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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13302

Ms KING (BallaratParliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport and Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing) (12:52): This debate itself has exemplified the grand passions that the Eureka Stockade engenders. I so delighted that this debate has been brought before this chamber and that we are continuing to have these very, very passionate discussions about what is, in my view, at the heart of our democratic tradition.

We live in one of the world's greatest democracies. We live in a state with transparent and fair elections and our voices are heard through our parliaments and our community leaders, and now, more than ever, Australians are speaking out through the use of technology such as social media. As a nation, we well and truly do our bit. We pay our taxes, we work hard and we have a say in the future of our children and our children's children. That has not always been the case. Many of the world's finest democracies have in the past not allowed even the most basic of rights—from slavery and segregation to the right of all people to vote. Each has had their own move to democracy, and it is important that we celebrate and recognise our own: the battle of the Eureka Stockade.

On 3 December 1854, our nation experienced one of the most defining moments in our journey towards our democratic tradition. It was with great significance that the Ballarat Reform League Charter was placed onto the Australian Memory of the World Register back in 2004. Three weeks prior to the battle at the Eureka Stockade, 10,000 miners gathered at Bakery Hill and supported this charter. It is one of the most significant documents in our nation's history. The miners represented by the Ballarat Reform League wanted a say in how they were to be governed, how their taxes should be spent and how they as people deserved to be treated. Its stated premise was:

It is the inalienable right of every citizen to have a voice in making the laws he is called on to obey—that taxation without representation is tyranny.

The story of Eureka represents our nation's ability to overcome the struggles which we have faced over the last two centuries. The battle that occurred back in 1854 was the most significant turning point in our journey towards democracy. The federal government is committed to ensuring that the role of the events of the Eureka Stockade, the movement leading up to it and the events that followed it are very much central to our understanding of our democratic history. Under the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure program, we have committed some $5 million to establishing the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka. The project is to be opened next year and I really want to urge every Australian to visit this very important centre in Ballarat. It should be seen as a prerequisite to developing a full understanding of the significance of the Eureka Stockade in the formulation of our democratic society.

The Eureka Flag will be moved on loan—for two years initially, with a review—to the new centre when the facility is complete. Those of us who have been involved in this debate for a long period of time know the incredible significance of that. It follows an agreement between the board of the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery and the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka to move the flag from the art gallery on loan. It is a very significant thing for them to have done, and I want to acknowledge the leadership of the board of the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery in this regard. The Eureka Flag was gifted to the city of Ballarat by the Trooper King family—no relation to mine—and it has been with the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery for a long period of time and they have done an extraordinary job in curating and looking after what is, I think, one of Australia's finest and most important national icons. I know that the board of the art gallery did not take the decision lightly and that it was a very difficult one for them to make. I want to give them my full support and say thank you as a grateful nation for making that decision. I think that was the right decision to have been made.

This month, we have also seen the release of another addition to the history of Eureka with Peter FitzSimon's book, and I am very much looking forward to reading it. I understand, from all accounts, it is a very good account of the history of the Battle of Eureka. This book joins the many others—and I notice that we have John here as well—on this very, very important issue, that have documented the historic events in the Ballarat goldfields back in the mid-1800s.

I commend the member for Fraser for presenting this motion to the House. It is a very fitting recognition of this bloody battle at the Eureka Stockade that it will be remembered always as a pivotal point in our nation's history and also very much part of this nation's understanding of itself. For those of us who live in Ballarat, we are very proud to have been the site where this occurred, but also the site where we have held the tradition and continue to make sure that tradition is brought to the Australian public. Again, I urge all members and senators of this parliament to come to Ballarat—you will be most welcome—and have the opportunity to visit the Eureka Flag in the new Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka and respect those who fought for our right for democracy.