name, issued the orders to Japanese units in the field to lay down their arms. His duty to his Emperor done, as he saw it, Anami killed himself.

What part did the atom bomb play in all this? According to the Strategic Bombing Survey, “the atom bombs did not change a single vote on the Supreme War Council, although they did add to the general gloom”. The problem here is that Japan’s surrender was, as historians say, “over-determined”; there was quite enough gloom in Japan already, without the need to add more. The view that the Japanese military was intimidated by either the atom bombs or Truman’s threat of more and more powerful ones (a piece of bluff) into seeking peace is simply an exercise in ill-informed guesswork.

If World War II taught us one lesson, it is that military leaders safe in bunkers can accept enormous civilian casualties without flinching, and no-one asks the bombed civilians whether they are in favour of peace or not (but, even in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the survivors were ready to fight on). What really ended the war was a threat to something the Japanese leaders saw as more important than the deaths of mere civilians (more than half a million had already died in the fire raids) – the political destruction of the Japanese nation itself. A quick surrender before the Soviets arrived seemed the best way out, and history, and the Cold War, have proved that they guessed correctly.

What can be said for atom bombs on their one use in real war? Against an already beaten opponent, who was universally detested, facing starvation, without any allies or means of reprisal – and whose flimsy cities were made of inflammable wood, paper and straw – they might have added something to the imminent and inevitable outcome, but at the cost of resentment and guilt feelings which still fester today half a century on. These preconditions occur very seldom in the real world, not surprisingly, so no-one has found another situation in which the use of nuclear weapons seemed to outweigh their enormous downside of universal revulsion, plus the risk of uncontrolled escalation.

Against a non-nuclear opponent, their use discredits any cause they are supposed to be upholding, particularly if the cause is the democratic one of personal justice and individual, rather than group, racial or national responsibility. Against a nuclear opponent, they promise universal, mutually assured destruction, known by the appropriate acronym MAD. Atom bombs are not, in short, practicable weapons of war, except for the purposes of terror, or terrorists, their likeliest next users. Robert Oppenheimer once said that unless nuclear weapons were controlled, or better still eliminated, men would one day curse the name of Los Alamos. All too probably, he may yet be proved right.

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For a thorough and excellent discussion of this subject, see Desultory Heroics:

The Real Reasons America Used Nuclear Weapons Against Japan

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The 1975 British-American coup in Australia

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Undated photo shows the radar domes of the top-secret joint US-Australian missile defence base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs in central Australia.

John Pilger, ‘The British-American coup that ended Australian independence’, The Guardian, 23.10.14

In 1975 Prime Minister Gough Whitlam dared to try to assert his country’s autonomy. The CIA and MI6 made sure he paid the price.

Across the media and political establishment in Australia, a silence has descended on the memory of the great, reforming prime minister Gough Whitlam. His achievements are recognised, if grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. But a critical reason for his extraordinary political demise will, they hope, be buried with him.

Australia briefly became an independent state during the Whitlam years, 1972-75. An American commentator wrote that no country had “reversed its posture in international affairs so totally without going through a domestic revolution”. Whitlam ended his nation’s colonial servility. He abolished royal patronage, moved Australia towards the Non-Aligned Movement, supported “zones of peace” and opposed nuclear weapons testing.

Although not regarded as on the left of the Labor (mw: note the American spelling) party, Whitlam was a maverick social democrat of principle, pride and propriety. He believed that a foreign power should not control his country’s resources and dictate its economic and foreign policies. He proposed to “buy back the farm”. In drafting the first Aboriginal lands rights legislation, his government raised the ghost of the greatest land grab in human history, Britain’s colonisation of Australia, and the question of who owned the island-continent’s vast natural wealth.

Latin Americans will recognise the audacity and danger of this “breaking free” in a country whose establishment was welded to great, external power. Australians had served every British imperial adventure since the Boxer rebellion was crushed in China. In the 1960s, Australia pleaded to join the US in its invasion of Vietnam, then provided “black teams” to be run by the CIA. US diplomatic cables published last year by WikiLeaks disclose the names of leading figures in both main parties, including a future prime minister and foreign minister, as Washington’s informants during the Whitlam years.

Whitlam knew the risk he was taking. The day after his election, he ordered that his staff should not be “vetted or harassed” by the Australian security organisation, Asio – then, as now, tied to Anglo-American intelligence. When his ministers publicly condemned the US bombing of Vietnam as “corrupt and barbaric”, a CIA station officer in Saigon said: “We were told the Australians might as well be regarded as North Vietnamese collaborators.”

Whitlam demanded to know if and why the CIA was running a spy base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs, a giant vacuum cleaner which, as Edward Snowden revealed recently, allows the US to spy on everyone. “Try to screw us or bounce us,” the prime minister warned the US ambassador, “[and Pine Gap] will become a matter of contention”.

Victor Marchetti, the CIA officer who had helped set up Pine Gap, later told me, “This threat to close Pine Gap caused apoplexy in the White House … a kind of Chile [coup] was set in motion.”

