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Monday, 30 November 2015
Page: 13998

Ms HENDERSON (Corangamite) (10:31): I rise to second the member for Robertson's motion on the importance of the Eureka Stockade in Australian history. As we have heard in this debate this morning, there is no doubt that the Eureka rebellion played a very significant role in one of the underpinnings of Australian democracy. As a Victorian, and coming from Corangamite, the seat adjoining the seat of Ballarat, I am very proud that we are having this debate this morning. This Thursday, 3 December, is 161 years since the uprising.

On that fateful day, 33 miners and five soldiers were killed. It was, as we heard so eloquently put by the member for Robertson, a battle against oppression, a battle against authority, a battle like no other that we have seen in our community. It was a battle over goldmining licences. The miners, led by Peter Lalor, believed that the licences were being imposed unfairly by Governor Charles Hotham. Lalor led hundreds of miners who formed the Eureka Stockade. This followed a rally of some 10,000 five days earlier. Following the Eureka Stockade, a group of 13 diggers were charged with treason and, very symbolically, they were found to be not guilty.

I want to reflect on the career of Peter Lalor, who, as we have heard, was elected to the Victorian legislative council in 1855. He went on to serve in the legislative assembly as the member for North Grenville, now known as Ballarat. He was a member of the Victorian parliament for over 20 years and he also served as Speaker for a period of seven years. According to Lalor, and I know you would be personally very interested in this, Mr Deputy Speaker:

The first duty of a Speaker … is to be a tyrant. Remove him if you like, but while he is in the chair obey him.

Mr Lalor was considered to be a wonderful local member. The Argus at the time described him as 'a bluff, straightforward gentleman who blurts out plain truths in a homely, matter-of-fact style'.

As we have heard from the member for Ballarat, the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka was opened in 2013, supported by the then Victorian government and the federal government. There was also a significant contribution from the City of Ballarat to establish this important museum. It displays the Eureka flag on a rotating basis with the Art Gallery of Ballarat. I want to fully commend and support the suggestion by the member for Robertson that the Eureka flag be brought at the appropriate moment to this chamber, because it is a very important symbol of our democracy. It is a very important symbol of so much that was achieved and of so much that changed in the way that people sought to be governed at that time.

It may not in fact be known that when writer Mark Twain visited Australia he actually spoke about Eureka. He said:

It was a revolution - small in size; but great politically; it was a strike for liberty, a struggle for a principle, a stand against injustice and oppression. It was the Barons and John, over again; it was Hampden and Ship-Money; it was Concord and Lexington; small beginnings, all of them, but all of them great in political results, all of them epoch-making. It is another instance of a victory won by a lost battle.

I also want to reflect on the comments made back in July 1946 by Robert Menzies. Robert Menzies said:

Arms were used by working men in the most important historical struggle that this country has known—the struggle at Eureka Stockade—and arms will probably be used by the workers in this country again.

The attempt to connect the Eureka Stockade incident with communism is ridiculous, he said:

Insofar as the Eureka revolt indicated any general movement at all, it [was] a fierce desire to achieve true Parliamentary government, and … true popular control of public finances.

Peter Lalor, the leader of the revolt, went into the Victorian parliament and became its speaker. The communists are antiparliament, antirepresentative government, and for all their own brand of dictatorship. (Time expired)