Stanley on Bean, again


Peter Stanley has again been featured on the Canberra Times letters page (9 May), intervening in the growing debate over whether the Great War official historian Charles Bean should be honoured by having the new ACT federal electorate named after him. A campaign of objections to the proposal has decried Bean as ‘anti-Semitic’ (even ‘stridently’ according to Mike Kelly, MP). Prof. Stanley, who last year edited the NewSouth collection, Charles Bean, Man, Myth Legacy, argues that Bean did make anti-Semitic remarks about John Monash, but points out that he later changed his mind. Why stigmatise Bean, he asks, but not (say) politicians whose names have been given to electorates despite their supporting now unacceptable policies such as White Australia (eg Barton, Watson, Cook, Hughes, Lyons, Bruce, Deakin, etc.). Prof. Stanley says he would rather see the new electorate named after an Indigenous woman, but urges the decision be based on a correct estimate of Bean, and not on exaggerated smears that he was ‘stridently’ racist.