Pine Gap’s top-secret messages were decoded by a CIA contractor, TRW. One of the decoders was Christopher Boyce, a young man troubled by the “deception and betrayal of an ally”. Boyce revealed that the CIA had infiltrated the Australian political and trade union elite and referred to the governor-general of Australia, Sir John Kerr, as “our man Kerr”.

Kerr was not only the Queen’s man, he had longstanding ties to Anglo-American intelligence. He was an enthusiastic member of the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, described by Jonathan Kwitny of the Wall Street Journal in his book, The Crimes of Patriots, as “an elite, invitation-only group … exposed in Congress as being founded, funded and generally run by the CIA”. The CIA “paid for Kerr’s travel, built his prestige … Kerr continued to go to the CIA for money”.

When Whitlam was re-elected for a second term, in 1974, the White House sent Marshall Green to Canberra as ambassador. Green was an imperious, sinister figure who worked in the shadows of America’s “deep state”. Known as “the coupmaster”, he had played a central role in the 1965 coup against President Sukarno in Indonesia – which cost up to a million lives. One of his first speeches in Australia, to the Australian Institute of Directors, was described by an alarmed member of the audience as “an incitement to the country’s business leaders to rise against the government”.

The Americans and British worked together. In 1975, Whitlam discovered that Britain’s MI6 was operating against his government. “The Brits were actually decoding secret messages coming into my foreign affairs office,” he said later. One of his ministers, Clyde Cameron, told me, “We knew MI6 was bugging cabinet meetings for the Americans.” In the 1980s, senior CIA officers revealed that the “Whitlam problem” had been discussed “with urgency” by the CIA’s director, William Colby, and the head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield. A deputy director of the CIA said: “Kerr did what he was told to do.”

On 10 November 1975, Whitlam was shown a top-secret telex message sourced to Theodore Shackley, the notorious head of the CIA’s East Asia division, who had helped run the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile two years earlier.

Shackley’s message was read to Whitlam. It said that the prime minister of Australia was a security risk in his own country. The day before, Kerr had visited the headquarters of the Defence Signals Directorate, Australia’s NSA, where he was briefed on the “security crisis”.

On 11 November – the day Whitlam was to inform parliament about the secret CIA presence in Australia – he was summoned by Kerr. Invoking archaic vice-regal “reserve powers”, Kerr sacked the democratically elected prime minister. The “Whitlam problem” was solved, and Australian politics never recovered, nor the nation its true independence.

•John Pilger’s investigation into the coup against Whitlam is described in full in his book, A Secret Country (Vintage), and in his documentary film, Other People’s Wars, which can be viewed on johnpilger.com.

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https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/guy-rundle_john-kerr/12505310

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Saturday Matinee: Afghanistan War Exposed: An Imperial Conspiracy — Desultory Heroics

Every American should watch Abby Martin’s New Afghanistan War Documentary “Afghanistan War Exposed: An Imperial Conspiracy.” It is a tour de force, a must watch for every American seeking a holistic understanding of American’s longest-running war. By MintPress News Desk. The perpetual occupation of Afghanistan has become so normalized that it mostly […]

via Saturday Matinee: Afghanistan War Exposed: An Imperial Conspiracy — Desultory Heroics

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Slavery in Australia – in the laid back n’ easy goin’ ‘land of the fair go’

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In 1891 a ‘Slave Map of Modern Australia’ was printed in the British Anti-Slavery Reporter

Thalia Anthony, Stephen Gray, ‘Was there slavery in Australia? Yes. It shouldn’t even be up for debate’, The Conversation, 11.06.20

Prime Minister Scott Morrison asserted in a radio interview that “there was no slavery in Australia”.

This is a common misunderstanding which often obscures our nation’s history of exploitation of First Nations people and Pacific Islanders.

Morrison followed up with “I’ve always said we’ve got to be honest about our history”. Unfortunately, his statement is at odds with the historical record.

This history was widely and publicly documented, among other sources, in the 2006 Australian Senate report Unfinished Business: Indigenous Stolen Wages.

What is slavery?

Australia was not a “slave state” like the American South. However, slavery is a broader concept. As Article 1 of the United Nations Slavery Convention says:

Slavery is the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised.

These powers might include non-payment of wages, physical or sexual abuse, controls over freedom of movement, or selling a person like a piece of property. In the words of slavery historian Orlando Patterson, slavery is a form of “social death”.

Slavery has been illegal in the (former) British Empire since the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade of 1807, and certainly since 1833.

Slavery practices emerged in Australia in the 19th century and in some places endured until the 1950s.

Early coverage of slavery in Australia

As early as the 1860s, anti-slavery campaigners began to invoke “charges of chattel bondage and slavery” to describe north Australian conditions for Aboriginal labour.

In 1891 a “Slave Map of Modern Australia” was printed in the British Anti-Slavery Reporter, a journal that documented slavery around the world and campaigned against it.

Reprinted from English journalist Arthur Vogan’s account of frontier relations in Queensland, it showed large areas where:

… the traffic in Aboriginal labour, both children and adults, had descended into slavery conditions.

Seeds of slavery in Australia

Some 62,000 Melanesian people were brought to Australia and enslaved to work in Queensland’s sugar plantations between 1863 and 1904. First Nations Australians had a more enduring experience of slavery, originally in the pearling industry in Western Australia and the Torres Strait and then in the cattle industry.

