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The Requiem of Blood

 

Remember, Remember, Part 3

 

 

 

 

by David Atwell

 

 

Prelude

 

And, as the years went by, as more and more Australians were prepared to travel just, if for no other reason but spend some time in better places, slowly, but surely, some Australians began to think that "Uncle Mal" was not being all that benevolent with his Guided DemocracyÖ

 

Conclusion to: In the Shadow of Gethsemane

 

Introduction

 

Australia, by the summer of 1980/81, had seen five tumultuous years. Since The Upheaval, of 1975, Australia had suffered greatly. Not only were thousands locked up in prisons, around the country, but the economy had suffered as well due to numerous reasons. Furthermore, continuous reconstruction work in various cities, most notably Sydney, reminded the population on a daily basis of their plight.

Still Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser would be re-elected into office twice, although it would be fair to say that the so-called democratic elections were anything but democratic. With many of the experienced Labor Partyís members sharing prison cells, along with other undesirable political activists, it was no wonder Fraser had little trouble remaining Prime Minister. Confident, thus, of his standing in the halls of power in Canberra, on the 1 January 1981, Fraser lifted a token number of restrictions. This mostly involved overseas travel. And it would be something many Australians took advantage of immediately.

 

A New Challenge

 

The most worrying aspect to Australia, in 1981, as far as Fraser was concerned was the economy. Having suffered badly, since The Upheaval, by now Fraser cared little for his political opponents, wherever they may be in Australia, and was more concerned about ensuring his supporters throughout the electorate began to enjoy the benefits which came with a healthy economy. Fraser also knew that even though Labor still suffered the stigma of the The Upheaval, which kept them in the political wilderness for now, a few more years of hardship may see Labor gain significant popularity once more. If so then clearly Fraserís government would come under challenge by a resurgent Labor Party.

Consequentially Fraser turned to his new Treasurer, John Howard, who suggested a whole range of economic reforms to try to get the Australian economy back into real growth. Some of these reforms included a value added tax, whilst others involved opening up the Australian economy to foreign investment. Although the former idea, that of the value added tax, was rejected, Fraser reluctantly made foreign investment in Australia a whole lot easier. Oddly enough, even though the United Kingdom and the United States were reluctant to be involved in such a venture, as they still protested the events of The Upheaval, other nations such as Japan and Malaysia were more than happy to start investing in Australia. At first this usually meant that a Japanese or Malaysian company simply started up a local office, but soon thereafter, foreign companies commenced buying up local companies where, hereto, they had been protected as such by Australian governments.

Yet, by 1985, it still did not seem enough. It was true, though, that the Australian economy, thanks to these reforms, had started to pick up, but unemployment was still an issue. Related to this, the Australian government itself was almost broke and Fraser had to arrange large loans just to keep things running in an agreeable fashion. Even so, the Australian governmentís budget, due to monetary restrictions, had not overly grown much since 1975, whilst the rest of the world around it had increased in capital rather substantially in comparison.

Consequently Howard came up with a whole lot of new reforms, once again recommending a value added tax. Again Fraser refused to reform the tax system, but saw that Howardís other reforms had merit. As a result of this, the Australian government decided to start selling off government owned enterprises. These were as diverse as the Commonwealth Bank, QANTAS, Medibank, and the Australian Defence Industries, to name but a few. In doing so, a rush of money was soon heading the governmentís way into the Treasury vaults, although most of it soon left in order to pay off the heavy debt burden Australia had gathered.

Needless to say, however, the selling off of such government owned assets hardly went down well with many Australians. Soon cries of "selling off the silverware" was commonly heard throughout Australia even if such criticism could lead to a prison cell. Yet, after ten years of living in Fraserís Guided Democracy, attitudes were beginning to change. Some of this had to do with the less restrictive travel laws, and other trivial type laws, where many Australians could once again travel overseas. At first the more well-to-do Australians left for an overseas holiday, not overly unusual as these things go, but soon a flood of refugees left Australia and headed mostly to Britain. There an intellectual, left-wing type, expatriate community was soon established, sometimes to the chagrin of British authorities, by Australians who took advantage of the two-year traveller rule. Their stay then often changed to illegal status, where Australians who could not claim a British Passport (and several thousand could), simply refused to go home. It goes without saying that this began to which cause all sorts of trouble by 1984.

Still, with such a large expatriate community, not to mention those Australians who did come home after a prolonged stay, meant to say that the 1986 Australian Federal election, which took place after the new privatisation polices were announced, was the most bitterly fought one since the early 1960s. The loudest criticism came from the expatriate community in Britain, some 500 000 of them by 1986, which, because of the illegal status of many thousands within the community, ensured that the British media, as well as the British Parliament, were dragged into the situation whether they liked it or not. Similarly, back in Australia, the criticism was well and truly heard: even throughout the media who had, especially the privately owned media, seemed to have turned on the Fraser government.

Nevertheless Fraser pushed ahead with his privatisation reforms, as central to his electoral campaign, whilst the Labor Party clearly stood against them. It was a surprise, though, in many respects, that Fraser did not decide to use "legal" means against his public critics or the Labor Party at the time. In fact the 1986 Federal election was, without a doubt, the fairest one in a decade. But what did not come as a surprise was the election results. Labor, thanks to a voter backlash against Fraserís policies, almost won. They lost by a mere five seats, in what was considered a miracle result for them, gaining 48 House seats in the election and getting within two seats of gaining control of the Senate.

Fraser, it goes without saying, was shocked. He could not believe the result and was tempted to bring out the legal controls, still the law at this stage, and conduct another purge of Australian politics. However, there was the fact of legitimacy, in this election, which won praise from both Britain and the United States, along with a warning not to act in any manner which may ruin everything. Furthermore Fraser was far from stupid and took the warning for what it was intended to mean. More to the point, though, Fraser truly believed that once the government owned assets had been sold off, and the benefits seen for what they were, then the Australian People would re-elected him without hesitation at the next election.

Not everything, though, appeared that promising. As a consequence of the 1986 election results, the power-brokers within the Coalition were having second thoughts about Fraser. At first they did not openly question him, nor challenge his leadership, but it was clear they were far from happy. Similar sentiments were beginning to come from the various state government leaders as well - all of whom were members of the Coalition. One in particular, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the Premier of Queensland, was even starting to make critical comments in public to the media about Fraser. Considering the media, save for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, had become critical of the Fraser government prior to the election, they were more than happy to let everyone in Australia know that Bjelke-Petersen seen to be changing his allegiance, from Fraser to someone else, indicating that a challenge may well be soon on the way.

1987, however, came and went without such a challenge appearing as the governmentís privatisation process went under way. Regardless, though, it did not take long for buyers to be found for the various government owned enterprises. But not everything was sold off directly to an overseas company, although in the case of QANTAS and the Australian Defence Industries that was most certainly the case. The Commonwealth Bank, for example, was floated off on the Australian Stock Exchange, to all and any would be share owners, as was Medibank. Having said all that, this did not mean that most Australians were happy with the sell-offs, regardless of method, and opinion polls everywhere, by the end of 1987, clearly indicated that Labor would easily win the next election.

Yet in the Bicentennial year, as Australia somewhat celebrated two hundred years of white settlement, Fraser held on to the reigns of power. Even though, by now, there was much discontent on the government backbenches, not to mention amongst the Coalition power-brokers, no clear challenger had emerged by mid 1988. That, though, was about to change. The first was a bi-election taking place for a Federal seat in Queensland. Normally such a thing would not merit overly much attention except for the fact that Bjelke-Petersen was standing as the National-Country Party candidate. This was seen, rightly, as a possible and creditable challenge to Fraser, should Bjelke-Petersen win: which he did. Then, within two weeks of Bjelke-Petersenís successful election to Federal Parliament, Fraser became seriously ill. It did not take long before the knives came out.

