Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Wednesday Quiz in Exile X: Once Upon a Time...

It's that time of the week again, time for the Wednesday Quiz in Exile in it's tenth week of its first, and hopefully last, 12-week season, which this week is focused on the short, bloody and generally tragic history of Australia since European occupation. Below are the names of 12 actual events in Australia's history, all of which changed Australia dramatically in some way, all you have to do is let us know which of these descriptions are true and accurate representations of events as passed down by the history books, and which are fallacies and misdirection designed to fool you into looking woefully and immeasurably ignorant, or worse, American. Looking up answers in any way will be judged harshly by history.

Did these historic events go down like this?

1. The Dismissal, 1975
The Whitlam Labor government was elected in 1972 without a senate majority, and in 1975 the Coalition began blocking appropriations bills until a House of Representatives election could be called. When Whitlam refused to call the election, the Governor-General removed him from office and appointed the leader of the opposition, Malcolm Fraser, as PM. Fraser passed the appropriation bills (taking advantage of the confusion in the Labor ranks) and the parliament was dissolved in a double dissolution. Though little constitutional reform resulted from the incident, the nature of Australian politics was changed forever.

2. Australian Antarctic Expedition, 1911
In November 1911, Robert Scott and his team set out to travel to where no other man had ever been, the South Pole. After a two month trek , the 5 of them reached the Pole, only to discover that Roald Amundsen had beaten them by two weeks. Defeated, they set off back north, but they would never make it home. One died falling down an ice shelf, an the other four were running out of supplies, despite the selfless sacrifice of Oates with the famous words “I am just going outside and may be some time”, the remaining three died in March and would not be recovered for another 8 months. Scott and his men would become national heroes and inspiration.

3. SA-VIC Border Dispute, 1868
Due to an error in calculation, the South Australian and Victorian governments both laid claim to a 3.6km wide stretch of land on their border. Although the land was officially to the west of the agreed border, Victorian squatters had settled the area and refused to move out. Matters came to a head in April 1868, when a party of Victorian soldiers fired on and killed 4 South Australian farmers for trespass near the town of Serviceton. South Australia began mobilising troops, but to avoid conflict the Victorian government paid 215,000 pounds in reparations and the disputed territory has been considered Victorian ever since. The incident is considered Australia's first and only 'civil war', and is one of the major reasons for the deep-seated and bitter SA-VIC rivalry.

4. Gallipoli Campaign, 1915-1916
The Australia and New Zealand Army Corps was formed to serve as part of the attack on the Gallipoli Peninsula by Allied forces in April 1915. On April 25th, a day NOW celebrated as ANZAC day, Allied troops landed on the beaches, and they would remain there for 9 months, ultimately making few gains. When the Allies finally retreated in January 1916, 500,000 of the 9,000,000 men who served there on either side were casualties. This is widely considered to be the true birth of the Australian conscience independent from Britain, and French and British contributions in the theatre are often ignored in Australia, though the Turkish forces are acknowledged.

5. Egon Kisch Visit, 1934
When famed Jewish Communist Egon Kisch reached Sydney to speak at anti-Nazi events in 1934, he was denied entry. Australian law at the time dictated that any visitor to Australia could be turned back if they could not demonstrate fluency in a European language. Kisch was asked to write the Lord's Prayer in Scotch Gaelic, and when he was unsuprisingly unable to do so, he was taken into custody. The language test remained part of Australian Immigration policy until 1958, but the Kisch case was critical in its eventual removal.

6. Ash Wednesday, 1983
On the 16th of February 1983, numerous bushfires caused the deadliest bushfires in Australia (up to that point, we've since recently passed the terrible record), killing 75 people, 340,000 sheep, 18,000 head of cattle and destroying 7000 buildings across South Australia and Victoria, at an estimated cost of 1.7 billion dollars. This became known as Ash Wednesday across the country, except in South Australia, where another fire had claimed that name just 3 years earlier, and resulted in Australia developing one of the world’s most effective and modern regional fire services.

