The Anzac Myth

Today’s Guest Poster is John Menadue, redoubtable private secretary to Gough Whitlam, diplomat, senior Commonwealth public servant, and successful businessman. Mr Menadue (along with many other luminaries) is active at Pearls and Irritations, where the following post, republished here with permission (for which our thanks), first appeared.

Mr Menadue’s observation

But conservatives were frightened of the future. They wanted to drag us back to the heart break of the past. And they succeeded . . .

resonates eerily, but not surprisingly, with another comment from another very recent post to Pearls and Irritations. This, from retired Associate Professor Douglas Newton, is a fine introduction (though cheekily inserted by me) to The Anzac Myth:

Do we have a right to invoke ‘the Anzac Spirit’ in contemporary Australia? If we tolerate widening inequality, monstrous private wealth amid public squalor, intensifying social stratification, and weakening social mobility, dare we speak of ‘Their Spirit’? If we pursue a neo-liberal agenda, that preaches an acquisitive individualism, hollows out the public sector, privileges the private provider, relentlessly privatises our pooled resources, and lauds lower taxes as the one true household god – is ‘the Anzac spirit’ alive?

Gallipoli and the Anzacs

The four-year and well-funded carnival celebrating Anzac and WWI is now rolling. The carnival will depict WWI as the starting point of our nation, as our coming of age!

It was nothing of the sort. It was a sign of our international immaturity and dependence on others. What was glorious about involving ourselves in the hatreds and rivalry of European powers that had wrought such carnage in Europe over centuries? Many of our forebears came to Australia to get away from this. But conservatives, our war historians and colonel blimps chose deliberately to draw us back to the stupidities and hatreds of Europe. Conservatives and militarists want us to cling to a disastrous imperial war. They encourage us to focus on how our soldiers fought in order to avoid the central issue of why we fought.

It seems that the greater the political and military stupidity of wars that we have been involved in, the more we are encouraged to hide behind the valour of our service people at Gallipoli, the Western Front and elsewhere.. The ‘leadership’ of Winston Churchill and General Ian Hamilton were catastrophic both for the British and for us. Australian and New Zealand forces at Gallipoli were commanded by a British General. No hiding behind the sacrifice of troops can avoid the facts. We should not have been there and it was a disaster.

Unfortunately the more we ignore the political and military mistakes of the past, the more likely we are to make similar mistakes in the future. And we keep doing it. If we had a sense of our calamitous involvement in wars in the past like WW1 we would be less likely to make foolish decisions to involve ourselves in wars like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Our history is littered with tragic military adventures, being led by the nose by either the UK or the US. And it goes on through the Boer War, the Sudan War and more recently, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. In all these cases, and just like WWI, we have desperately tried to hide behind the valour of our service people.

The most important and justified war in which we have fought as a nation was WWII, in defence of our own people and land. But WWII is rated by the Australian War Memorial and so many others as of much less significance. WW1 Is the Holy Grail.

On April 25 each year we are told by tongue-tied people that the great sacrifice of WWI was in defence of freedom and the right. But I don’t think that they even believe it themselves. It just does not ring true. Tony Abbott says it was a ‘just war’. But he is yet to explain what was ‘just’ about it. It is claimed that it united this country, but it divided us in a way that we had never been divided before or since with Billy Hughes exploiting the anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sentiment in the country. Only 30% of eligible men chose to enlist. WWI was a great divider. It was not a unifier despite the platitudes of Anzac Day.

Some claim that WWI was to bring peace to Europe. But the war and its aftermath laid the ground for even greater death and destruction in WWII.

In relation to our population, our greatest loss of lives was in the Frontier Wars where over 30,000 indigenous people died in defence of their own land. But we ignore it in favour of the myths of Anzac. Best we forget the Frontier Wars.

Yet it was the Frontier Wars -the forcible occupation of a vast continent- and not the wars of Gallipoli or the Somne that made Australia.

The first time Australians and New Zealanders fought together was against the Maoris in New Zealand in the 1850s and 1860s. The ANZAC connection was not forged at Gallipoli but half a century before in the Maori Wars. It’s best that we forget that too. It doesn’t do our self-respect much good to recall that we fought together with New Zealanders in a race war to quell the Maori people.

The early and remarkable achievements of this young country at the turn of the century and early in the 19th Century are blotted out by the blood and blather of WWI, ANZAC and Gallipoli. We talk endlessly about the Gallipoli landings. A more honest description would be the invasion of Turkey.

Federation in 1900 was a remarkable achievement, pulling together our six colonies into a nation. We led the world in universal suffrage, the rights of women, industrial democracy and the minimum wage. The ‘Australian ballot’ or secret ballot was progressively adopted in the Australian states in the latter half of the nineteenth century. We were a world leader. Our ballot was adopted in New Zealand, Canada, UK and US

In 1904 we had not only Australia’s first Labor Government. It was the first in the world. The rights of working people as expressed in the Harvester Judgement of 1907 put Australia as a leader on the world stage. We were an advanced social laboratory. Before WWI there were two decades of remarkable nationhood and advancement for ordinary people.

