Not Timor propaganda

Mark Freeman writes: Re. “Is East Timor run by a ‘stable’ govt or conspiratorial oligarchy?” Dear Crikey, how refreshing to read a slightly critical piece on East Timor for a change. The East Timor that no sooner had it been liberated from those terrible Indonesians erupted into civil war requiring us to go back and put a lid on it. The East Timor that never seems to be getting much better for the vast bulk of its people despite all that oil and gas money. The East Timor that wonders why no one in their right mind would build a multibillion-dollar gas terminal there. And then there are those assassinations real and attempted.  

The whole lot has been on the nose for years in much same way as many other oligarchic former Latin colonies. Thank goodness Professor Kingsbury has finally written, in a carefully muted manner, something that doesn’t read like an aid NGO PR piece. 

On Australia Day

Colin Smith writes: The obvious “Australia Day” is August 23. The European mapping of this continent began in the 17th century (or, if the Portuguese really did get here first, in the 16th) and was completed in the 19th. The Dutch and English named two halves — “New Holland” and “New South Wales”. Then Matthew Flinders circumnavigated the whole — knitting the halves together in one accurate map — and wrote to Sir Joseph Banks on August 23, 1804 suggesting a single name for the whole: “Australia or Terra Australis”.

The British government took 20 years to adopt Flinders’ first suggestion, and it was decades before it became common usage. But that letter was the culmination and summation of the putting of Australia, as such, on the world map. Indeed, it marked a major advance in general human awareness of our planetary context.  

August 23 is therefore of vastly more significance to the human race than the date of Sydney’s foundation as a penal colony; or of the federation of six remote British colonies; or of a disastrous invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula. Furthermore, it is one date that all Australians might agree about, including the original Australians who have been here for 60,000 years.


Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey