There is an easy solution to protect our national monuments from anti-Australia vandals. The question is: Are we brave enough to enact it?
Most of us spent Australia Day at the beach, kicking back at home or gathered around a barbecue.
Sadly, a loud but vocal minority used the holiday to whinge and moan about our great country. Some of them went as far as vandalising iconic monuments to Australia’s history.
In the Melbourne suburb of St Kilda, a life-sized sculpture of Captain James Cook that has stood for over 100 years and is listed on Victoria’s National Trust was sawn off at the ankles, and the plinth on which it stood was spray-painted with the words “the colony will fall”. (Never mind that Captain Cook died exploring in Hawaii nine years before the First Fleet parked in Sydney Cove).
A few clicks up the road in Queen Victoria Gardens, the historic 11 metre-tall monument to Queen Victoria, installed in 1907 to commemorate the death of the state’s namesake, was defaced with buckets of red paint.
Soon after, in North Fitzroy, a second memorial to Captain Cook was trashed. This one, a stone monument with brass plaques, was cut at the base, tipped over, and graffitied with the message “cook the colony”.
Both Captain Cook monuments have been the target of vandals in prior years on Australia Day.
Credit to Victoria’s Premier
To their credit, Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan and the state’s opposition leader John Pesutto have condemned the acts of desecration. The Premier has vowed to have the sculptures of Captain Cook and Queen Victoria repaired and reinstated — news that has been welcomed by the City of Port Phillip and the Melbourne City Council respectively.
Premier Allan has made the same offer to the City of Yarra concerning the second defaced Captain Cook monument. However, bureaucrats working at the council — located in one of Australia’s most left-leaning electorates — “have recommended permanently removing their own damaged monument,” according to Sky News:
In an email to councillors on Monday, the Yarra Council officer recommended the monument be taken out of Edinburgh Gardens and formerly removed from the council’s collection due to the extent of the damage and because it has “little or no significance” to the park…
Asked about the monument’s removal on Tuesday, Premier Jacinta Allan offered to help repair and restore the monument — an offer accepted by Port Phillip Council — but this could only be done if the council wanted to have it restored.
“We stand ready to support that,” Ms Allan said.
“(But) we need the council to be a willing partner in restoring and repairing damaged monuments like the one in Yarra. So the Yarra City Council will need to resolve if it wants to see that reinstated.”
No Money for Monuments?
The monument’s fate will ultimately be decided by a vote by the city’s councillors. But one of them — independent socialist councillor Stephen Jolly — is on a crusade to see it scrapped.
“Even people who love Captain Cook, who love Australia Day will see that repairing a statue that costs thousands to fix isn’t the most important thing to spend money on,” Mr Jolly said.
“Residents want better in services, more childcare services, cheaper swimming pools.”
He likewise told the Guardian Australia, “Is this the best use of ratepayers money when we’ve got rate-capping, massive demands on our children’s services, libraries and all the other things we do?”
There is little doubt that if the monument that was defaced celebrated an Indigenous hero, Mr Jolly could justify almost any amount for its restoration — and fair enough.
Here is the fundamental flaw with arguments like Stephen Jolly’s: Money is not the problem. Ideology is.
Western Marxists and the Pursuit of ‘Year Zero’
As Senator Ralph Babet astutely pointed out in his article for the Spectator Australia, “The vandals are not just those who cut down the St Kilda statue. The true vandals are the cultural wreckers in the Parliament, in the universities, in corporate offices, sporting bodies, and supermarket chains.”
Senator Babet lamented that “while the number of people who love this country far exceeds those who do not, the haters are well-organised, well-supported, very vocal, and growing increasingly emboldened”.
Babet also pointed the finger at Anthony Albanese:
The Prime Minister needs to understand that his continual undermining of Australia Day and his party’s stubborn refusal to put the Australian flag front and centre has consequences. His refusal to celebrate European settlement and all the benefits it brought is a wink to those who hate this country, it has given them permission to trash our history, deface public property, and worse.
To retire the Captain Cook monument in North Fitzroy is to tell vandals that criminality is an acceptable form of public discourse in Australia.
Worse, it aids Western Marxists in their zealous pursuit of ‘Year Zero’ — the political ideal, enacted by communists like Pol Pot, that a society’s culture and traditions must be systematically erased to make way for a new revolutionary culture.
Cynics might scoff at the idea that this is what anti-Australia activists really intend. Yet the activists say so themselves, scrawling their manifesto in red paint for all to see.
Cynics might scoff at the idea that “the colony will fall” is a serious agenda beyond the circles of young, left-wing vandals. Yet Australia’s universities are riddled with the rhetoric of “decolonisation”. Little doubt, that’s where last week’s thugs got their ideas in the first place.
Cynics might scoff at the idea that scrapping one statue will open the door to more of the same. Yet that’s exactly what it does.
In 2017, late-night comedian John Oliver mocked Donald Trump for predicting that removing Confederate statues would set a precedent for the removal of monuments to founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson. Trump was correct: an iconic statue of Jefferson was recently removed from New York City Hall, following criticism that Jefferson owned slaves.
How to Fix Monuments and Stop Future Vandalism
So, should Australia restore vandalised monuments?
Yes — and then some.
Here’s a solution for every city councillor in the country to consider:
If a monument to a historical figure is defaced, city councils should act quickly, not only to restore it, but to commission works to improve and accentuate it: install up-lights, explanatory signage, bench seating and other features nearby.
If a monument is severely damaged, as it was in North Fitzroy, city councils should commission a bigger, better and bolder replacement honouring the same historical figure.
Our mistakes notwithstanding, Australia has a history for which we should all be proud. For his part, Captain James Cook was an utter genius, achieving far more than even his most erudite modern critics could dream to achieve. As Michael Crowley has written for Spiked:
Cook’s achievements ought to speak for themselves. He mapped more of the globe and sailed further south than anyone before him. When other mariners perished in the abyss of oceans, Cook could pinpoint his location to within a mile. He even pioneered a cure for scurvy that saved countless lives and increased the longevity of voyages.
He was also one of the very few men from the lower classes to rise to senior rank in the Royal Navy. Men followed Cook to the ends of the Earth and beyond…
And, as I have written elsewhere, “Cook advocated for peaceful interactions with Indigenous people wherever he went. His journals reveal compassion, understanding and respect for the cultures and societies of the Pacific Islands, and proved invaluable to generations of ethnographers and anthropologists.”
What Australia does with its historical monuments is more than symbolic. It’s existential. It will, to a large extent, determine the character of the generations that follow us: whether our descendants will be made in the mould of Melbourne’s cowardly, culture-wrecking crooks — or great heroes like Captain James Cook.
The choice is all ours.
Image courtesy of Unsplash.