But what if the ancient Phoenician mariners had never
crossed the Indian Ocean all those years ago? What if Britannia's Lost Fleet had made
camp at the place they planned to call Sydney? What would the Roman-Britons have
made of this Great South Land?
I suspect that we should have huddled on the coast. For we are a wet-country people.
Water trickles through the fretwork of our imaginations. The great mass of this dry
continent should have stayed Aboriginal - for they made much of it - and we, I fear,
should have made so very little.
As it was, my forebears were driven off. The Harbour City of New Tarshish prospered -
with its noble Bridge, a great half-circle of steel linking man & woman with God. Its
grand Opera House, its Circular Quay, its vast open-air dye market - these remain glories
of the world.
Your Phoenician forebears were, of course, great traders and fearless seafarers. But
they were also desert people - as much at ease in the shifting sands of the wilderness as
in the rolling surface of the ocean. As the centuries slid by, they settled right across
this continent, making love and life with the Aborigines. Two great peoples - sharing
their ideas, their wisdom, their knowledge of the spirits with each other. Until the two
peoples became one. Until they became you: the people Shukkinak.
Today you are envied throughout the world for your great landships which ply the
wind-currents of your deserts. But it was not ever thus.
As an archæologist, it is my belief that two thousand years ago, a great system of
canals crossed this continent, linking New Tarshish on the east coast with the waters of
the Indian Ocean on the west. And linking the city of Ad-ley-ide on the south coast with
the waters of the Gulf of Chaldea on the north. These canals flooded the great salt pans
of Southern Shukkinak, transforming them into a vast inland sea - the Sea of Tyre.
In support of this theory, I rely in part on an ancient Semitic legend which tells how
a prophet-god called Jesu, the Expected One, journeyed to Shukkinak in his youth. Here he
faced temptation in the deserts, and fished and meditated beside a fabled inland sea. As
the poet wrote:
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk beneath Shukkeena's shady tree,
And did that countenance divine
Shine forth upon the sparkling Tyrian sea?
Here - in the canals and in the inland sea they created - technology, faith and
meaning flowed as one. But sadly this flow vaporised - and became a mere mirage. For the
ancient sun burnt wondrous fierce, and the waters of the ancient canals evaporated faster
than they were replenished, until the dream of the ancient engineers was smothered by sand
But the ripples of the sandhills held no terrors for your desert-dwelling forebears.
With camels and digging sticks they moved about the continent, trading and finding water -
and all the time developing the wondrous dyes which are the envy of the world.
To the greetings of Elizabeth Cæsar let me add my personal hail and thanks. The small
unpleasantness you are currently enduring in the Assembly of Nations will, I am sure, pass
rapidly away, once it is realised that human sacrifice among your priestly class is
entirely your own affair. In North America, the state puts unwilling men and women to
death as a punishment: we are told that this is justice. In Shukkinak, the priests go
joyfully to their sacrifice - and this, we are told, violates their human rights. There is
neither logic nor humanity in the case against you. I am authorised by great Cæsar to
tell you that she looks forward to your vindication and your reinstatement in the great
circle of nations.
I thank you. I salute you - people of Shukkinak. A country to dye for!