Asia Minute: Captain Cook’s Shadow Lingers over Australia’s Budget

May 14, 2018

Statue of Captain James Cook in Victoria Square, Christchurch
Credit Roger Wong / Wikimedia Commons

Tax cuts for corporations and some individuals — and a slower pace on renewable energy. It’s not the Trump Administration agenda; it’s some of the news from the budget proposed by the government of Australia. But there’s also a debate about a figure who is well known in Hawai‘i. HPR’s Bill Dorman explains in today’s Asia Minute.

Captain James Cook is a controversial figure in Australian history. He was the first to map the east coast of the continent, and claimed the entire land mass for Great Britain.

For many years he was credited with having “discovered” Australia — although hundreds of thousands and perhaps more than a million indigenous people were already living there—and had been for tens of thousands of years.

That’s part of the controversy about Cook in Australia – it touches on colonialism and the dispossession of indigenous people.

And that brings us back to Australia’s federal budget because about 37-million U.S. dollars are being set aside to mark the 250th anniversary of Cook’s 1770 voyage to Australia and the South Pacific.

Australian Parliament Senate Chambers
Credit Wikimedia Commons

That same budget cuts various other federal spending — including slicing more than 63-million U.S. dollars from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Some indigenous leaders in the country are especially upset that government money is headed for an additional new statue and memorial in Cook’s honor. One comment has been that there are already too many statues in Australia that are, quote, “pale, stale and male.”