ANZAC DAY COMMEMORATION
(Bulli) [2.15 p.m.]: I move:
That this House commemorates the anniversary of the landing on the beaches of Gallipoli by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps at dawn on 25 April 1915, and remembers with respect and appreciation those citizens who gave their lives at that time, together with all those who have served to defend the freedom of Australia in time of war.
I welcome to the House today members of the Corrimal Combined Pensioners Association, who are guests of the Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra, Mr Col Markham. It is pleasing that today I am able to stand in this House once again to acknowledge those who died for our country. Anzac Day is a day of remembrance, a day on which we as Australians renew our pledge of loyalty to our nation and our preparedness to guard and protect our nation and our children. It is indeed proper for this House to remember and to acknowledge the sacrifice of the Anzacs who stormed Gallipoli and rushed headlong into an ambush by the Turkish forces. In one day 2,000 soldiers of the 16,000 who landed on the beach lost their lives. Within twenty-four hours on that small beach in a faraway land there was absolute destruction, chaos and death everywhere.
Each year as a Vietnam veteran I proudly walk beside returned servicemen and survivors of the many wars since Gallipoli and remember through prayer those who gave their ultimate, their precious lives, for us and for their country. From the outset Gallipoli was a disaster, but determination, strength, courage and compassion shone through. I shall refer first to courage. Though the battle was disastrous, men who stood shoulder to shoulder in a faraway
country, dying for their country, showed courage as they combined as a unit to protect each other and, in turn, to protect their country. Compassion was shown also. "Compassion" is a strange word to use when referring to a war zone. It can best be explained through the actions of a man called Simpson. In all the desecration and death one man found a half-starved donkey and showed compassion for his fellow man. He went out through the bullets into the war zone, collected his wounded comrades and brought them back to safety. It may seem odd that amongst the chaos of a war zone such compassion was shown. Simpson's actions truly exemplify the Australian character. People from a small country, because of their character, were able to support each other amidst the chaos.
As a Vietnam veteran I stand proudly beside people from all wars, from Gallipoli through to those in recent days. It is humbling to stand and pray at the cenotaphs in areas around my electorate with men and women related to those who have gone before us. But there is a sad side. I refer particularly to Vietnam veterans. Sadly in our country governments seem to have lost the plot. The Daily Telegraph
yesterday highlighted the number of suicides that have occurred amongst Vietnam veterans. It is devastating that 405 of the 50,000 Australians who served in the Vietnam war from 1966 to 1972 were killed. However, it is a strange statistic that 280 Vietnam veterans - a figure more than half of the number killed during the Vietnam war - have since committed suicide. That is very worrying. It indicates clearly that something is wrong when governments seem to have forgotten those who have served on our behalf. It is disturbing that 280 men and women have lost their lives after the trauma of war. Our system is obviously failing. This demonstrates to me, as it should to this Parliament and other parliaments, that assistance or counselling needs to be provided to veterans.
I know that there are youth suicides; however, our servicemen went to war for us. Today we should make a stand for them by commemorating those who have died in the theatres of war. Governments of this country need to do more to enable service personnel from the navy, the air force and the army to have a proper and happy life. The article that appeared in a Sydney newspaper shows that we are not doing enough, and it is time we did. Another theme of my speech commemorating Anzac Day concerns claims about the promotion of war. Most people in the community today have not been involved in war. Young people probably see only what is on television. Many people think that Anzac Day glorifies war. The Parliament must educate people to understand that service people went overseas to enable us to have the life that we have today. It is worrying to think of what Australia might have been without their efforts. Our children must be taught of the sacrifice made by these people and their families to enable their grandchildren to have the happy life they experience today.