7. America's Cup, 1983
After 132 years of successive victories, the New York Yacht Club was challenged by the Perth Yacht club for the oldest continuous sporting prize in the world, the America's cup. After being 1-3 down after 4 races, the patriotically named Australia II equalled the scorecard, and in a nationally telecast final race won the Cup for Australia. Inspired by the victory, PM Bob Hawke informed the media that morning in his usual larrikin fashion that "Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum". Australian sporting smugness has never again known such lofty heights.

8. WA Referendum, 1933
In 1933, Western Australia, fed up with the focus of the federal government of the Easter states, held a state referendum in which 65% voted to secede from Australia and return to being a governed British colony, they even made a flag up and everything. It was sent to London, where the British government decided after 18 months that it was a federal matter for the Australian government to decide. Needless to say it never came to a vote at a Federal level. Thus, short of declaring war, no state can successfully secede from Australia without the agreement of the other states and the federal government.

9. Batman's Treaty, 1835
On the 6th of June 1835, John Batman signed an agreement with aboriginal elders in the area around modern-day Melbourne, buying 2,000 square kilometres of land for a years supply of red shirts, jackets and scissors. Most probably the elders (if they even were elders) didn’t know what they were signing, but it was the first recognition of Aboriginal ownership of the land by the European settlers, and would be an important part of the native title debate. When the Governor found out about Batman’s treaty and it’s implications for the British claim on the rest of the country he immediately absolved the treaty.

10. Mabo Vs Queensland (II), 1992 (Earlier typo has been removed, thanks John)
On behalf of the Meriam people of the Murray Islands, in 1992 Eddie Mabo (and other, but frankly their names weren’t as cool) contended that the Meriam people were the owners of the Murray Islands. The exact proceedings are somewhat complicated to describe here, but the general vibe is that the High Court ultimately ruled that the idea of Terra Nullius, or unoccupied land, did not apply, and that Australia’s indigenous people had native title rights to Australian territory.

11. Rum Rebellion, 1808
Governor William Bligh was not a happy man. He’d suffered the infamous mutiny of the Bounty, and now the New South Wales Corps were mutinying over a little thing like putting their leader up on trumped-up charges and stopping their alcohol allowance and production of the early currency of the colony, rum. The Corps (the only armed men in the area) simply marched up to Government house and arrested him, and thus ended the tenure of the 4th governor of New South Wales. This led directly to the appointment of Governor Macquarie, who would loom large amongst those building the future of the Australian colonies.

12. Burke and Wills 1860-61
In the most expensive and spectacularly mismanaged exploratory expedition in Australia's history, the Victorian government funded an expedition commanded by Robert Burke, in an attempt to make the first overland passage from the South to the North of the continent. Burke was not an experienced bushman, and though the party eventually travelled 3250 kilometers north they were forced to turn back just 5km from the coast, and came at a terrible cost. When Burke and Wills returned to their base camp in Copper Creek 9 months after they began the expedition, they found that their support team had left for home just that morning having waiting for 5 weeks more than they were directed, and short of supplies, they both died there. The expedition left Burke and Wills as Australia's most famous explorers, much to the chagrign of South Australians.

Leave your answers, with citation where appropriate, in the comments.


Alethea said...

Teehee Batman. I assume the ADSL exchange in the Melbourne area is named after him. We giggle at that a lot here.

John said...

Mmm, an interesting one.

1. Didn't quite go down like this - what happened was that Whitlam *did* call a double dissolution, and the parliament it delivered had exactly the same situation of a Labor majority in the House and minority in the Senate, so Fraser could continue blocking supply to his heart's content. Obviously the dismissal bit still happened.

2. Somehow I doubt that Scott was Australian. :P The Australian Antarctic expedition did have some drama of its own, though - they had to eat the dogs and nearly died of vitamin A poisoning, I believe.

3. While I'm sure it would be great history, that's definitely not the case, if only because the SA/VIC border is straight as a ruler.

