MUNGO MacCALLUM. Around the twist or navigating around Australia.

Unlike the National Party’s deputy leader. Bridget McKenzie, our Prime Minister presumably knows that James Cook and Arthur Phillip were not the same person.

They may have both been dead white male sailors serving the mad King George III, but they did so in different times and different places. Even Scott Morrison learnt that much at school.

And he probably also knows that Cook did not actually circumnavigate Austraiia. But what the hell, he could have if he’d wanted to – and this close to Australia Day, why waste a marketing opportunity?  

So ScoMo has decided that on the 250th anniversary of Cook’s first and only voyage to Australia, there is to be a re-enactment of the imaginary feat in a reconstructed Endeavour – a spin which some might call worthy of a real circumnavigation but which others will deride as around the twist

For what it is worth, the first Australian to circumnavigate the continent was Bungaree, a Kuringgai man who accompanied Matthew Flinders (English), George Bass (English) and the cat Trim (born at sea) during their 1841 exploration in the Tom Thumb. Oh well, that leaves time for another celebration for that bicentenary – better start preparing for it immediately, because Morrison the election campaign is almost upon us. So much fake history, so little time.

But while we are waiting, it may be worth checking on what actually happened, before Morrison and his mates rewrite the record entirely. As far as we know the first people to arrive were the Aborigines, the First Nations; they came either by sea or by a land bridge or both some 60,000 years ago.

Over the centuries there were no doubt many visitors, Malaccas from the Malay peninsula and probably others from other parts of Asia and the Pacific, but they were not white and therefore did not count. The first Europeans, the Dutch, landed in the early 17th century.

The first Pom was the pirate William Dampier, who dropped in on the west coast in 1688 – exactly a century before the so-called first fleet arrived with Phillip, who announced to the bemused locals that this time they had come to stay.

So when Cook reached Botany bay in 1770 he was already something of a blow in. Nonetheless, he formally took possession of the entire landmass, conveniently ignoring the royal direction that this should be done with the consent of the natives. And like many absentee landlords, he then buggered off home, before embarking on two more epic voyages. A peerless navigator, a great explorer – but not the discoverer of Australia, let alone the inaugurator of the society we have today.

But Morrison seems somewhat obsessed with the man whose name bears his electorate. Perhaps he knows more history than we give him credit for; in Cook’s third and fatal voyage, when he stopped for provision (and a bit of r’n’r for the long-suffering crew) on the islands of Hawaii, some of the residents believed he was the reincarnation of their god Lono.

Perhaps ScoMo feels that this divinity has been passed on to him, and that is why he can transform political fiction into historical fact But there is a catch: the Hawaiians realised that Cook wasn’t a god after all, and killed him. Morrison would not want to take the comparison too far.

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13 Responses to MUNGO MacCALLUM. Around the twist or navigating around Australia.

  1. See my reply above to Michael Butler.

    Scott Morrison’s political nouse is about the same level of sophistication as his advertising skills – not much chop and I dearly hope his current career will end in a similar way with him being ignominiously sacked.

    His whole ploy with Cook is a desperate return to the culture wars with his all too obvious dog-whistling – part of his ploy is to get a rise out of the social justice warriors and their fellow travellers. Ten Flags Tony without the brazen chutzpah.

    My annoyance is that it is working to some extent with denigration of Cook and his achievements (now Bass & Flinders too?) creeping into various media. Fodder for the shouty shock jocks and Bolt and Albrechtsen et al.

    Let’s not play the Tories’ game.

  2. John CARMODY says:

    The Prime Minister’s knowledge and understanding of Australian history seem well-summarised by the joke of my boyhood, “Matthew Flinders circumcised Australia with a 100 ft cutter.”

  3. Peter Fuller says:

    Brian Rigney is correct – the circumnavigation was 1802-03, though Flinders had mapped the southern coast on the way out from England in 1801. Bongaree – as his name seems to have been spelt at the time – was on the 1802-03 voyage. At that stage Flinders had known him for a couple of years. Bass didn’t sail on the Investigator circumnavigation: he vanished in the South Pacific in 1803.

  4. Ted Egan says:

    How does one get to comment please. I try regularly, but have only been successful once to my knowledge.

    Bungaree, a First Australian, was thereby the first Australian to circumnaviogate Australia, under the captaincy of the very worthy Matthew Flinders.

  5. Geoff Andrews says:

    Mungo,
    A couple of possible typos.
    Apparently, Flinders died in 1814 making it difficult to do anything in 1841.
    He circumnavigated our wide brown land (now I’m getting teary) in the “Investigator” and I think he circumnavigated Tasmania in “Tom Thumb”
    Loves yer work.

  6. John Gray says:

    I know that this quote is from a previous Mungo article (“Captain Cook” link on this page) but I feel it is worth repeating … firstly, where can I get one of those t-shirts with the slogan: “Marx is dead and Lenin is dead and I’m not feeling too well either.”

    Secondly, Mungo, you must be the master of understated dry humour, and I quote, from the same article: “When I wore it to a writer’s festival, Gerard Henderson went apoplectic with outrage.”

    I haven’t been able to stop chuckling …

    Secondly what can one say about our own Scomo … he is like the coyote in the Road Runner cartoons … enough said. Thanks Mungo.

  7. Mal Abbott says:

    how do I subscribe to this

  8. Brian Rigney says:

    Sorry Mungo but I always thought that the circumnavigation of Australia occurred in 1801 – 1803 on the Investigator not the Tom Thumb. The Tom Thumb was used by Flinders during earlier explorations of NSW.
    George Bass accompanied Flinders on the circumnavigation of Van Dieman’s land.
    Any historians out there to confirm?

  9. Bungaree deserves equal recognition with Bass and Flinders for their circumnavigation of Australia; there is no rational debate for otherwise.

    “…the first Australian to circumnavigate the continent was Bungaree, a Kuringgai man who accompanied (Finders and Bass)…”

    I don’t wish to be pedantic nor jump into Scummo’s patently obvious re-igniting of the culture wars but for Bungaree to be nominated as the “first”, demoting both Bass & Flinders to silver and bronze, then I assume he was up front in the bow when the Tom Thumb returned to its starting point.

    • Michael Butler says:

      If Bass & Flinders were British then the ‘First Australian’ would have to be Bungaree, no?

      • Australia as a nation did not exist at the time.

        From my admittedly hazy memory there were about 157 indigenous nations.

        All three deserve equal recognition. The names Bass and Flinders are well recognised, typically being referenced in tandem whereas Bungaree’s name isn’t. He should always be called out as one of the triumvirate, but not by demoting the achievements of the other two. Talk him up – not them down.

        The one at the front in a rowing crew is not alone in getting a gold medal.

    • Ed Cory says:

      Perhaps Bungaree gets the gong because he was Australian, the other(s) were Poms … ?

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