Page 291 - Week 01 - Thursday, 9 December 2004
MR MULCAHY: Thank you, Mr Speaker. May I just take members to a look at the history of the Eureka event. I will state, to have this on the record, that it has been reported that the Eureka Stockade uprising was essentially a short-lived revolt by goldminers against petty officialdom and harassment by a corrupt police force which would often ask miners to show their gold digging licence several times a day. The miners also objected to the high cost of licences.
It is interesting, when you study the history of this event, that the revolt in fact had its roots in the killing of a miner, James Scobie, by a publican. An inquest was held but, despite the evidence of miners, no conclusion was reached about who was responsible. Instead, the miners who pressed for the arrest of the publican were taken into custody. This event sparked protests by miners who held many public meetings, and they sought to take the law into their own hands by seeking out the publican and burning down his hotel. When those responsible were arrested and imprisoned, the situation at the goldfields became explosive and expanded to cover general discontent with unequal laws and unequal rights.
Mention was made, Mr Speaker, of the presence and the relevance of the Eureka flag, but we need to recognise that it is often used as a symbol of rebellion against authority by people at the extreme left and the extreme right of the political spectrum of Australia. It has been used in marches by neo-Nazis, on the one hand, and draped over the coffins of deceased communists, on the other.
Mr Speaker, when you reflect on the history of these events, it is regrettable, as I said, that they became a matter of division in our society. The flag, which was designed by a Canadian, as a matter of historical fact, was, as many would remember, taken over by the BLF and adopted as their symbol and later by the CFMEU. It is regrettable that neither of those organisations has brought great credit to their flag, or to that flag, through their rather well-publicised actions which have been the matter of scrutiny by at least two royal commissions in this country. Indeed, sadly, many officials in those organisations bring no credit to the good people in the labour movement through the way that flag has been identified with many of their activities.
I think that the event is significant in a number of respects. I think most of us were taught about this event in school upbringing. The media this week are a bit off on the historical facts. It was one of two armed revolts in the history of European settlement; the other, of course, being at Parramatta some time earlier.
There has been discussion—and I heard the Victorian Premier the other night on television—about the significance of this event as part of the evolution of democracy in Australia. I think that that is a matter which is somewhat subject to debate. Premier Bracks, I think in his enthusiasm—and I realise he comes from Ballarat—expressed the view that the whole basis of democracy came out of this event. I think that is more than an overstatement of the circumstance, but it serves as a basis for all the promotion and so forth of this event this week.
If you look at the official site that is provided in relation to Ballarat and the Eureka Stockade, you will see that it reports the extent to which the Eureka Stockade debacle