4. Um, the 25th most definitely is celebrated as ANZAC day. So unless that's just a little "gotcha!" detail you've put in there, this seems largely true. Unless you're saying that it wasn't celebrated as ANZAC day at the time, which would be true enough. Short version: false if the "not celebrated" is deliberate, true otherwise.

5. Haha, wow. That's either great history or great fiction, and to be honest I like it so much that I'll say true.

6. I reckon that's true - could always be the case that you've finagled with the dates, of course, but that's a risk I'll choose to run. :P

7. Correct!

8. Yeah, that sounds right.

9. I'm going to say this was correct also.

10. That definitely happened, but you've got the date wrong - the first Mabo vs Queensland was in 1988, and the second (the one which you're referring to) was in 1992.

11. That'd be correct, I think. A little vague on details (tbh I'd say Bligh was in the right in the rebellion) but the facts match well enough.

12. Pretty much right, sadly. Of course, you forgot to mention the most common reason cited for their failure - "Burke was an Irishman!" :P

Aviatrix said...

I have a really bad cold, so I can't think straight, but let me try. It's not like I'd know this stuff better with a clear brain.

1. TRUE - Can people make up things that dull?
2. TRUE - I've heard that story before.
3. FALSE - That's the sort of thing people make up.
4. FALSE - I think this one is almost true, but that ANZAC Day really is on April 25th and that the nations that Australia acknowledges are reversed.
5. TRUE - It sounds ridiculous, but the Americans used Chinese newspapers to make people fail the literacy test for voting.
6. TRUE - I can't think why you'd make that up.
7. TRUE - I kinda remember Australia winning the Cup, something about a secret hull. I'll take my chances on whether or not you made up the bit about what your PM said.
8. FALSE - I didn't want four trues in a row.
9. TRUE - I don't think you'd have the audacity to make up Batman's treaty
10. FALSE - Believable, except that the implications would be too wide-ranging if that ruling were the case.
11. TRUE - Everyone has to have a run rebellion.
12. FALSE - That's spectacularly stupid. What horrid geohashers they would make. Five km from the coast you'd be able to see clouds and seabirds. If they were that pathetic they wouldn't be able to get back.

Michael5000 said...

1. Sounds unlikely, but I'm saying no anyway.
2. That's truthy, but I don't think they were Aussies.
3. Sure, that sounds pretty human.
4. Yes.
5. I bet that's true.
6. Sounds right.
7. This sounds vaguely familiar, but it's hard to think that Australian sporting smugness peaked 27 years ago.
8. This sounds entirely plausible. No.
9. I'm guessing yes.
10. Sure
11. Nah.
12. I think I read about this. So yes.

Michael5000 said...

Ooh, the Aviatrix & I do NOT see eye to eye on Australian history! WHO WILL PREVAIL?!?

Michael5000 said...

Me again, back from the Wiki entry on Burke and Wills. Darkest comedy ever! Cruel ironies! Ill omens from the outset! Hubris and comeuppance! Rat infestation! Why isn't this a major motion picture?!?!?

UnwiseOwl said...

Oh noes! I've written "NOT" instead of "NOW" in the Gallipoli clue, which kind of stuffs everything in the whole world up.
I am changing it now, and thus if you wish to change your answers for this question you are welcome to.

UnwiseOwl said...

Also, Michael, now go look up "John McDouall Stuart", a SUCCESSFUL explorer, and a South Australian, of course.

Aviatrix said...

In response to the change in the question for number four, I now declare number four to be true. I also change my answer to number eleven to read rum rebellion. I can make typos too.

John said...

Yeah 4 is unequivocally TRUE now that the typo's been corrected.

UnwiseOwl said...

Everything was true here except for 2 and 3. 2 Described the British Antarctic Expedition, although Mawson's Australian version was almost as disasterous, and there was never any shots fired in the SA-VIC dispute, though the Vics did pay 215,000 pounds for the 3.6 kms the length of the border.
As to the dismissal, you're right, John, Whitlam did call a double dissolution, but when that didn't tip the scales Fraser wanted another one...as I understand it, anyway.

Tune in next week for the penultimate WQIE experience.