This is God's own country but we did not earn it; it was earned for us. Those who suffered and died for this cause must be remembered. The Commonwealth and State governments should ensure that schools teach that Anzac Day does not glorify war; it ensures remembrance of the sacrifice of those who went before us. I have been privileged to speak in this House as a Vietnam veteran. The honourable member for Monaro will also speak in this debate. Those of us who have been involved in war understand the traumas in previous wars as well as in our own theatres of conflict. Memories are short and people forget. Motions such as this assist the community to remember the fallen. I shall finish my speech with a short thought from a young lady who was a pupil at Wellington St Mary's Central School. She wrote:
The battles and the weapons
The bullets and the pain
The training and the fighting
The trenches full of rain
The hearts that hold the memories
The graves that hold the dead
The sorrow and the mourning
The anger in my head
Lest we forget.
(Monaro) [2.25 p.m.]: I join the honourable member for Bulli on behalf of the Opposition in paying tribute to the Anzacs. I should like to pass a few remarks in support of his motion in recognition of Anzac Day and the great sacrifice that was made not only by those who gave their lives but also by those who survived and lived with the pain. On 28 July 1914 Australia was advised by London that war was imminent. On 31 July 1914 the then Labor leader of our nation, Andrew Fisher, declared, "Australia will defend Britain to our last man and our last shilling." I wonder at how our attitudes and priorities have changed since those years. Life has become far more precious to people of this generation.
Today, quite correctly, our parliamentary leaders attend the tragic funeral in Parkes of a young police officer killed in western Sydney. On Monday 35 candles will be lit to commemorate the loss of the victims of the senseless killing in Port Arthur. Simultaneously, the sanctity of Anzac Day has been sold to Super League for $20,000. This morning on
radio station 2UE Alan Jones put out a call on behalf of Legacy asking for donations of rosemary to overcome the shortfall in the amount to be handed out on Anzac Day. There is not one person in the media gallery of this Chamber at the moment to report on this motion commemorating one of the saddest events in the history of our nation. It is an indictment of members of the press. At this moment they sit in another place in the Parliament.
By contrast also we here today languish for the appropriate words and struggle through a rewritten history to acknowledge that 60,000 young Australians died in the First World War - 60,000 died. Yet there is nobody in the press gallery and we have sold off the sanctity of the tradition of Anzac for 20,000 bucks to Super League. Sixty thousand young Australians died out of a population of five million - a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions, something that we cannot contemplate in this day and age. The magnitude of that loss has faded with time. The current generation, thankfully, knows no such grief. On 25 April 1915 Australians landed at Gallipoli. As a result of poor leadership and misadventure they landed in the wrong position. By 1 May 1915 the Australians and New Zealanders had lost 1,252 dead at Gallipoli. In addition, 5,302 had been wounded.
In a further attack on 2 May another 2,000 were killed. During that period, in addition to the Australian losses, the Turks lost 14,000. We cannot comprehend those figures in this day and age. Young Turks and Australians sustained brutal death and injury; those who lay on the battlefield felt agonising pain; and those who remained at home suffered from emotional drain, further anguish and painful loneliness. But our memories are fading. For three generations after the First World War sentries stood guard on the cenotaphs and memorials around this nation. Today graffitists delight in adorning our memorials with filth, political symbols and slogans. Shame on them!
Today I call on the Federal Government, as I have on another occasion, to re-establish a permanent 24-hour guard on the Hyde Park memorial in Sydney. The Australian uniform and slouch hat are unique and have proved in history to be a symbol of Australia of which we can all be proud. If we are prepared to call for vigilance in our memory of war heroes, a sacrifice we recognise each year by saying "Lest We Forget", let us protect the virtue and sanctity of those memorials that recognise our fallen heroes. The cost to provide a full-time 24-hour guard 365 days a year at one memorial to recognise the enormous sacrifice is not too much to ask. We have the opportunity through that gift to the memory of our servicemen to show the world and visiting tourists during the Olympic Games that Australia is proud of its national identity and its war heroes and unashamed of its history. Australia needs to establish its identify in the world as an independent nation. There can be no better way to do that than by demonstrating to the world that we are truly proud of our war heroes and those who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of their nation. Lest we forget.
