24-MAY-2005 TOWNSVILLE, QLD - Recently erected statue of Robert Towns in Townsville. Towns was the founder of Townsville and it is widely recognised that he was involved in slave trading in North Qld. PicCameronLaird
24-MAY-2005 TOWNSVILLE, QLD - Recently erected statue of Robert Towns in Townsville. Towns was the founder of Townsville and it is widely recognised that he was involved in slave trading in North Qld. PicCameronLaird

Scomo ‘terribly misinformed’ on dark history of NQ

Scott Morrison's claim there was no slavery in Australia's history is a "slight" to the South Sea islanders and Melanesians that built the region's sugar industry, a North Queensland MP has said.

One Nation MP Stephen Andrew, whose family were South Sea islanders, said the Prime Minister was "terribly misinformed" on Australia's dark history.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)
Prime Minister Scott Morrison. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Yesterday, the Prime Minster told 2GB there was no history of slavery in Australia. It's a comment that has angered many in indigenous communities.

"Australia when it was founded as a settlement, as New South Wales, was on the basis that there would be no slavery," Mr Morrison said.

"As slave ships continued to travel around the world, Australia was established, and sure it was a pretty brutal settlement … but there was no slavery in Australia."

His comments have drawn heavy criticism from historians and indigenous Australians, who said the Prime Minster had forgotten both blackbirding and the stolen wages of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders.

The comments came as Mr Morrison was asked if statues, which honour people like Captain Cook, should be removed or reconsidered.

A portrait of Robert Towns.
A portrait of Robert Towns.

 

A man clambers on the Robert Towns statue.
A man clambers on the Robert Towns statue.


Townsville's founder Robert Towns, who is immortalised in statue near Bulletin Square, gazetted the Port of Townsville, and was the first person to bring in South Sea islanders to North Queensland through the port from 1866.

The Islanders cleared land for cane farms and cut cane to build one of the State's biggest industries - sugar.

Melanesian labourers were bought through the port at Bowen.

Mr Andrew said the PM's lack of knowledge about blackbirding was a slight on all South Sea islander and the Kanaka people.

"My granddad remembers it all too well and … for him (Mr Morrison) to not even know … I can't get over his level of understanding of what has happened in his country," Mr Andrew said.

He added his great grandmother was "stolen" off a beach in Vanuatu.

Mr Towns, who was the primary exploiter of blackbird labour until 1867, claimed the South Sea islanders were "savages who did not know the use of money" and paid them in tickets at the end of their working terms.

One Nation's Mirani MP Stephen Andrew is a descendant of South Sea islanders who were bought to Australia by blackbirders like Robert Towns.
One Nation's Mirani MP Stephen Andrew is a descendant of South Sea islanders who were bought to Australia by blackbirders like Robert Towns.

 

Originally published as Scomo 'terribly misinformed' on dark history of NQ



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