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Thursday, 21 March 1985
Page: 566


Senator REYNOLDS —Is the Minister for Education aware of the Sydney Morning Herald article of 14 March in which former Treasury head, John Stone, accused Australian historians of trying to 'falsify our history'? Are Australian historians guilty of national subversion at public expense, as stated by John Stone, or should these claims be dismissed as merely the alarmist cluckings of a superannuated Henny Penny?


Senator RYAN —One would have thought that as Mr Stone's record in managing the area in which he was supposed to have competence-namely, the Australian economy-was so abysmal he would have been a little wary about treading into areas in which he has no expertise, or even alleged expertise. Of course, as we have noticed since the former discredited Secretary to the Treasury has been in the public arena, he seems, despite his abysmal record in managing the Australian economy, to have taken it upon himself to make comments on all manners of things, including, it would seem, the quality and standards of Australian historians. It is regrettable that attacks have been made on the efforts of a number of our scholars to participate in what I think will be one of the most successful bicentennial projects. I have high hopes for the bicentennial history project, which I think was the object of Mr Stone's ill-informed and ignorant attack. I believe it will be one of the permanently beneficial projects of the bicentenary because it will bring together a complete history of this country and the society, diverse as it is, that makes up Australia. A number of Australia's leading historians are engaged on this exciting enterprise. Why John Stone considers that this is a waste of taxpayers' money or that somehow it is a subversive activity is absolutely beyond me. I cannot conceive why he would decide to make this sort of attack. The Australian public generally, and certainly Australian students of history, have been very well served by the recent work of eminent Australian historians such as Professor Manning Clark, Professor Henry Reynolds, Dr Lyndal Ryan, Dr Kay Daniels and the art historian Bernard Smith-


Senator Lewis —What a joke. He writes history out of his mind.


Senator RYAN —Of course the Philistines on the other side of the chamber have probably never read one word of the work of any of Australia's leading historians.


Senator Lewis —Of course we have read his work. It is absolute nonsense and rubbish.


Senator RYAN —The continual flow of ignorance and prejudice that we are subjected to from the other side of the chamber-


The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask Senator Ryan to confine her answer to Senator Reynolds's question and to ignore interjections.


Senator RYAN —I will abide by your ruling, Mr President, but I must say I am provoked when we have an ill-informed, prejudiced and unfounded attack on Australian historians by John Stone and then, by way of interjection from the Philistines opposite, this ill-informed attack is continued. Not only as Federal Minister for Education in this country but also as a person who cares about this society and who is concerned that students have proper access to records and historical accounts of what has led to Australia being the country that it is, I must admit that I do become provoked at the anti-intellectual, anti-academic and anti-scholarship approach that is so often evidenced on the other side of the chamber. In conclusion, anybody who is familiar with the work of contemporary Australian historians would know that there is no shred of basis for this stupid attack made by John Stone on them.


Senator Chaney —Mr President, a point of order. I seek your clarification. Would you confirm or otherwise that there is nothing in the Standing Orders that protects a public servant who has loyally served a series of governments, including the present Government, from an unprincipled attack made on him from this House? I would ask for your ruling as to whether any protection can be given to a public servant in these circumstances. I can find nothing in the Standing Orders which does. I think that is a pity, but I would appreciate it if you could confirm that.


The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order. The matter to which Senator Chaney refers is well outside the confines of standing order 418, which offers no protection to anyone other than members of parliaments throughout Australia.