Contender thinks the 'black armband' view of the past is wrong and Liberals ignored
Tony Abbott has scraped raw conservative nerves to tap into the belief of many Australians that the nation is falling into the hands of politically correct social engineers.
The Opposition leader makes no secret of his Christian beliefs and his moral objections to issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. This week he supported the right of a South Australian Liberal candidate in Saturday's election to urge a ban on the burqa head covering worn by some Muslim women.
Abbott did not support a ban, but said he understood those who did: "I think a lot of Australians find the wearing of the burqa quite confronting and I wish it was not widely worn. But the point is we don't have a policy to ban it and we have always respected people's rights in this area."
Concerns over the burqa have washed into a broader sense among conservatives that the nation's values and culture are under attack.
Now Abbott has reignited Australia's "history wars" in his final charge towards the election.
He has foreshadowed a rewriting of the three-year-old national schools history curriculum to remove what he regards as political bias and a lack of attention to any but indigenous heritage.
Abbott said the curriculum focused too heavily on the union movement and that while Labor leaders were mentioned, Liberal prime ministers had been ignored.
If he won, "professional educators" would be enlisted to rework the curriculum: "I think we're entitled to say we could do better. I think we're entitled to say maybe you ought to have a rethink about this."
Shadow education minister Christopher Pyne had earlier bemoaned what he saw as the diminution of Anzac Day, despite the scale of the annual commemoration of the 1915 Gallipoli landings and the large participation of young people.
Pyne said the restoration of its "rightful place of respect" would be one of the first education priorities of a Coalition government: "The Coalition doesn't have a black-armband view of Australia's history."
Abbott and Pyne have picked up the threads of former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard's campaign against the "black-armbanders", a term coined by historian Geoffrey Blainey to attack what he claimed was a concerted effort to present European colonisation as uniformly bad.
The deep split in views of the nation's past grew over several decades. One side argued that the oppression and dispossession of indigenous Australians had been ignored or muted, and that Anglocentric education had overly shaped national culture. Rivals challenged their assertions of colonisation and said national values were being swamped by political correctness.
The history wars rapidly became part of political wars. Former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating supported a revised view of Australian history and wanted to shed what he saw as colonial reverence for Anzac Day, the monarchy, and the flag with its Union Jack.
Howard loathed the black-armband view, seeing its as phoney. This view overlapped his refusal to apologise to indigenous Australians.
Rudd strikes chord on gays
It may be too little far too late, but Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has finally lit a rocket under his campaign for Saturday's election with a viral hit on gay marriage.
Newly converted to the cause, the dedicated Christian slapped down a Queensland pastor during a live appearance on ABC television's Q&A programme and won praise across the nation and on social media.
New Hope Church pastor Matt Prater had asked how, as a Christian, Rudd could support a position counter to the Biblical teaching that marriage could occur only between a man and a woman.
"The Bible also says slavery is a natural condition," Rudd said. "What is the fundamental principle of the New Testament? It is one of universal love."
Rudd also attacked the view that sexuality was a matter of choice.
"[People] are gay if they are born gay. You don't decide at some later stage in life to be one thing or the other.
"It is how people are built and therefore the idea that this is somehow an abnormal condition is just wrong. I don't get that. I think that is just a completely ill-founded view."
But the nation remains deeply divided on gay marriage.