As Fraser remained in hospital, recovering from a stress related cardiovascular problem, the Liberal party soon gathered, without Fraserís knowledge, to discuss the leadership situation. Howard was appalled at the lack of loyalty being shown towards Fraser, yet the rank and file, not to mention the Liberal Party power-brokers, thought something had to be done now or they would lose the next election due by the end of the year. It was, however, a heated meeting where no clear decision had been reached other than Fraser must go. When Fraser heard about the meeting the next day, he was furious, but that only led to a further decline to his health. Upon hearing about Fraserís worsening health situation, the Liberal Party announced a Leadership spill. Although Fraserís name was to be included in the Leadership ballot, he only got a handful of votes. In the end Howard, who was against the moves to remove Fraser, ironically enough, just sneaked in to become Liberal Leader and presumably the next Australian Prime Minister.

It would not, though, go immediately that way, fore as the Liberals were conducting their meeting, the National-Country Party had its own meeting at the same time. It came as no surprise then when Bjelke-Petersen was elected their new leader as he clearly was head and shoulders above anyone else in the National-Country Party at the time. However, then came the real major surprise. Before the Liberals could announced their new Leader, let alone what they assumed to be the new Prime Minister, the entire National-Country Party membership gatecrashed their way into the Liberal Party meeting room demanding that the Coalition, as a whole, vote on who will be the next Prime Minister. Needless to say, this was far from welcomed, and arguments soon erupted between everyone. Nevertheless, after threats that the National-Country Party would leave the Coalition, and thus the government would immediately collapse, the Liberals agreed to the vote.

Howard, thinking that this would merely be a perfunctory act, was soon in shock when Bjelke-Petersen won the vote by seven votes. Not only had all the National-Country Party members voted as an entire block, but a large number of Liberal members also supported Bjelke-Petersen. It seemed that the privatisation polices of Fraser, which were actually drafted and designed by Howard, had come back to haunt him. It was deemed by the majority in the Coalition that Howard would do no better than Fraser and that Bjelke-Petersen offered the only real chance at remaining in power.

Fraser, when he heard the result, is said to have started crying. According to nursing staff, Fraser said repeatedly that Bjelke-Petersen would destroy the country. The Australian population, however, did not know how to take the news of the drastic changes in leadership, whether they be party or governmental. More to the point many people, especially those who had been critical of the Fraser government, became even more concerned as to what Prime Minister Bjelke-Petersen may mean for the country as he had a reputation of being a hard right-wing radical who made Fraser appear like a left-wing peace lover in comparison. Alas it did not take overly long for Australia to discover what life was going to be like living under the tyranny of Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

 

The Blood Republic

 

Long before Bjelke-Petersen ever came to power, however, and even with the crackdowns under Fraser, small groups had been organising amongst themselves for a chance, one day, of rising up in rebellion. However, due mostly to many of their comrades being locked up, not to mention the heavy handed practices of police, these groups had remained silent. Some where city based, but most, surprisingly, were rural based. And chief amongst these were several Aboriginal groups. In many respects, it seemed rather fortuitous of these groups, considering what was about to come, but for now, with the election of Bjelke-Petersen, they remained silent.

Bjelke-Petersen could not care less at the moment, though, about such groups as he was not even aware of them yet. Instead, like Fraser, it was all about the economy, stupid, and then the socialists who he presumed voted Labor. He decided, as a consequence, to ensure the government wasted little on supporting the socialists, whilst at the same time he could save billions of wasted dollars. In doing so he decided to slash the welfare budget to next to nothing. As a result, unemployment benefits were cancelled, meaning the unemployed had to fend for themselves. Similarly support payments to Aboriginals everywhere, regardless of circumstance, were also stopped. Again these people would have to look after themselves.

Naturally this decision by Bjelke-Petersen caused an outrage against the Federal government. Not only were Labor Members of Parliament declaring Bjelke-Petersen to be a barbarian, but protest marches were being planned throughout Australia in an effort to peacefully challenge Bjelke-Petersenís policy on these matters. Needless to say, this was all Bjelke-Petersen needed as evidence that the socialists, especially those in the Labor Party, were out to conduct a coup against him, and he acted accordingly. Hence, even before the first protest march got under way, the police immediately swooped on the ringleaders, using the same old laws which Fraser enacted, arresting them by the hundreds. Likewise a large number of Labor Party members, whether they simply be grassroots members or Members of Parliament, were likewise arrested and soon found themselves in a prison cell for various crimes under the Treason and Sedition Act.

