The nutters who stormed Ballarat know nothing of Eureka or its heroes

Columnist and author
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Right then! I address my intemperate remarks to you disgraceful bozos who stormed Ballarat on the weekend,wanting to “reclaim the Eureka flag” to put it in the service of your anti-vaxx nuttery. For shame!

Do you,seriously,have the first clue how ludicrous your position is,how far it is from that held by the heroes of Eureka?

A contemporary sketch by Charles Doudiet shows the Eureka rebels swearing allegiance to the flag of the Southern Cross at Bakery Hill in Ballarat.

A contemporary sketch by Charles Doudiet shows the Eureka rebels swearing allegiance to the flag of the Southern Cross at Bakery Hill in Ballarat.Courtesy of Ballarat Fine Art Gallery

Let’s go back. At 2pm on the afternoon of November 30,1854,the great Peter Lalor stood beneath a newly minted Eureka flag atop Ballarat’s Bakery Hill as hundreds of miners knelt before him,their palms upraised to the fluttering flag. Now,repeat after Lalor:“We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other,and fight to defend our rights and liberties.”

The sea of men,their heads bowed,solemnly repeated the sacred words,with an earthy and throaty rumble,“WE SWEAR BY THE SOUTHERN CROSS . . .” which was followed by a “universal well-rounded AMEN.”

Beyond wanting to be rid of in iniquitous mining taximposed on them,no matter whether or not they struck gold,while the squatters paid a pittance –these brave souls,these genuine torch-bearers for a new and better age,were committing to fight for the basic tenets of liberal democracy:the right to vote to be given to all men and to have paid members of parliament;the right to stand for election irrespective of your property holdings.

That night,as the word spread that the Redcoats were on their way to Ballarat to crush the uprising,no fewer than 2000 Diggers marched from nearby Creswick through a dreadful storm,behind a German band,singingLa Marseillaise. “MARCHONS! MARCHONS! Qu’un sangue impur,abreuve nos sillons.”

Glorious,yes? It was Australia’s answer to the Boston Tea Party,and it came complete with our own Declaration of Independence,which is why I called a book I wrote on the subjectEureka,The Unfinished Revolution.

But you bozos have the hide,the gall,the pig-ignorance,to think your cause resembles theirs? Please.

It is as absurd and as tragically wrong-headed as the neo-Nazis who,while wearing Eureka flag shirts,on Saturday evening stormed the Sydney home of the anti-racist activist and Indigenous rights supporter and socialist Paddy Gibson. They came uttering threats before smashing his front door. Yes,that’s right. Neo-Nazis,presuming to wear the Eureka flag!

Crowds attending a Eureka freedom rally,Melbourne,on Saturday.

Crowds attending a Eureka freedom rally,Melbourne,on Saturday.Luis Enrique Ascui

Clearly,they have no clue as to how wonderfully multicultural the whole affair was in 1854. Cue one key observer,the Italian Rafaello Carboni:“The earnestness of so many faces of all kinds of shape and colour;the motley heads of all sorts of size and hair;the shagginess of so many beards of all lengths and thicknesses;the vividness of double the number of eyes electrified by the magnetism of the southern cross;was one of those grand sights,such as are recorded only in the history of ‘the Crusaders in Palestine’.”

But don’t get me started.

Get this through your melons:those who fought at Eureka did so for the common good against a government that was imposed,which had no democratic authority. Lalor and his fellow revolutionaries put Ballarat at the forefront of the flowering of liberal democracy in the world. Yes,they lost the battle,but they won the war. For what they fought for has substantially come to pass in many places around the world:universal suffrage with free and fair elections,and no property qualifications for those who stand.

Peter Lalor,leader of the Eureka stockade.

Peter Lalor,leader of the Eureka stockade.The Age

And so let there be no doubt. In a blue between the Ballarat protesters and the Victorian government,the true heirs to what the Eureka heroes fought for is the democratically elected Victorian government,whose authority rests on the will of the people of Victoria.

So you protesters don’t like its vaccine mandates? Great. Rally your mob at the next election. Test it at the ballot box.

I have no issue with you marching under the Trump flag. It shows you for what you are – self-absorbed,anti-science,ignorantvictims of what I have previously described in these pages as the moronavirus,who endlessly carry on about your rights,with never a mention of your responsibilities.

But to invoke Eureka while carrying on about your right to infect others,to think that your cause resembles their fight for the basic rights of a democracy,is so tragically ignorant it simply takes the breath away – as might a light dose of coronavirus,come to think of it,mixed with the aforementioned pig ignorance.

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Peter FitzSimons is a journalist and columnist with The Sydney Morning Herald.

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