(Waratah) [2.32 p.m.]: I support the previous speakers in this debate and acknowledge the high and low points of Australia's involvement in major international conflicts. Anzac Day is a part of the Australian fabric. I doubt that any schoolchild could avoid learning about Anzac Day and what it means to families and relatives or to some institution within the community. We do not seem to learn many lessons from war. It is one thing to commemorate war on a day and to prepare people, and if necessary conscript them, to protect the country and protect our ideals, but it is another thing to try to develop policies and diplomatic mechanisms to avoid conflicts of the magnitude we are considering at this time.
I have never served in a major conflict, but I can reflect to some degree on the life of a merchant seaman and the associated difficulties. I would like to dwell briefly on our failure as a nation to recognise that conflicts emerge from time to time and, for whatever reason, we choose not to be prepared. One has only to look at one aspect of military warfare to see that from time to time we are lacking. This country is capable of building frigates, minesweepers and submarines but it is not capable of building a decent merchant ship or supply vessel over about 12,000 tonnes. This is the third time in this nation's history that government policy has wound down those aspects of future survival and protection. Every former serving person here today would recognise that without adequate lines of supply this nation is more vulnerable than most because it is an island continent. Whilst its isolation may afford us some protection in the short term, there is no guarantee that will be the case for my lifetime or, indeed, for future generations.
It concerns me that whilst we commemorate the Anzacs, in many cases our legislators lose sight of our reasons for going to war. I look at the children's faces at the memorials and cenotaphs and in the parades in my electorate of Waratah - and I attempt to attend the five that take place in my electorate - and they do not attend to glorify war or necessarily to remember grandad; they attend because there is a community feeling that it is a
special day, a special part of our lives. Remembering a great event has a number of facets but the event is not necessarily considered great by all people. The older people who attend can remember their loved ones who perhaps were killed or seriously injured during any of the conflicts that have occurred. Perhaps they can take some comfort from the presence of others and the ex-servicemen can reminisce in the conversations that many of them will have on Friday.
But the children get something else out of it, something that is intangible in the short term - a feeling of nationhood that was born in blood that we must try not to repeat. We have an obligation to future generations to ensure that wherever possible we maintain peace and surveillance and that we are ready if ever again a problem emerges. I am concerned that Australia is not necessarily a nation that is aware and able to take care of future emergencies. We have a precious lifestyle that people died for and fought for. There are many heroic tales. Medals bear witness to some, but I am sure that many more were unsung and undocumented. It is significant that when the call came Australians and New Zealanders did not have to be called twice; they went to the First World War in significantly greater numbers than they have gone to any conflict since.
The Vietnam war has been mentioned today. It is probably our most recent face-to-face conflict if the Middle East insurrection is ignored. Vietnam still takes its toll. The news again today records the damage suffered by serving members in Vietnam from stress and the use of herbicides and pesticides. They were all young men, 18 to 20 years of age. What do we present them with now? A safe community that they fought for and made secure for us and our children. We have an obligation to maintain that security, and we can do it legislatively. I hope that those in positions of influence, particularly in the Federal Government, regardless of party, recognise that there is still a need, an ever-present danger, to coin a phrase, and that that danger should not be forgotten.
I noticed for the first time at the weekend Citizens Military Forces units marching in a procession in my electorate. When I was eligible for call-up I was carefully placed to one side. As a marine engineer it was felt that my worth was elsewhere. So I did not serve in a CMF unit, but they knew how to find me when I was needed in a ship's engine-room.
We all served in various capacities throughout the insurrection. The women who stepped in and took over the men's jobs in both major wars have only recently been recognised. It is important that they are given due credit because without their support our fighting men and women would not have been able to continue, our supply lines could not have been maintained and our services to the community would have been less than we were able to manage at that time. Anzac Day has different memories for different people. For me it marks some milestones in this nation's career. It sets some standards from which we have no right to depart, but to maintain them we have to be prepared to look into the future and assume that we will not always be able to enjoy the quiet lifestyle we currently enjoy. Without that thought in the back of our minds we will become complacent, but complacency has no place when defence is to be considered.