In the pastoral industry, employers exercised a high degree of control over “their” Aboriginal workers, who were bought and sold as chattels, particularly where they “went with” the property upon sale. There were restrictions on their freedom of choice and movement. There was cruel treatment and abuse, control of sexuality, and forced labour.

A stock worker at Meda Station in the Kimberley, Jimmy Bird, recalled:

… whitefellas would pull their gun out and kill any Aborigines who stood up to them. And there was none of this taking your time to pull up your boots either. No fear!

Aboriginal woman Ruby de Satge, who worked on a Queensland station, described the Queensland Protection Act as meaning:

if you are sitting down minding your own business, a station manager can come up to you and say, “I want a couple of blackfellows” … Just like picking up a cat or a dog.

Through their roles under the legislation, police, Aboriginal protectors and pastoral managers were complicit in this force.

Slavery was sanctioned by Australian law

Legislation facilitated the enslavement of Aboriginal people across the Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland. Under the South Australian Aborigines Act 1911, the government empowered police to “inspect workers and their conditions” but not to uphold basic working conditions or enforce payment. The Aboriginals Ordinance 1918 (Cth) allowed the forced recruitment of Indigenous workers in the Northern Territory, and legalised the non-payment of wages.

In Queensland, the licence system was effectively a blank cheque to recruit Aboriginal people into employment without their consent. Amendments to the Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897 gave powers to the Protector or police officer to “expend” their wages or invest them in a trust fund – which was never paid out.

Officials were well aware that “slavery” was a public relations problem. The Chief Protector in the Northern Territory noted in 1927 that pastoral workers:

… are kept in a servitude that is nothing short of slavery.

In the early 1930s, Chief Protector Dr Cecil Cook pointed out Australia was in breach of its obligations under the League of Nations Slavery Convention.

‘… it certainly exists here in its worst form’

Accusations of slavery continued into the 1930s, including through the British Commonwealth League.

In 1932 the North Australian Workers’ Union (NAWU) characterised Aboriginal workers as “slaves”. Unionist Owen Rowe argued:

If there is no slavery in the British Empire then the NT is not part of the British Empire; for it certainly exists here in its worst form.

In the 1940s, anthropologists Ronald and Catherine Berndt surveyed conditions on cattle stations owned by Lord Vestey, commenting that Aboriginal people:

… owned neither the huts in which they lived nor the land on which these were built, they had no rights of tenure, and in some cases have been sold or transferred with the property.

In 1958, counsel for the well-known Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira argued that the Welfare Ordinance 1953 (Cth) was unconstitutional, because the enacting legislation was:

… a law for the enslavement of part of the population of the Northern Territory.

Profits from slaves

Australia has unfinished business in repaying wages to Aboriginal and South Sea Islander slaves. First Nations slave work allowed big businesses to reap substantial profits, and helped maintain the Australian economy through the Great Depression. Aboriginal people are proud of their work on stations even though the historical narrative is enshrined in silence and denial.

As Bundjalung woman Valerie Linow has said of her experiences of slavery in the 1950s:

What if your wages got stolen? Honestly, wouldn’t you like to have your wages back? Honestly. I think it should be owed to the ones who were slave labour. We got up and worked from dawn to dusk … We lost everything – family, everything. You cannot go stealing our lousy little sixpence. We have got to have money back. You have got to give something back after all this country did to the Aboriginal people. You cannot keep stealing off us.

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Addendum: the above addresses only part of the story – e.g. convicts were also used as slave labour.

 

Sydney University – exposed for what it is

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Protesters throw a statue of slave trader Edward Colston into the Bristol harbour this week

Natassia Chrysanthos, ‘Subjects on US slavery and fascism slated for cuts at Sydney University’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 11.06.20

History subjects about the making of the US, American slavery, fascism and anti-fascism are nominated to be cut from the University of Sydney’s arts and social sciences faculty due to budget-saving measures. …

It comes as the statues of slave traders are torn down in Britain and thousands worldwide protest against police brutality in the Black Lives Matter movement, after the death of George Floyd in the United States.

History student Annabel Pettit said she was hoping to study American slavery next semester.

“It feels like a vital time to be thinking critically, and learning as much as we can about what has led us to this particular moment in history,” she said.

“It’s disappointing news to hear as a student, and deeply concerning given the current global anti-racist movement and the upcoming US election.”…

Seventy history students have written to the arts and social sciences dean, Annamarie Jagose, petitioning to save the subjects.

“These are vital subjects to study in a world where the mass Black Lives Matter movement has been threatened by the US President with military action to disperse protesters,” they wrote.

Senior history lecturer David Brophy said students felt they were being denied the opportunity to study topics that were “really important at this point”.

“It’s not a good time for Sydney to be weakening its offerings in these areas,” he said. “We’re in the middle of a global uprising against racism centred in America, and we’re stripping away these units that speak directly to the current context.

“There’s also an intense discussion that’s sparked up again about the way we speak about history, the debate about the commemoration of figures involved in slavery. They would normally be expected to attract significant interest in a time like this.” …

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