'This is what Stalin did': Turnbull compares graffiti on Captain Cook's statue to the murderous Russian dictator

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. Photo: Glenn Hunt/ Getty Images.

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has compared the debate of Australia’s European history to the tactics of the world’s one of the world’s biggest mass murders, the Russian dictator Joseph Stalin.

Turnbull made his comments on Facebook on Saturday afternoon after some sprayed graffiti on a number of statues and memorials around Sydney’s CBD early on Saturday morning.

Statues of Captain Cook, Governor Macquarie were sprayed with messages such as “change the date” and “no pride in genocide”.

A statue of Queen Victoria was sprayed with “F***ing bow down”.

Graffiti was also sprayed on the Archibald Memorial Fountain, ANZAC Memorial, several park benches in Hyde Park, and Martin Place.

Council workers spent Saturday cleaning off the graffiti.

The vandalism is believed to have occurred between 2.25am-3.15am on Saturday.

NSW Police have issued CCTV footage and images of a man they believe could assist their investigation.

An image of the man being sought following a graffiti attack in Sydney. Source: NSW Police

He is described as being of Caucasian appearance with a full face beard and was last seen he was wearing black sunglasses, khaki coloured jacket with a red shirt or scarf underneath, black track pants and brown boots.

An image of the man being sought following a graffiti attack in Sydney. Source: NSW Police

The attacks follows calls this week by indigenous journalist Stan Grant that sought to increase the emphasis of Aboriginal people in the nation’s history.

In a column on Wednesday for the ABC he said the claim that Cook “discovered” Australia was “a damaging myth”.

He wrote:

This is what Captain Cook’s statue in Sydney’s Hyde Park tells us.

The inscription that Cook “Discovered this territory 1770” maintains a damaging myth, a belief in the superiority of white Christendom that devastated Indigenous peoples everywhere.

But his comments have attracted the anger of many, including broadcaster Alan Jones.

Grant followed up on Friday “The debate this week — 25 years after the Mabo decision — reminds us that the struggle for acknowledgement and a full reckoning remains unfinished.”

Yesterday many sought to blame Grant for the vandalism, which he condemned as “appalling”.

Numerous comments on Twitter directed at Grant were overtly racist.

Treasurer Scott Morrison called the attack on the statues “a bloody disgrace”.

“This is an insult to all fair minded Australians who don’t look back on our history with ignorance or rose coloured glasses, but also rightly acknowledge our extraordinary achievements as a nation since Lt James Cook turned up almost 250 years ago,” he said.

Turnbull called it “a cowardly criminal act”, but then appeared to compare the debate Grant had begun this week to the Russian mass murderer Joseph Stalin, who historians believe was responsible for the deaths of more than 20 million people.

Here’s what Turnbull said about the graffiti on the statues:

It is also part of a deeply disturbing and totalitarian campaign to not just challenge our history but to deny it and obliterate it. This is what Stalin did. When he fell out with his henchmen he didn’t just execute them, they were removed from all official photographs – they became non-persons, banished not just from life’s mortal coil but from memory and history itself.

Tearing down or defacing statues of our colonial era explorers and governors is not much better than that. Of course Cook didn’t “discover” Australia anymore than Columbus “discovered” America or Marco Polo “discovered” China.

Turnbull said old statues and monuments “which tell one version of events offer the opportunity to tell another”, adding that “contention and controversy enliven history”.

“Statues, inscriptions, monuments are all part of our history not simply because of what they record but of how it is recorded. We do not adopt every inscription on every statue or monument – it is a voice at a point in time,” he said.

The prime minister’s comments also come as Confederate statues are being torn down in the USA amid a political battle over memorials based on the American Civil war.

His full statement is here:

And here is the video of the man police are looking for following the graffiti attacks.

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