I join with all members in thanking those who have gone before us for the work they did for this nation. I look forward to continuing peace, particularly for my children, and I hope that the memory of the Anzacs is kept alive not only in this place but in this community for the virtues they demonstrated and for the hope they give us, and that it remains a memory of what one has to do to achieve the ends that one requires to be an Australian.
(Upper Hunter - Deputy Leader of the National Party) [2.41 p.m.]: I wish to join other members of this House in giving an Anzac Day address in support of the motion. In my opinion, and not without argument, Australia's most important three days are, firstly, Christmas Day, which is symbolic of our origins as a Christian society - it is Australia's most significant family day; secondly, Australia Day, which represents the birth of our nationalism; and, thirdly, Anzac Day, which represents the birth of the Australian spirit. It is Australia's most patriotic day. The word "Anzac" brings immediately to mind locations of theatres of war in which Australians have served, such as Gallipoli, Villers Bretonneux, the Kwai River, Changi, Milne Bay, Kokoda and Vietnam, just to name a few. Those I have mentioned and those I have not mentioned are all theatres of war in which Australians performed the ultimate sacrifice: they gave of themselves not in the gain for Australia in a territorial or imperialistic sense, but in support of others.
One is immediately impressed with the striking strategic significance of the location of Gallipoli, if one stands, as I have, at the top of Anzac Cove right next to Simpson's grave, knowing that immediately behind you is the place where the Anzacs should have landed. Overlooking Anzac Cove is a
monument from Atatürk, the famous Turkish general, which has a very comforting and powerful message to those who undertake the pilgrimage to Gallipoli. It is aimed specifically at the mothers and relatives of those who are buried there. Atatürk says to the visitors: you come in sorrow and you are here to offer respect for your children who are buried in Turkish soil. The message continues: go away happy and comforted because your sons are now also our sons and we will protect them, too. It is a very powerful and moving message, perhaps of the futility of war. Over the years the particular aspects of any campaign wear away and the enduring message, the spirit of Anzac born there, comes more and more into prominence so that one cannot fail but to be moved when one visits Gallipoli.
Every Australian in his or her lifetime should undertake a pilgrimage to Gallipoli - if not Gallipoli, then to one of the other locations, perhaps Kokoda where a spirit of Australia was also born. As the generations progress it is an abiding legacy for us all to be able to reflect on Australia's heritage of fighting for freedom, never for Australia's territorial gain, but only ever against oppression, fanaticism, empire building or genocide. The enduring spirit of Anzac symbolises a nation that respects the sacrifice and courage of all its men and women who have worn the uniform and which each year reinforces the message to relatives, new and old Australians, and the rest of the world that our proud heritage will never be forgotten. The spirit of Anzac is the measure of Australian life, the ideals of a nation and the values by which we live. Lest we forget.
(Bathurst) [2.46 p.m.]: I have listened to the contributions made by my colleagues to the motion moved by the honourable member for Bulli. I would like to approach this debate from a slightly different angle. My birthday is closer to the end of the First World War than the birthday of any other member of this House. My recollection of things that occurred in the First World War, the Second World War and the Vietnam War is probably closer than the recollection of some of the younger members of Parliament. Some years back I was fortunate enough to visit the town of Villers-Bretonneux on the Somme and to be accommodated in one of the two hotels in that small French village that has been destroyed on two occasions, once in the First World War and again in the Second World War. Three battles were fought on the Somme and Australian troops were involved in all of them. Much has been said about Gallipoli and the enormous losses we sustained, but they pale into insignificance alongside the wall erected at the Australian War Cemetery at Villers-Bretonneux which lists 11,000 Australians for whom no known grave has ever been discovered, 11,000 Australians who disappeared off the face of the earth, leaving no trace.
