Thursday 7th of July 2022

weirdoes marching during a strange anzac Day…..

It’s what Australian military historians tend to call ‘Anzac season’ – the weeks preceding ‘the one day of the year’ when they get asked to speak on talk-back radio about current anniversaries (there are always a couple), or to discuss how Anzac seems to be both changing and un-changing. But this year, Anzac season seems somehow different.

First, there’s the election. It’s widely tipped to be a ‘khaki election’ – or at least Scott Morrison is trying to make it so, even though the country is not actually at war. The idea of a ‘khaki election’ goes back to the British general election, held in October 1900 during the Anglo-Boer war of 1899-1902, when the Conservative Party campaigned on the strength of its supposedly successful prosecution of the war against the Boer republics (which until mid-1900 had gone conspicuously badly for Britain). Lord Salisbury persuaded the electorate – then all male – that it would be unpatriotic to vote anything for the Liberals (decried as ‘pro-Boer’).

Since then, other elections have been contested in the shadow or the wake of wars, with variable outcomes. In 1945 Salisbury’s successor, Winston Churchill (who had first been elected to parliament in 1900) mistakenly gambled that having won the war against Germany he could win the peace. The electorate (now including women and those who had borne the brunt of the Blitz and the war) wanted a better world, not a return to the decade that had given them depression and war.

Scott Morrison has repeatedly sought to capitalise upon, or manufacture, concerns over security. He has used the tension between Australia and China, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the forging of a new ‘AUKUS’ alliance, the purchase of submarines (to be crewed by sailors who are still in kindergarten), and announcements of more military hardware to heighten such concerns. He wants to persuade Australian voters that they live in an uncertain world and that his government – which seems to have done its best to exacerbate these strains – is best equipped to manage the consequences.

Whether Australians accept this logic remains to be seen. Polls suggest that the Morrison government’s flaccid responses to bushfire, the pandemic, floods and the effects of climate change generally, not to mention worries over his government’s integrity, are of greater concern.

All this means that 2022’s will be no ordinary Anzac Day. The national Anzac Day ceremony, usually held at the Australian War Memorial, has actually been cancelled. The Memorial is being demolished and re-built, entirely needlessly, but at a cost of half-a-billion dollars – money that could have contributed to a more effective response to any of the emergencies we have recently faced. Perhaps we will see a national Zoom call offered at dawn on 25 April, with the usual rhetoric insisting that Anzac – whatever that now means – remains relevant.

But is it? Who are Australia’s heroes today? Surely the doctors, nurses, ambos and hospital workers who have helped to us through the Covid pandemic are more convincing candidates to be regarded as the nation’s saviours? Surely the fireies and the SES volunteers who protected communities in 2019-20 and in the recent catastrophic floods have a greater claim to be accorded a day of public acknowledgment? Maintaining a day of remembrance for those who fought for a long-gone empire, or for a very different Australia must be losing the immediate, personal, emotional connections which rightly made Anzac Day such an important part of Australian life during the twentieth century? Does a different, more diverse society demand other things to valorise? Is Anzac Day, while still important to some Australians (those with an Anzac in the family), of diminishing relevance? These questions might at least be more widely debated this Anzac season.

This Anzac season is also complicated by the continuing trial, testing whether Ben Roberts-Smith, VC, has or has not been libelled in being described as, among other things, a man who killed helpless civilians while serving with the SAS in Afghanistan. The verdict is not yet in, and we must resist reaching premature conclusions. But hearing a series of witnesses, many former comrades, describe seeing such actions, must make us question the truisms of Anzac Days past. Did such actions always occur; only now we are hearing about them? What does the trial tell us about Australians in war? Are they no more resistant to the bestial impulses we are even now seeing in Ukraine? Have we been guilty of placing too great a burden of expectation upon those who serve Australia in uniform? These questions should be part of the reflection which Anzac Days bring.

And then there is the complication which grows more pressing as we learn more of the conflicts which brought death and misery to Australia’s original inhabitants. We now know unequivocally that the settlement of this continent inflicted profound trauma upon its Indigenous peoples. How can we now maintain that while this Australian war deserves respectful remembrance that war even though it happened in Australia is not part of our military history, or is be unworthy of remembrance?

If Australia is to maturely understand and acknowledge the place which war has had in our national history, then this Anzac Day offers another opportunity to honestly accept that remembrance encompasses what was done and suffered regardless of the ostensible cause. If we should remember the dead of Gallipoli or Fromelles, killed in an outmoded imperial cause, and the dead of Alamein or Kokoda, killed fighting against militarism or tyranny, then surely we should also recall the dead of Slaughterhouse Creek or Pinjarrah, when people whom we regard as Australians killed other Australians?

The most recent affront to the way Anzac Day used to be must surely be the appointment of Dr Brendan Nelson to the Council of the Australian War Memorial. Formerly its Director and the architect of its expensive transformation from modest shrine and museum to bloated theme park, Dr Nelson is a Director of the Australian wing of Boeing, an American company which profits from making weapons used in, among other places, the war in Yemen. That an arms manufacturer can be invited to set the tone of a national institution – one dedicated to peace (as it was when it opened in Canberra in 1941) – is an affront to the ‘honour’ for which Australians used to think that their war dead died.

2022’s indeed seems to be shaping up to be a very strange Anzac Day.





Dutton is an idiot…..

Australia has issued a warning over the Solomon Islands-China security pact following significant efforts by the US and its allies to thwart the deal. On Monday, Defence Minister Peter Dutton said that Australia could only preserve peace by preparing for war.


