Prime Minister Scott Morrison suggests it is time to “rediscover” Captain James Cook because he gets “a bit of a bad show”.
Mr Morrison has promised to spend more than $12 million on projects marking the 250th anniversary of the British explorer’s first voyage to Australia.
“The thing about Cook is I think we need to rediscover him a bit because he gets a bit of a bad show from some of those who like to sort of talk down our history,” he told Cairns radio station 4CA on Tuesday.
“This guy was an enlightened man for his generation and his time.”
Mr Morrison has announced $6.7 million in funding for a replica of Captain Cook’s famous ship the Endeavour to circumnavigate Australia over 14 months, stopping at 39 locations along the coast.
The government will also provide a $5.45 million grant to the Cooktown 2020 Festival.
The prime minister says the festivities will recognise and celebrate both indigenous and European histories.
“That’ll be great for tourism and it will also be a great opportunity just to talk about our history – the view from the shore, the view from the ship – and very much understanding those two stories,” he said.
“We’ve got great stories – some of them are hard, some of them are magnificent – but we’ve got to tell them all.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who was in Queensland to announce a policy on hydrogen energy, welcomed the government’s funding announcement. However, he insisted Labor was more focused on the future than the past.
“A replica vessel trip around Australia sounds very nice in 2020-21,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Gladstone.
“But let me also be clear, I’m here today announcing the future for Australia.
“I think we’ve got to respect our history and what happened in 1770, but I’m also interested in what happens in Australia in 2070.”
Mr Morrison initially described the Endeavour’s circumnavigation as a “re-enactment” of the voyage of Captain Cook.
However, while Captain Cook charted the east coast, he did not circumnavigate Australia.
Matthew Flinders was the first to sail around the country between 1801 and 1803.
Mr Morrison later sought to clarify his remarks, explaining the trip would be a re-enactment and a circumnavigation.
“It’s important the lessons and the stories that came out of that experience along the east coast of Australia is shared with the rest of the country,” he told reporters in Cooktown.
However social media has gone wild, with commenters pouncing on the glaring historical error and saying the plans are a waste of money.
The Endeavour replica will sail from Sydney in March 2020, heading south to Hobart before turning north and sailing around the country’s coastline.