During Germany’s Hitler era, from 1933 to 1945, the ruling Nazi Party had a policy which they described as gleichschaltung, meaning synchronisation or co-ordination. What it meant was that every activity – moral, mental, social, intellectual, economic, political, military, etc. – had to be synchronised with Nazi Party philosophy. Thus, churches were obliged to accept the Fuehrer as “the herald of a new revelation”, single German girls were encouraged to mate with members of the elite SS, and children were taught at school to spy on their parents and report their thoughts and actions which were inconsistent with Nazi ideology. It was a tyranny of the mind.
In Australia today, we have another name for gleichschaltung : we call it political correctness. It also, is a tyranny of the mind. The politically correct have the same self-righteous assurance of their own infallibility as their Nazi forerunners. They refuse to concede that there may be a valid view of events, other than the one they themselves hold. They denounce and vilify those who dare to hold, or express, a contrary view. The distinguished Australian historian, Professor Geoffrey Blainey, for example, was a victim of these tactics of denunciation and vilification, which made the continuation of his academic career impossible.
When the Prime Minister released a draft of the proposed Preamble to the Constitution, it was greeted with a chorus of boos. There were those who wondered, as we do, why a Prime Minister committed to the current Constitutional arrangements, is spending time and energy drafting a new Preamble. Then, of course, there were the outbursts of righteous indignation from the politically correct in our society, predominantly in publicly funded sinecures in universities, or else party flacks working in the mainstream media. Their response was, as always, distinguished by the personal vilification and denunciation of their target; in this case, the Prime Minister. Their primary objection, apart from the fact that it was written by Mr. Howard, is that it fails to acknowledge the Aboriginal people as the original owners of the land.
Yet, there is good reason why a Government should tread carefully in making such an assertion in Constitutional documents.
Firstly, since the Hawke Government removed, from citizens, the right of appeal to the Privy Council against decisions of the High Court in 1986, the High Court has been seen as increasingly irresponsible. As a consequence, mainstream Australia’s trust in the High Court has been fatally eroded. Your average Australian citizen sees activist judges, appointed for their political reliability rather than their judicial competence, and answerable to no-one, finding rights which have never existed, and using their judicial power, as opposed to their constitutional responsibility and authority, to give effect to their own prejudices.
For example, while Section 1 of the Constitution gives the legislative power of the Commonwealth to a Federal Parliament, the High Court has decided that Australians are also subject to resolutions of the United nations, which have never been passed by that Parliament.
Similarly, the Mabo case justly recognised the land rights of a Torres Strait Islander, clearly established by evidence at the hearing. The High Court then applied the land rights ruling in that case to the whole of Australia, without being asked to do so and without having heard one word of evidence. It was a decision made, according to the majority verdict, on the basis of “international opinion”.
With that sort of track record in recent years, it is possible, and even likely, given the radicalisation of our Law Schools, that a future High Court will interpret an acknowledgment of prior Aboriginal ownership in a way which will create even further division in our society.
The second reason why Aboriginal ownership should not be written into the Constitution, is that it is arguable that Aboriginal people were not the original inhabitants of Australia. What can be said with authority is that they were here when the first Europeans arrived. But there may be more to it than that.
In 1891, explorer Joseph Bradshaw discovered rock paintings in the North West Kimberley region, which are quite unlike anything found before or since. There are thousand of paintings depicting exceptionally tall, slender and decorated human figures, wearing ornate feathered headgear, sashes with tassels and woven scarves. These rock paintings have been referred to ever since as “the Bradshaws”.
They are of a people who appear to have lived in Australia before the Aborigines and who subsequently vanished.. In appearance, they seem more like Africans or figures from Indian antiquity. Aborigines dismiss the paintings as “rubbish” and attribute them to the work of birds or mythical creatures.
Yet ANU archaeologist, Professor Rhys Jones, has said that in the Bradshaw panels we see a deep history that extends for thousands of years back to the Ice Age. He acknowledges that they are the “world’s greatest rock art.”
It begs the question; “were the Aborigines the original inhabitants of the land?” Unless we can answer that question with absolute certainty, we should avoid making such an assertion in our Constitution.