Page 245 - Week 01 - Thursday, 9 December 2004

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A group of small business people clubbed together to resist their government. It was not about refugees, the injustice of America and some of the other things that people have tacked on to it. If you look at what was actually happening on the goldfields at that time, you will find that there were things that we, as Australians, probably should be a little bit ashamed of as well. The treatment of some of the people in the area, particularly the treatment of the Chinese and the indigenous people in the area, was appalling. So let’s be very careful about twisting the history as it is so easy to come back later and use it for our own ends.

I would agree with the sentiment expressed that the Eureka Stockade was a significant event in this country’s history. The lesson I learned from the Eureka Stockade is that the people sent a very clear message to their government of the day that they wanted small government, less intrusive government and a lower taxing government. I was just thinking that not much has changed. I think that most Australians today would like smaller government, less intrusive government, and a less high taxing government. I think that that is the true message coming out of Eureka.

Was it an expression of a fledgling democracy? The democracies were working fairly well at that stage. For the time, Australia was fairly advanced in the democratic process and, as can be seen from the events that came from that at the turn of the century, with the constitution, suffrage for women and many other things, Australia actually led the way in the democratic process. But let’s not twist the tale too much to suit our own political needs.

Mr Speaker, a distant relative of my mother jumped ship in Melbourne in 1851—a gentleman called Le Lievre from the Channel Ports—and made his way to the Ballarat area. He failed as a miner—he struck out, as they say—and then set up a bullock line which, if I understand the family history right, travelled between Melbourne and Ballarat and the goldfields and actually made quite a good living, as most service industries end up doing, out of supporting the activity.

The claim to fame—I cannot substantiate it, but it is a good family story—is that he had a mate called Peter who asked whether he could borrow Mr Le Lievre’s wagons one weekend and some of these wagons apparently formed some of the barricades that became the Eureka Stockade and were promptly burnt by the troops. So, somewhere up there in the ashes on Eureka hill, are those of some wagons that used to belong to my forebears. That is the family history of it. I think we all have an attachment to it in some way. The flag itself has been used over many years as a symbol for calling government to task and challenging authority. I think that that is quite good.

The opposition thinks that the motion, unfortunately, debases the true story of Eureka. Paragraph (1) congratulates the Stanhope government. Gratuitous self-congratulations from the government normally do not count for much. Paragraph (2) is very important. It recognises the significance of the events of Eureka in the development of Australian democracy. We think that that paragraph is reasonable.

Paragraph (3) is unsubstantiated and, I think, a slur on the federal government. No other flag ever flies over the Australian parliament and no other flag ever should fly over the Australian Parliament House. To say that even for a day we should put up the Eureka

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