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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13300

Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (12:42): It is hard to follow the member for Riverina. I was getting a bit lost there, but the point he makes is essentially right. The struggle at Eureka meant that people up in the Riverland could burn the plan and politically protest and express their views on the laws that we write in this place. That is exactly the principles that we are defending and that were defended at Eureka. There is no doubt it was as celebration of democracy and there is no doubt it was a celebration of Australian values—justice, liberty, democracy and mateship. These are the same values that have echoed down the generations and the same values that we have defended on battlefields around the world. It is an interesting point the Peter Lalor, his grandson—also Peter Lalor—died at Gallipoli defending those values. There is no doubt that the events and symbols of Eureka have had a long association with the labour movement. Ben Chifley said that

Eureka was more than an incident or passing phase. It was greater in significance than the short-loved revolt against tyrannical authority would suggest. The permanency of Eureka in its impact on our development was that it was the first real affirmation of our determination to be masters of our own political destiny.

Even John Howard said that the events of Eureka, 150 years ago, played a part in the development of Australia. He must have said that through gritted teeth, I think, but as the member for Fraser, who has brought this motion to the House, pointed out, Prime Minister Menzies was far more generous to Eureka and to the diggers there, and far kinder to that struggle and its role in the development of Australia than other conservative leaders. Indeed, it would be my hope that Eureka becomes a far more bipartisan thing and that the symbols of Eureka become far more bipartisan. In my own electorate, when the Central Districts footy club play footy, you can see the Union Jack, the flag of Australia and the Eureka flag, all flown at the same time while a flare is set off. These are not necessarily partisan symbols, and they are not necessarily exclusive signals. They sit alongside all of the other symbols that Australia has.

If we look back—talking about justice, liberty, democracy and mateship and all of those values that were present there on Bakery Hill—we also have to look at the other side and what their motivations were. Commissioner Robert Rede, in his letter of Saturday afternoon 2 December 1854, said:

… I am convinced that … the future … of the Colony … depends on the crushing of this movement in such a manner that it may act as a warning. I should be sorry to see them return to their work. …we may be able to crush the democratic agitation at one blow which can only be done if we find them with arms in their hands and acting in direct opposition to the laws …

You can see there that the motivations of the Establishment at that time were to smash the democratic ideals of those miners, to smash the democratic ideals of those people who made all those important pledges. I think, as I said before, that we do need to have a more bipartisan attitude to Eureka; it should be something that is celebrated because it was the rejection of the maladministration of justice, licence hunts and the jailing of journalists for seditious libel. It was the rejection of 13 stockaders being put on trial—including John Joseph, an African-American who was first put on trial—and their freedom by juries. We should look at taking that oath that was sworn by the diggers:

We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties.

We should be looking at having that oath in our citizenship ceremonies and in our other oaths because it is a historic echo of this nation's character, this nation's struggle for democracy and this nation's preservation of democracy. That is not something that any one party owns. That is something that every Australian owns, and it has been defended up hill and down dale, and we should not be shy about defending it in this place either.