The Deputy Leader of the National Party said that we lost 60,000 in the First World War, but it was 63,000, many of whom were lost on the battlefields of France and southern Belgium. Included in that graveyard, which is maintained by the Australian Government, are young men from all over this country ranging in age from 18 to 35. Two brothers from Western Australia, the youngest and oldest of the graves I saw - 18 and 35 - are buried there side by side. I can only imagine that the elder brother claimed his younger brother when he went to France and that they were both killed at or about the same time. My wife was looking through another section of the graveyard and came across the grave of a young 15-year-old lad. That village is still grateful to the Australians who lost their lives and those who fought to protect the French provincial city of Amiens some 15 or 16 kilometres west of Villers-Bretonneux in the dark days of World War I. There are two hotels, in Villers-Bretonneux, one called the Melbourne and the other the Victoria. Once people knew we were from Australia, the greetings we received were absolutely fabulous. Doreen and I walked around the village just after dinner. We were stopped by people who were obviously advised that two Australians were in town. They made us feel very welcome indeed.
The battles in France must have been horrendous experiences for the people involved. The temperatures were subfreezing and by modern-day standards the conditions under which those men fought are difficult to understand. In many instances only a few yards separated trenches, and loss of life on both sides of the conflict was incredible. I believe that at the Battle of Passchendaele Australian troops lost 10,000 soldiers in that one conflict. To me that is almost incomprehensible, but it was the way things happened in those days. I believe we were commanded - and I say this without rancour - by British generals probably using outdated tactics. I believe that of all the battles Australia has been involved in, the First World War clearly set the standard.
Members of my family were involved in the Second World War and in Vietnam. My Uncle Jim, who was in this Parliament for a number of years and who retired in 1984, was in the 2/1 Australian Infantry Battalion that sailed to the Middle East at Christmas time in 1939. My wife's father, Warrant Officer Wallace Frost, was in the 2/4 Infantry Battalion in the Middle East, Greece, Crete, the islands, Darwin and later served in Korea. My
brother Frank was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
As Anzac Day approaches each year we all remember the things we have seen and the things that happened in those times. I remember a couple of years ago in this place we celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War and I related my experiences as a telegram boy: a 15 year old in the suburbs of Turramurra and Warrawee taking urgent telegrams in big red envelopes to wives and mothers to advise them that their husbands and sons had been killed in action. It was not a very happy thing for a boy to do, but clergymen would not do it because they knew that as soon as they walked through the gate people would be apprehensive and know what was about to happen. It was a bit different for a telegram boy: he may have been bringing a birthday greeting or something like that. I believe that was the reason young boys were used to deliver those telegrams.
Later I was fortunate to visit the Changi memorial in Singapore. I stood and slowly read the memorial. On another occasion I was in Pearl Harbour when the boat I was on stopped and they played the Last Post. I am not ashamed to admit that I cried at all three places - Villers-Bretonneux, Changi and Pearl Harbour. My admiration and respect remains for those men who experienced something that I was too young to experience. I believe they were wonderful men and women. We have recently learned the details of women who lost their lives in the straits around Java during the Second World War - the people who were killed on the Centaur
when it was sunk off the coast of Australia. I do not believe that any nation can ever repay those people for the things they did for their country.
(Lane Cove) [2.54 p.m.]: In February this year I had the opportunity to do something that I regard as probably one of the most emotional experiences of my life - certainly one of the most significant things I have ever undertaken. I walked the Kokoda Track. On many occasions I have been asked why I decided to walk the track. Why would anybody in their right mind decide to walk through 100 kilometres of New Guinea jungle in the wet season? Why would you decide to put yourself through the threat of malaria, leeches and other nasties along that track? The reason was very simple: one thing we need to do as a nation is to make sure that we remember our past. As politicians we should ensure that future generations respect our history. One way to do that is to have a better understanding of that history.