But conservatives were frightened of the future. They wanted to drag us back to the heart break of the past. And they succeeded with the help of Billy Hughes and other Labor renegades

In the process we broke our own heart – or as Marilyn Lake has expressed in a blog on April 23 this year ‘WWI fractured the nation’s soul’.

It is time we were honest with ourselves and discounted the myths of WWI, ANZAC and Gallipoli.

Instead we should celebrate the two remarkable decades of progress before the catastrophe of WWI. And never forget the Frontier Wars.

AAP: Dean Lewins

633 thoughts on “The Anzac Myth

  1. Hmmmm

    The DCN / DCNS plays a major role in “one of France’s biggest political and financial scandals of the last generation [that left] a trail of eight unexplained deaths, nearly half a billion dollars in missing cash and troubling allegations of government complicity” connected to a sale of warships to Taiwan in the 1990s.[15]

    Apart from the issues surrounding the sale of ships to Taiwan mentioned above, French prosecutors started investigating a wide range of corruption charges in 2010 involving different submarine sales, with possible bribery and kickbacks to top officials in France. In particular interest by the prosecutors are sales of Scorpène submarines to countries like India and Malaysia.[16] The investigation in Malaysia has been prompted by human rights group Suaram as it involved current Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak when he was defence minister and his friend Abdul Razak Baginda[17] whose company Primekar was alleged to be paid a huge commission during the purchase of two Scorpène submarines.[18] French investigators are interested in the fact that Perimekar was formed only a few months before the contract was signed with the Malaysian government and DCNS and that Primekar had no track record in servicing submarines and did not have the financial capability to support the contract.[19] Investigations have also revealed that a Hong Kong-based company called Terasasi Ltd in which the directors are Razak Baginda and his father, sold classified Malaysian navy defence documents to DCNS.[20] Also under scrutiny are allegations of extortion and the murder of Shaariibuugiin Altantuyaa, a translator who worked on the deal.[21]

    On 15 December 2015, French courts indicted Bernard Baiocco, former president of Thales International Asia for paying kickbacks to Abdul Razak Baginda. At the same time director of shipbuilder DCN International was indicted for misuse of corporate assets.[22][23]

  2. The French group DCNS has won a mégacontrat estimated at 34 billion euros for the construction of the next generation of Australian submarines, today announced the Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. “The French offer presented the best capabilities to meet the unique needs of Australia,” said the head of government in Adelaide, where submarines are built.

    • “Comment has been sought from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.”

  3. A good analysis

    Think about it this way. Imagine there are 1,000 low-paid workers standing on one side of a room and 100 high-paid workers standing on the other side.

    Of the low-paid workers, 60% are negatively gearing, so that’s 600 people. Of the high-paid workers, 90% are negatively gearing, so that’s 90 people.

    Assume the low-paid workers who are negatively gearing are getting a tax benefit of $10 each, while the high-paid workers are getting $100 each.

    Following Morrison’s logic, the main beneficiaries of negative gearing are clearly low-paid workers, because there are more of them using the strategy – 600 people compared with 90.

    But that logic prevents us from thinking about the share of the tax benefits going to each worker.

    • “Our second and final one was when we were seated together on the panel of Q&A; I kept my legs firmly crossed”

  4. Has the PNG Supreme Court just pulled the plug out of Waffles’ subs as the major news?

  5. tlbd

    Let us hope that it gets reported that it is not a signed deal with the subs. I’ve read on twitter that the French are claiming 4000 jobs, where as we are only getting 1200. Hope Labor can clean this mess up. I wouldn’t be Labor for quids, they have a total disaster zone to clean up if they get elected.

  6. Mr Dutton said the agreement with PNG to establish the Manus Island centre was negotiated by the Labor government, but Labor’s immigration spokesman Richard Marles told the ABC former prime minister Julia Gillard had only signed a 12 month contract.

    Mr Marles said Mr Dutton needed to travel to PNG to sort out the issue as soon as tomorrow.

    “We negotiated a 12 month agreement with Papua New Guinea for the use of Manus Island as an offshore processing facility in the expectation that the vast bulk of people would be processed and settled in that period of time,” he said.

    “Instead, we’ve seen a complete failure on the part of the Turnbull Government.”

    Mr Marles would not be drawn on whether remaining detainees should be transferred to Australia, saying instead that it was important that the people smuggler trade did not restart.

    At least with Labor it was only a 12 month agreement.

  7. I’m more than a bit sick of ‘it’s Labor’s fault.’ This mob of incompetent nincompoops has been in government for almost three years now, it’s about time they took responsibility for their own actions.

