Round trip: Kuringgai man Bungaree was the first recorded Aborigine to circumnavigate Australia, doing so with Matthews Flinders in the early 19th century. Photo: SUPPLIED

FROM THE DESK OF Roland Rocchiccioli – February 7, 2019

February 6, 2019 BY

The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, announced it would be a re-enactment of Captain Cook’s voyage – erroneously attributing to him the circumnavigation of Australia.

EVERYONE knows the circumnavigation was undertaken (1801-03) and completed by Captain Matthews Flinders RN, in the company of Bungaree, who thus become the first indigenous person to make such a trip.

The suggestion that Captain Cook charted Australia is an egregious solecism on the part of our Prime Minister and insinuates a Reader’s Digest grasp of history, despite a denial from his office. One would have thought – given the use of taxpayers’ money – due and mind-numbingly diligent process would have been applied. In this hypersensitive and litigious age of employment pyramids, gender equality, job description contracts, team leaders, and due deference to all-and-sundry, it would not be a quantum leap to imagine (mistakenly, it would seem in this instance) the proposition would have been floated for comment, appraised for political correctness, evaluated for voter support, put to a focus group, debated ad nauseam by Cabinet, and then, finally, announced. In the PM’s defence, there is many slip twixt the cup and the lip, but surely, in that elaborate and protracted process of discussion and review, the premise of the expenditure must have caused a bell to ring – however faintly. It is incomprehensible that someone did not think to make the point that Captain Cook did not circumnavigate Australia – in the same way he did not discover Australia.

This so-called ‘re-enactment’ will be made possible by a $6.7 million government funding grant to the existing replica of his famous ship, HM Bark Endeavour. It will sail around the continent calling at various ports and doing, I’m not sure, what! Given, Cook charted part of the east coast of Australia, and circumnavigated New Zealand, I am struggling to see the link. Perhaps it could be categorised as a manifestation of what the Labour Leader, Bill Shorten, describes as Mr. Morrison’s “bizarre Captain Cook fetish.” Mr. Shorten said, “I think we’ve got to respect our history and what happened in 1770, but I’m also interested in what happens in Australia in 2070.” Hear, hear!

My antennae galvanised when the PM said, “The thing about Cook is I think we need to rediscover him a bit because he gets a bit of a bad show from some of those who like to sort of talk down our history.” I am not one of those who, as the PM proffered, “sort of talks down our history.” A former history master and tutor would look at me askance if I strayed into the realm of historical fantasy. He would quip, “Who do you imagine you are? Barbara Cartland!” Consequently, and as a mark of respect to the brilliant man, I try, to the greatest of my ability, to get the facts – ‘nothing but the facts’ – and then make a deliberated and educated valuation – such as one is able with history. I must confess, I have never heard anything untoward about Captain Cook, except that he did not discover Australia. That is a fact. Wondering if perhaps I had missed something in the translation, I went in search of the truth. I began lurking in dark corners and eavesdropping on conversations in the street. In desperation, I even started listening to the wind rustling the trees. I heard not one bad word about Captain Cook. Disappointingly, most people made no mention. I decided to stop wasting my time.

Mr Morrison has committed to spend $12 million marking the 250th anniversary of the British explorer’s first voyage to Australia. (As it transpires, the transit of Venus was a ruse. Cook was here with a dark and determined purpose: to find the postulated Terra Australis, and claim it for England). While he is a central character in the nation’s history, he is no more important than Flinders; Wentworth, Blaxland, and Lawson; Sturt, or Major Lockyer.

A sobering thought from a reader: The $6.7 million the government plans to spend on a ‘re-enactment’ of Captain Cook’s voyage would fund the Aboriginal Legal Service’s life-saving Custody Notification Service, for nearly 14-years, in one state.

Roland can be heard every Monday morning – 10.30 – on radio 3BA and contacted via rolandroc@bigpond.com.