Walking the Kokoda Track was an opportunity for me to learn, to remember and to ensure that I am in a position to make sure following generations respect our history. Walking Kokoda was, like the honourable member for Bathurst experienced, hugely emotional. One cannot help but stand at the various memorials along that track that were placed there by private individuals and not by governments and reflect on the achievements of our troops. When our group reflected on what those young men did, we too were moved to tears, like the honourable member for Bathurst. It is not coincidence that it is referred to as that bloody track. When we remember what happened at Kokoda we realise we are talking about young men - boys of 17, 18 and 19 years of age - who were ill-trained and underequipped. They faced the might of what was then the best trained military force in the world, the Japanese army, and were expected to hold that army at bay with very little experience and very little support. The fact they were able to do that is why with great pride and respect all Australians should honour those men.
Whilst everybody in this Chamber remembers Gallipoli, I am here to express concern that we do not remember Kokoda well enough. I am concerned that we have not told younger generations the story of Kokoda. As a student I did not learn enough about Kokoda. Kokoda is as significant in history as Gallipoli because those young men did something that no-one else had ever done up until that stage: they turned the tide against the Japanese and they did it on what was then Australian territory. Their contribution to the war and to Australian history is as important to us as Gallipoli. The evidence of what happened up there is still visible along the track. There are still weapons pits where young men stood in water up to their neck fighting off the enemy. Unexploded mortars and hand grenades are still visible along the track.
Other parts of weaponry can be found in various parts off the track: bullets and tins in which food was dropped from planes to the troops - not with much success, I might add, because they only managed to recover 10 per cent. The memory of what happened on the Kokoda Track is still alive, but it has not been carried back to Australia. I believe it is incumbent on us all in this Chamber to make sure that those memories become a true part of our history. We should be able to tell our young people about the bravery and courage of those young boys, how they were outnumbered six to one and did not flinch as a thousand of them stood on Mission Ridge and watched 6,000 Japanese come over the hill at night carrying lanterns, so they knew how many there were. Those young soldiers knew they were outnumbered six to one and yet they did not flinch.
It is important to remember: if you sit on Brigade Hill, on what we believe are the graves of 72 unknown Australians, and listen to the stories of courage, of young men who were ordered to go back up the line to stop the Japanese, and, knowing that they were not going to come back, took off their identity tags and wrote letters home so that at least they could say a farewell; if you listen to the stories of how they fought in mud, and of how their clothes, their boots and their feet rotted away, how they were out of their minds with malaria, dysentery and all the other things that affected them, and yet they still fought; if you listen to the stories of how they managed to stop the Japanese, who had been told when they got to Kokoda that they had six days to get to Port Moresby and the Australians not only kept them at bay for two months but then, in the following months, turned them back; if you understand that they did this because they were worried that if they did not, their families and the people they had left behind in this country would be at risk; if you listen to all that, you must understand how important it is that we remember all that.
As members of this Chamber, we must understand how important it is that our children understand all that. We must understand that we are charged with the responsibility for the generations that follow to not forget, to continue to respect, to revere and to honour those people. I am hopeful that more people will go up to Kokoda and will learn about what went on up there, and that they will come back also inspired to ensure that we remember. I am hopeful that when our young people watch the marches on Friday morning, and they look at those old men who were the young men who fought on Kokoda, that they will understand the debt that they owe those old men. I am hopeful that the debt that we owe to the fuzzy wuzzies will be acknowledged - those angels who carried our wounded back so that they could be treated and therefore ensured that many more of them survived than otherwise would have. I know that the honourable member for Monaro has today called upon the Federal Government to place guards at the cenotaph. I also call on the Federal Government today to provide a medal to the fuzzy wuzzies in recognition of the service that they provided to Australian diggers on the Kokoda Trail.
There has been a fair bit of emotion in this debate today. I believe it is important that we all feel emotional about these issues, because it is through that great strength of feeling that we will ensure that we do not forget. It is through that great commitment of the people in this Chamber that we will ensure that our children and their children will be given the opportunity to remember. Like everyone here, I hope to God that neither of my children ever has to go to war. I hope to God that we never see a bloody combat like we have seen in all the wars that Australians have been involved in. But I also want to make sure that my children and all other children understand how important it is that they remember what those bloody combats were and the sacrifices of the people involved. We have an obligation in this Chamber: we have an obligation as Australians to respect, to revere and to honour. If we manage to maintain that obligation, the true spirit of Anzac, and the true spirit of those who have fought and died for this country, will ensure the continued greatness of this country. Lest we forget.