Furthermore, when the Federal election came around, in December 1988, Bjelke-Petersen was able to use the old scare tactic that the Communists were trying to take over the country. It came as no surprise then that the Coalition was returned to power with an increased majority. Even though, in mid 1988, it seemed that Labor would win the Federal election, they soon found themselves down by 18 Members of Parliament. Although they were not as severely effected, as previously, by this governmental crackdown, it also meant that their Parliamentary jobs just got harder. This was especially so considering several of their fellow Members of Parliament had been arrested for sedition only a few months prior to the election.

One of the great unforeseen consequences, though, of Bjelke-Petersenís cancelling of welfare support payments was a sudden increase in crime. Initially this was simply localised stealing, mostly of food items, but that soon gave way to armed hold-ups where anywhere from the local shop, post office, to bank branch, were being robbed on a daily basis. Needless to say the police were soon kept busy, chasing after such robbers, and many were arrested for their crimes. Yet this meant to say that prisons around Australia, already full of thousands of political prisoners, were now bursting at the seams. Soon prison fights were common, and it even got to the point were the political prisoners were forming gangs in order to counter the common criminals now increasing in greater numbers.

But it was not only in the prisons where gangs were forming. Out on the streets, regardless whether they be in the large cities or the rural towns, gangs of unemployed people, regardless of age, began to be established. Some were left-orientated, mostly developed from the previous silent protest and the like groups, but most of these gangs were from hoodlum groups who soon developed far right-wing fascist type attitudes blaming the left-wingers and Aboriginals for Australiaís problems. How the Aboriginals, though, got caught up in this kind of thing, no-one really knows for certain, but soon they were in the front line of battle for the next few years.

The violence, since then called The Troubles, did not really start until early 1989. At first it seemed not overly much different from the upsurge in armed robberies which had begun some six months earlier. But by mid-1989 the police had begun to realise that it was gang related to some degree. Essentially, even though the police did not fully comprehend it at this point, often the right-wing gangs simply decided to pick on a group of people deemed "undesirable". First it was, in the large cities, the new immigrants like the Italians, Greeks, Asians, or people from the Middle East: in fact anyone who did not look like an "Australian" was targeted. Initially it usually only involved the gang verse one or two individuals, but that then changed to house raids, and the like, were the gang in question would have all its members smash their way into some unfortunate familyís house for no other reason but to beat, and in some cases, kill them.

This, needless to say, soon escalated, and soon the gangs were sometimes caught unawares as they tried another of their stunts as immigrant communities, often ignored by the police, armed themselves accordingly. By late 1989, then, street battles often took place nightly, wherein "left-wing" community gangs, often developed from those protest groups who had remain silent for so long, now acted as a defacto police force due to the fact that the various state police forces kept away from such undesirable neighbourhoods.

Yet if the large cities seemed bad enough, with little help coming to the aid of the victims, it was even worse in rural areas. The Aboriginals, now without any means of support from the government, many crowded into reserves and missions, for the most part, only had themselves and various church groups and the like to help them. Needless to say, food soon became scarce to the point that they were forced to become criminals in order to eat. Thus parties often went out at night, into the local towns, in order to find food. Alas a lot of alcohol was also seconded, on these "raids", which did not help their plight whatsoever. Furthermore the various townsfolk responded, in less than humanitarian fashion, by wanting to shoot and kill the next Aboriginal found anywhere near their town. And, it goes without saying, this soon happened.

