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Gadfly 158

By Robert Macklin

The time has come to take back Australia.

After 233 years of battering by invaders attacking the First Australians followed by mindless ‘developers’ from all quarters - joined only by their gospel of greed - our great big continent has had enough. Today its glorious, unique fauna and flora are fighting a losing battle to survive.

Yes, the whole planet is hurtling towards a climate crisis, but Australia will suffer more than most. And at just such a time we are governed by a bunch of denialists and a timid, visionless Opposition. It doesn’t get much more troubling than that.

Tough words, I know. But there’s been a conjunction of events that have thrown the whole sorry mess into focus lately. It started with a radio interview I did with a US network on my book, Castaway which deals in part with the attempted genocide of Queensland’s Aboriginal people. I relived the horror of it in the telling.

Then came Sam Neil’s TV rendition of Cook’s voyage up the East Coast with the racist Joseph Banks; and in quick succession Simon Plowright’s gorgeous, heart-warming doco Quoll Farm; then Australia Remastered with Aaron Pedersen in the far Outback; Tim Flannery on the fate of our Koalas; and finally the mess that is now Kakadu National Park revealed by Four Corners. Each one hit like a blow to the solar plexus. Together they sent the senses reeling.

But even in the light of day, it really is that bad. Sure, we have a lot to be pleased about: for such a mixed bunch we all get along fairly well; a lot of good people are helping the less fortunate; the roads are okay and the bridges don’t fall down. But I fear we’ve lost sight of the wonderful Australia we inherited; and we still haven’t even begun to give restitution for the appalling crimes visited upon the First Australians, let alone close the yawning gap between their standard of living and us whitefellas.

But it’s our treatment of the native animals that really hit home in those programs; and our blind refusal to lift a national finger to redress the carnage. The Morrisons and Duttons of the world go into fits of wrath at the very idea of allowing a Sri Lankan family out of solitary detention on Christmas Island back to little Biloela where they’re loved and wanted. They say they fear the return of the ‘boat people’ because there are terrorists among them.

Honestly. How many ‘terrorists’ have arrived by leaky boat to do their dreadful deeds? Damned if I can think of any. But what of the animal terrorists we’ve imported, bred in their millions and loosed as feral cats upon the native wildlife? What of the foxes, the cane toads, the wild pigs, the donkeys, horses, camels that ravage the land and its unique and fascinating inhabitants?

If ever there was a project that could provide a massive opportunity for leadership from our First Australians – backed by all the authority and funding necessary - to research, plan and execute remedial action for however long it took, surely that one is crying out. And if it requires a special seat in the Federal Cabinet – or a ‘Voice’ via the Uluru Statement - then so be it.

The greed gang has had it their way for two centuries; maybe it’s time for the custodians of 65 millennia to be given a go to get some balance back into the Australian story. Maybe it will even light a spark for real action on climate change itself…or is that asking too much?

Robert Macklin was born in Queensland and educated at University of Queensland and the Australian National University. He has worked as a journalist at the COURIER-MAIL, THE AGE and THE BULLETIN, and was associate editor of the CANBERRA TIMES until 2003.

Robert is the author of 29 books, including DARK PARADISE, HAMILTON HUME and four works focusing on the SAS and Australia's Special Forces: SAS SNIPER, REDBACK ONE, SAS INSIDER and WARRIOR ELITE and CASTAWAY. He lives in Canberra.

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