  8. That business of the 15-year old is crazy.

    “We’re examining some more electronic devices”. So, he has a smartphone and a computer.

    Just a fishing expedition for their Terror! Lib mates.

  9. This government loves trotting out the line ‘Not one ship was ordered during Labor’s time in government’. So what? Maybe the Rudd/Gillard government had other priorities, like educating our kids, and the NBN, and the NDIS and doing something about climate change.

    The billions spent on just 12 submarines that might begin to arrive in 15 years time could have done so much right now. Just who are we going to need to be protected from in 2030?

    And – Labor had to find the money – $3 billion plus – to finish paying for the new super-dooper partly Spanish-built LHDs ordered by Howard.
    These –

    Defence equipment is an on-going thing, one government starts a tender process and maybe gets to sign contracts, another government gets to take delivery. Turnbull might get to sign the submarine contract, but then again, he might be booted out of office before he can do that. In sixteen years time when the first submarine is – maybe – ready, who knows who will be in government and able to take the credit.

  10. If you’d like a real laugh, here’s where you can find the Real Solutions pamphlet from the Liberals prior to the 2013 election. I’ve wondered on and off exactly how their promises at the time compare to what actually happened. It’s a real hoot.

  11. Adam and Eve it!

    Uhlmann raised issues on the ABC: the government has issues to resolve with unhappy Japan and our Defence sought an intervieww with bods in France last week. Seems it wwas “access denied”.

  12. PNG got 20 seconds on ABC TV news.

    I wonder how that could be! Someone bent its ear?

  13. Geez, I’m cactus…been putting the old Fordson Major back together again today..Had the nephew up to move it along..he’s a diesel mechanic…didn’t quite finish it..will have to get back onto it next sat’…God!..I hate diesels..they’re so bloody messy!
    Filthy things….I don’t wonder Rudolf Diesel was chucked overboard for inventing them!

    • Ah, the tractors of my youth. We had a red Fergie and a blue Fordson Major. A “Matrix” preview , having to choose between the red ‘pill’ or the blue’pill’ when going out 🙂 Then along came the Zetor. Phwaor! power steering, roll bar AND a cab ! Such looxury !

  14. What a thug!

    Just heard Potato Head on ABC radio news saying, “Manus is PNG’s problem, not ours. It’s not up to us to fix it.”

    • And you expected?

      I can just see PNG putting the wretches on a boat headed for Cape York.

  15. CTae1

    I imagine the Gauls will be excited with today’s announcement. Bloody brave call to shoe horn in a diesel system into something nuclear.

    Should have gone for the ‘Cherman’s’. Might have been able to pinch something useful from their uber fuel cell technology. .

    • I have less than zero when it comes to why they decided as they did. I would have thought the Swedes had a better look in . The Septics hire them during exercises testing their anti-sub preparedness. Would have thought that was a big thumbs up for their conventional submarines.

      What I am sure of is that some people somewhere will have a very nice amount of $$$$$$s appearing in some account in a ‘discreet’ bank account. It’s the way of the arms trade.

      The Swedes in action.

      Sweden Has A Sub That’s So Deadly The US Navy Hired It To Play Bad Guy

      By mid summer of 2005 the Gotland arrived in San Diego and war games immediately commenced. Apparently the Navy got more than they were bargaining for when it came to finding and engaging the stealthy little sub. The Gotland virtually “sunk” many US nuclear fast attack subs, destoryers, frigates, cruisers and even made it into the ‘red zone’ beyond the last ring of anti-submarine defenses within a carrier strike group.

      Although it was rumored she got many simulated shots off on various US super-carriers, one large-scale training exercise in particular with the then brand new USS Ronald Reagan ended with the little sub making multiple attack runs on the super-carrier, before slithering away without ever being detected.

  16. Leigh did an intervieww as it should be done.

    Enough rope .. and pulled him up on the waffle.

    Now on to PNG.

    If he didn’t lose the next election before, he just has.

    • Over the road someone picked up this . Jeebus! the whole bloody point is not the point on Planet Truffles.

      ….interview with Leigh Sales. The claim that 75%+ of the benefits from negative gearing go to the top ten per cent income earners was ‘beside the point’ is insulting the intelligence of the electorate

      Rossmore over the road is on the same page as you re Leigh Sales’ interview. Being in Sandgropia I have not seen it yet.

      “He’s digging his own political grave and I suspect he knows it.”

  17. kk

    Bloody brave call to shoe horn in a diesel system into something nuclear.

    But I think the right solution for now.

    • CTar1

      My expertise rating is somewhere between 0 and -1 so yours will be somewhere north of there. Could you sum up why à la Français was the go ? Ta.

    • The devil is in the detail – which won’t be thrashed out until after the election.

      On the bright side, the Captain’s Pick got the old heave ho – though I see Abbott is still trying to claim credit for it!

Comments are closed.