The Aboriginals, though, where in a desperate situation, regardless whether they be in New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia, or West Australia, and they were prepared to resort to desperate measures. So when the first Aboriginal killing took place, in early 1990, the few "rebel" groups amongst them, who had kept a low profile until now, decided to make their presence known. In doing so, the first Aboriginal "gang" became active in the Northern Territory where conditions were coincidentally the worst from everywhere else. Thus, when the next food raid took place, several armed Aboriginals went along as escort. Needless to say, a fire fight took place, on the outskirts of Tennant Creek, between the Aboriginals and the townís right-wing gang, and although one Aboriginal was killed, three whites were killed as well.

When news of the Tennant Creek "massacre" broke Bjelke-Petersen gave it little attention. It was a mistake. Instead of trying to deal with the problem, and stop a war before it got going, Bjelke-Petersen left it to the local authority. Northern Territory police soon rushed to the town, fearful of what would happen next, but they were too late. Close to one hundred townsfolk had already driven out to the neighbouring Aboriginal mission and shot the place up killing some 35 Aboriginals in the process, although most of the inhabitants of the mission managed to escape. Alas it did not end there. The survivors of the mission soon agreed upon revenge, considering they had a small cache of weapons themselves, waited until the police numbers had fallen away, then attacked Tennant Creek at night just over a week later. Much destruction was caused, through the lighting of fires, whilst 48 white men, those believed to be involved with the massacre at the mission, were killed in their sleep.

The Aboriginal revolt soon spread from Tennant Creek as fire fights erupted throughout the Northern Territory. For the most part, the Aboriginals suffered greatly, as most were not armed, but whites everywhere were fearful and some were indeed killed. Nonetheless, by mid-1990, some 700 Aboriginals had been killed, whilst some 100 whites were also dead thanks to the violence. And even though the media reported much of it, Bjelke-Petersen continued to ignore the ever worsening situation, even though the same violence had soon spread into West Australia with similar results. It was only when Queensland erupted into violence did Bjelke-Petersen finally act. And it was only when the Aboriginals started the violence against whites, this time around, did Bjelke-Petersen send in the Army.

The Army, though, was not overly keen in getting involved with such a domestic matter. They viewed it as a possible Vietnam style war, which did not give the generals pleasant memories. Still, even with the generals stating their concerns, Bjelke-Petersen was adamant that they should intervene in the most deceive manner. This would also involve the Royal Australian Air Force who, unlike their Army counterparts, had no qualms about blasting the Aboriginal Insurrection, as it had been declared by Canberra, to pieces if need be. Soon thousands of troops, supported by armour and artillery, not to mention helicopter gunships and strike aircraft, quietly moved into Queensland.

The Aboriginal groups were unawares, as they continued their skirmishes with various right-wing gangs, that all Hell was about to be released upon them. They simply had no chance. Hundreds of their "solders" were soon dead, due to the Australian military offensive, but the RAAF did not stop there. Having viable targets to bomb, namely the hundreds of mission buildings and the like, the RAAF conducted numerous strike missions against these locations. In doing so, literally thousands of Aboriginals, men women and children, the figure to this day is still not fully known, where killed as a result.

The response from Australians in general, save for those despised right-wingers, was one of utter shock. For a nation, which had endured so much over the last 15 years, this was simply too much. Even Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen at the time, who did whatever he could to remain a moderate in all things political, ordered the RAAF to cease its operations without any reference or referral to Bjelke-Petersen. Needless to say, not only was the Governor-Generalís decision a breach of the Constitution, wherein he cannot act without advice from his Prime Minister, but it also enraged Bjelke-Petersen so much that he demanded the Governor-Generalís resignation. This the Governor-General did, but not before sending off a written protest to the Queen and the British government.

Still with condemnation coming from the British government, even though the Queen remained silent on the matter, meant little to Bjelke-Petersen who ordered the RAAF, now certain that it had a winning strategy, to recommence its strike operations. This it did so immediately. Consequentially, as the Army moved in to clear up any remaining Aboriginal resistance, the RAAF went on to bomb the next mission station after mission station throughout the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Again, no-one truly knows the death rates of Aboriginals, due to these strike operations, but at least 10 000 deaths would not be far from the truth. Having said that, by the time the RAAF got to bombing mission buildings throughout Western Australia, the Aboriginal population had abandoned these places for the Outback wilderness. Here, at least they were safe from bombs, although the lack of food and water would soon become a life or death issue for many.

