Andrew Bolt, the Australian media’s answer to that kid who dances around you in the schoolyard waving his hand centimeters from your face and saying “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you, you can’t do anything to me because I’m not touching you” is at it again.
Earlier today, he caused a stir on his show The Bolt Report when he addressed the question of whether or not Aboriginal Australians actually have any right to the claim that they were “here first”, in any real sense of the phrase.
Bolt was talking to Gary Johns about his new book Recognise What?, an essay collection in which four indigenous writers address the question of Aboriginal recognition in Australia’s constitution.
You can watch the episode here, but if you’re not quite up to it, the relevant discussion began at around the 33-minute mark, when Bolt and Johns started hashing out whether recognising indigenous Australians in the document would divide the nation by race.
Johns held forth that “no characteristic of a person should ever be written into the constitution”, and that we shouldn’t get “all weepy-eyed” and sentimental about including indigenous people in it.
He suggested that a future preamble might, however, mention the fact that “there were an Aboriginal people here on this land” prior to British colonisation, and to Bolt’s increasingly loud objections, he pointed out that Aboriginal people were sorta kinda “here first”.
On hearing this, Bolt arced right up. “No, but they weren’t here first,” he replied. “We were here the moment we were born, and to start looking … that’s racism.”
Johns held steady, telling Bolt “no, that’s an historic fact that they were here first,” but the host quickly shut it down and changed the subject.
Several hours later, after Twitter had well and truly taken him to task, Bolt issued a clarification on his blog, his point, essentially, being that history does not exist and even if it did, it’s best not to dwell on it:
To elaborate on the point I was making to Gary Johns:
Yes, Aborigines settled Australia tens of centuries before Europeans. In that sense “they” – those who first arrived – were here first.
But to say Aborigines today were here “first” is to treat each other as representatives of a “race” rather than an individual. No one of any “race” – Aboriginal or other – who is younger than 54 was here before me. They have no greater right to this country. It is racist to say a group of Australians living today were here “first” on the basis of who some of their ancestors were.
I vehemently oppose racism. We should judge each other as individuals, regardless of “race”.
Well, there you have it. Glad we got that nasty business cleared up. With the help of a handy bit of semantics, Andrew Bolt wiped the slate clean of 200-plus years of inequity and institutionalised racism, and everybody threw their hands up in celebration and thanked him for doing such an excellent job.