These were both well worth seeing.
The second of three documentaries dealing with Australian Prime Ministers, Menzies And Churchill At War did make me reassess Menzies as a war-time Prime Minister. That he was in England for quite a while early in World War II I knew, and that Churchill was not always Australia’s best friend I also knew, but the details, reinforced by Menzies’ own home movies, were quite fascinating.
The other documentary The Intervention dealt with matters that Australians differ about. I was ambivalent about it all at the time, and still am. However, last night’s documentary did confirm a number of things, the first being what an enormous gap there is between what is said and done by politicians and bureaucrats in Canberra and state capitals – and this is still true – and what actually is happening on the ground. Even greater perhaps is the gap between much of the media representation of all this, and what most of us far from key events understand, and the real experiences of those who are in situations we barely comprehend. There was much in this documentary that rang very true. Sure, the gist is that the Northern Territory Intervention last year was for the most part misguided, or worse, while conceding there have been some benefits. It surely was badly thought out, and poisoned by a number of factors: it was an election year; Howard and company had badly messed up over their attitude to Reconciliation and the Apology, locked in as they were to that totally spurious dichotomy between the symbolic and the practical; Mal Brough and those close to him were hopeless diplomats and conciliators.
At the same time, we met some thoroughly admirable Australians in last night’s documentary, many of them probably hitherto unknown to most of us, and we were encouraged to think concretely in human terms about the whole situation, and that is a very big plus.