Thankfully the numerous mission stations throughout South Australia and New South Wales were spared from such bombing offensives, but that is not because these places did not cause trouble. On the contrary they did, but both states had firm Premiers who made it very clear to Bjelke-Petersen that any military action on their respective soil would not be tolerated for one second. Instead both states relied solely on using their own respective police forces in keeping the Aboriginals in check. More to the point, however, even though both state Premiers were from the Liberal Party, and not the National-Country Party, Bjelke-Petersen had enough political savvy to understand that he would be challenged as Coalition Prime Minister, by the Federal Liberal Members from both states, meaning he would lose any such challenge as New South Wales alone had the numbers to succeed in any such venture.

Meanwhile Bjelke-Petersen, in order to have a Constitutional government, needed to have a new Governor-General appointed immediately. Needless to say, he did not need one who may begin to challenge the way he ran Australia, so he turned to an old cronie from Queensland: one Russ Hinze. Hinze was a Bjelke-Petersen supporter through and through and was more than happy in being offered the position as Governor-General. Having said that, Britain was less than jubilant: in fact the recommendation of Hinze, as Governor-General, was completely rejected. Yet Bjelke-Petersen ignored Britainís decision over the matter and had Hinze appointed as Governor-General anyway.

For some reason, though, considering everything else which took place in Australia at the time, whether it be the street gang battles taking place in the large cities, or the horrific violence bordering on genocide against the Aboriginals, Britain took great offence against being snubbed by Bjelke-Petersen over the appointment of Hinze as Governor-General. Soon a meeting of the Commonwealth of Nations took place which did not go well for Australia. Accused of everything under the Sun, including racism and genocide by the more radical Commonwealth Members from Africa and Asia, Bjelke-Petersen countered by threatening to leave the Commonwealth through his embattled ambassador. But he never got the chance to carry out this threat as the Commonwealth voted to expel Australia before Bjelke-Petersen could act. This, though, was just the start of the international backlash, against Bjelke-Petersen, even before 1990 had ended.

 

To be continuedÖ

 

Primary Sources

Books

Fraser, M., Malcolm Fraser on Australia, (eds) White, D. M. and Kemp, D. A. Melbourne: Hill of Content Publishing, 1986.

Kerr, Sir John, Matters for Judgement, Melbourne, Macmillian Press, 1979.

Whitlam, E. G., The Truth of the Matter, Ringwood: Penguin Books Australia, 1979.

Whitlam, E. G., The Whitlam Government 1972-1975, Ringwood: Penguin Books Australia, 1985.

Secondary Sources

Books

Bolton, G., The Oxford History of Australia, The

Middle Way 1942-1988, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Browning, H. O., 1975 Crisis, Sydney: Hale and Iremonger, 1985.

Clark, M., A Short History of Australia, fourth edition, Ringwood: Penguin Books, 1995.

Connell, R. W., Ruling Class, Ruling Culture, Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

Cooray, L. J. M., Conventions, The Australian Constitution, and the Future, Sydney: Legal Books Pty. Ltd. 1979.

Freudenberg, G., A Certain Grandeur, Ringwood: Penguin Books, 1977.

Molony, J., The Penguin History of Australia, Ringwood: Penguin Books Australia, 1987.

Reid, G. S., "Conventions and the Constitution", in A. Parkin, J. Summers, and D. Woodward, (eds.), Government, Politics and Power in Australia, Melbourne: Longman Cheshire Pty. Ltd. 1980, PP67-69.

Sawer, G. 1980, "Laws and Convenstions", in A. Parkin, J. Summers, and D. Woodward, (eds.), Government, Politics and Power in Australia, Melbourne: Longman Cheshire Pty. Ltd. 1980, PP62-66.

Ward, R., The History of Australia: The Twentieth Century 1901-1975, London: Heinemman Educational Books, 1978.

 

 

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