Labor leader Bill Shorten has accused Scott Morrison of getting his historical facts wrong, saying he won’t engage with the prime minister’s “bizarre Captain Cook fetish”.
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.
Mr Shorten said none of the tens of thousands of Queenslanders he had spoken had asked for a replica boat to cruise around Australia.
“I’m not going to get caught in some sort of bizarre Captain Cook fetish which Mr Morrison wants me to engage in,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Rockhampton.
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.
Captain Cook circumnavigated New Zealand, but not Australia.
“Mr Morrison has come to Queensland to get his historical facts wrong,” Mr Shorten said.
The opposition leader said the prime minister had prioritised a boat trip around Australia over health funding.
“I’m not obsessed about our history. I’m obsessed about our future,” Mr Shorten said.
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 said.
“This guy was an enlightened man for his generation and his time.”
The Endeavour replica will sail from Sydney in March 2020, heading south to Hobart before turning north and sailing around the country’s coastline.