Thu, 02 Dec 2021

Tudge flags freedom of speech while whitewashing Australia's past

Independent Australia
27 Oct 2021, 07:52 GMT+10

Education Minister Alan Tudge continues to argue that an obscure version of our history - one that students "can be proud of" - is the only one worth teaching, writes Dechlan Brennan.

IN ANOTHER round of endless Coalition culture wars, Minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge again went out of his way to attack the national curriculum in Parliament last week.

During Question Time last Thursday, the minister once more slammed the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). In an extraordinary tirade against an independent body, he passionately extolled the virtues of Australian history.

In one hyperbolic statement, he argued that:

It is clear that the minister is arguing that a whitewashed version of our history - one that students "can be proud of" - is the only one worth teaching.

Mr Tudge went a step further on Friday, with his opinion piece in The Australian containing the same disappointment he displayed on the floor of the House. He started the article by noting his annoyance with the draft curriculum that was published by ACARA:

For many, the history of Australia is mired in horror.

While people of Anglo-Saxon descent have enjoyed a relatively unscathed history comparatively, the same cannot be said for other groups. Up until 1962, Aboriginal people were not allowed to vote. They were effectively non-citizens, denied the right to exist equally in the land they had occupied for 60,000 years.

While Indigenous people were still expected to die for their country in war, one cannot imagine this is what Minister Tudge was talking about when he extolled the virtues of learning about our nation's history.

Despite Australia being a secular commonwealth, Tudge found issues with Christianity not being included in the draft.

He noted that the draft:

Christianity is free to be taught in religious schools, of which there are plenty to choose from. However, it remains to be seen how it can be discussed in a positive light in relation to Australia's history.

Conservatives like Tudge think they need history but not historians

Conservative politicians and historians are always bound to clash, write Paul Taucher and Dr Dean Aszkielowicz.

Firstly, there is no state-based religion. On the contrary, the country is made up of many religions and an increasingly large proportion of atheists.

Secondly, the major religious influencer over Australia has been hugely negative, in light of Stolen Generations and multiple sexual abuse scandals. It was only in 1996 that the Catholic Church apologised for the systemic abuse it perpetuated in trying to force Aboriginal children to assimilate.

If these are the Christian values that Tudge is so keen to extol, one feels they are best left at the altar.

It was his defence of Liberal democracy that brings up the most unpleasant comparison in his article.

While preaching the virtue of Western political institutions, he notes:

To be clear, Alan Tudge is comparing the oldest known peoples on the planet with a political system. A political system imported by a nation that attempted a mass genocide on the native population. A system that in the past enacted the White Australia policy. It is disingenuous to offer any form of comparison between the two.

Tudge sore over suggestion we question Anzac Day

Education Minister Alan Tudge should look closely at history before criticising expert's proposed curriculum changes, suggesting school students challenge ideas about Anzac Day.

The most hypocritical aspect in all of this is that Mr Tudge's view about teaching children a more optimistic view of Australia's past contradicts his recent comments around freedom of speech protections in Australia's universities.

In an ironic comparison, Tudge went on Sky News (Paul Murray Live) on 12 October to comment on physicist Peter Ridd's High Court case.

Attempting not to criticise the High Court's decision - which ruled that Ridd was rightly sacked by James Cook University - Tudge nevertheless did:

In the same interview he lambasted universities that don't allow certain ideas to be challenged, no matter how uncomfortable they are:

Tudge decided he needed to back up this media appearance on his favoured channel with a statement that flew in the face of everything he argued for in his earlier article:

As noted in a previous article in Independent Australia, Tudge has previously stated that any debate around Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) Day should be off-limits, as it is a "sacred day". The editorial in The Australian backed this up on Friday, hypothesising that parents would be 'appalled' if they knew Anzac Day was being contested.

Yet Tudge ended his media release with this statement:

It seems for Tudge and other members of the LNP, uncomfortable facts can only be aired when sprouting "truths" they agree with.

Tudge stated that Australian children should leave school "with a love of country and a sense of optimism". Surely, children learning the truth is more important - whitewashing Australia's past will only further erode people's faith in the country, not improve it.

Dechlan Brennan is a freelance writer advocating for mental health and welfare reforms in Australia.

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