"The only way you can preserve peace is to prepare for war, and to be strong as a country. Not to cower, not to be on bended knee and be weak. That's the reality", Dutton told Channel 9 regarding Prime Minister Scott Morrison's remarks saying Australia was setting up a red line in the Pacific over the Solomon Islands-China security pact.

The minister said that it is not in Australia's long-term interests to remain ignorant about incidents happening in the region.


"The arrangement we've entered into with AUKUS and particularly with the United States and the United Kingdom and now with Japan and India, these are all countries that want peace and the preservation of that peace in our region", Dutton added.


Dutton compared the current geopolitical situation to the 1930s and urged countries to speak up against aggressions worldwide.

"We're in a period very similar to the 1930s now, and I think there were a lot of people in the 1930s who wish they had spoken up much earlier into the decade. I think that's the sobering reality of where we are, it is the sobering reality of the intelligence we receive", he reckoned.

The Scott Morrison government has been facing intense backlash from the opposition, with Labor branding the Solomon Islands-China pact Australia's most significant foreign policy failure since the Second World War. Over 17 million Australians will vote to elect the country's next government on 21 May.


Beijing announced the pact last week, days ahead of the arrival of a high-powered White House delegation in Honiara.

The US said it would take unspecified action against the South Pacific nation if Beijing maintains any military presence there. Australian Prime Minister Morrison said on Sunday that he shares the same red line that the US has over the security pact.


"We won't be having Chinese military naval bases in our region on our doorstep", Morrison said.


China's Embassy in Honiara reacted to the warnings, saying Beijing objects to any third party's intention to interfere with cooperation between China and the Solomon Islands as sovereign states. The embassy said that the warning had exposed the US' condescending acts of disrespect towards other nations.











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challenging the warmongers...

The evidence suggests that the Federal government sees Anzac as an attractive tool to open a new front in the culture wars and one where the Labor party might well be wedged.

The ongoing discussion between State and Federal education ministers about a national curriculum drafted by the Australian Curriculum Assessment Authority is still not finalised. There have been a number of sticking points, none more persistent than what history should be offered in secondary schools and how it should be taught. Disagreement spilt out into the main stream media late last year when Federal education minister Alan Tudge attacked the proposed history syllabus grading it with a ‘C’ and declaring that it would teach students a ‘negative, miserable view of Australia.’ And that could have serious consequences leading students to developing ‘a hatred’ of Australia which might affect their willingness to defend the country. Indeed, he wanted students to emerge from school ‘having learned about our country with a love of it rather than a hatred of it.’

It was the question of Anzac Day which Tudge found particularly confronting. The draft curriculum for year nine history included reference to ’the commemoration of the first world war, including different historical interpretations and contested debates about the nature and significance of the Anzac legend and the war.’ The minister was adamant. The Anzac legend, he declared, was ’not going to be a contested idea on my watch.’ The matter was quite clear. ’Anzac Day’, he explained, ‘should not be a contested idea. It is the most sacred day in the Australian calendar.’

Tudge’s reaction illustrated a central feature of Anzac Day. It serves two quite different purposes. It is a day of national remembrance, when all those killed in our wars are honoured. It is a day of collective lament. But it is also the occasion to pay tribute to a far more contentious proposition—that the Anzac landing in 1915 was a defining moment in Australian history.

As generations of children have been assured this was when we became a nation: that the young men who attacked the Ottoman Empire died so we could be free. Anyone who has talked to Australian schools in recent years will be aware how wide and deep this nationalist myth has been perpetuated. The two aspects of our ‘one day of the year’ become fused. To question the historiography is to disrespect the fallen, to trample on the sanctity of their sacrifice. It is only when this is appreciated that we can understand Tudge’s insistence that the Anzac legend should never be questioned in our school rooms.

But by any measure it is an extraordinary proposition. The origin, nature and consequences of First World War remain among the most contentious and widely debated historical questions. The allied assault on the Ottoman Empire does not escape this continuing scrutiny. And then there is the ongoing assessment by a whole phalanx of Australian historians about our involvement in the war in general and the Gallipoli campaign in particular. Arguments which counter the proposition that the nation was made in an Imperial campaign on the other side of the world have become widely accepted among modern historians.

The belief that nations achieve maturity in war was widespread in the late C19th and early C20th but it did not survive the horrors of the First World War itself. It is a case of irresponsible atavism to maintain such an old and dangerous idea. Do we really suggest that all nation states need a war as a foundational experience?

And then there is the equally extraordinary proposition that the young men at Gallipoli achieved in a few months a more enduring legacy than the achievements of far greater number of colonists and the Australian born children during a century and more of nation building. The Anzac legend gives priority to war over civil life and events on the other side of the world over what was achieved here at home. Tudge was right about one thing. If seriously contested the Anzac legend will not survive in its current form.

His vehemence requires further interrogation. The evidence suggests that the Federal government sees Anzac as an attractive tool to open a new front in the culture wars and one where the Labor party might well be wedged. The recent decision by the acting education minister Stewart Robert to delay his final approval to the new curriculum until just before May’s election clearly gestures in this direction.

It is safe to assume that liberal party strategists are aware of pertinent developments in the United States. History teaching has become a potent weapon in republican campaigning with strident demands to ban what is known as critical race theory or more generally to prevent teaching of the history of racism. At least 15 Republican states have introduced laws to ban teachers from emphasising the history of racial oppression. Late last year history teaching became the dominant issue in the election for the governorship of Virginia giving an unexpected victory to the republican challenger Glen Youngkin.