(Lakemba) [3.04 p.m.]: I wish to pay tribute to the spirit of Anzac and, importantly, what Anzac means to the ethos of our great country. Also very importantly, as one of the younger members in the House today, I want to talk about Anzac in terms of how it affects the perception of my generation and preceding generations. World War I had a devastating and dramatic impact on Australia. Some 83 years after the beginning of World War I that impact is still very evident. It is important to put in context the horrific nature of the statistics of World War I, bearing in mind what has already been put to the House by previous speakers. In 1914, at the beginning of World War I, Australia had a population of approximately 4.8 million people. With that small population we were still able to send 417,000 troops with the AIF to Europe to fight in World War I. That says a lot about the spirit and ethos of Australia and Australians when one considers that of those 417,000 troops there was no conscription.
Although there was debate about conscription, the reality is that there were no conscripted troops from Australia to World War I; they were all volunteers. They were all young men from families, leaving wives, children, mothers and fathers behind to go off on what they probably considered to be a great adventure and an exciting time. At the time of the First World War Australia had a nineteenth century mentality. But the very nature of that war and its weaponry put our nineteenth century soldiers well and truly into a twentieth century war. It is also noteworthy, as other honourable members have pointed out in this debate, that Australia came of age in more ways than one with the onset of the war. Brigadier General Bridges, who was in charge of the AIF, insisted at that time that we not be part of the British forces, that we be a separate contingent to Europe. That in itself was very much part of our coming of age, that we went over there as part of the Anzac cause, certainly not as part of a British contingent.
Australian troops had only a few weeks training in Australia before being shipped to Europe. They were supposed to go to England, but they did not quite make it to England because of problems getting ships to England, so they were left in the Suez where they completed their intense training. They had brief experience in action on the Suez Canal when the Suez Canal was attacked by Turkey in February 1915. That was their exposure to front-line attack - very little front-line attack - until they were sent off to the Dardanelles. The Dardanelles campaign really demonstrates what the spirit of Anzac is about. Australian troops suffered tremendous losses as a result of action in the Dardanelles, not to mention the enormous casualty list. That is best put into context by one of the writers at that time, John Masefield, who was also a famous poet. He wrote:
The men jumped out [when they arrived at Gallipoli], waded ashore, charged the enemy with the bayonet, and broke the Turk attack to pieces. The Turks scattered and were pursued and now the scrub-covered cliffs became the scene of the most desperate fighting.
The scattered Turks dropped into the scrub and disappeared. Hidden all over the rough cliffs, under every kind of cover, they sniped the beach or ambushed the little parties of the 3rd Brigade who had rushed the landing. All over the broken hills there were isolated fights to the death, men falling into gullies or being bayoneted; sudden duals, point blank, where men crawling through the scrub met each other and life went to the quicker finger . . .
That quotation demonstrates the incredible devastation of the Gallipoli affront and what it meant to Australians who were thrown head-first into this as the front-line attack - a front-line attack that cost us 8,587 lives during the eight-month campaign in Gallipoli with 19,467 Australian men injured. The Australian men were aged between 17 and 25. Australian, New Zealand, French and Indian forces were engaged at Gallipoli, where 33,000 were killed and 78,000 were injured. The deaths had a devastating impact on our population, which was considerably smaller at that time.
On 25 April several years ago I visited the Somme. I went to Zonnebeke, a small Belgian village a few kilometres from Ypres, which was the site of one of the main front lines during the Somme attack. I was young at the time and I was sobered by what I saw; it brought home to me what happened to our troops. An archway in Zonnebeke displays the names of the Australian troops who were stationed there. Approximately 3,300 soldiers died while trying to ensure that the small village remained in the hands of the Belgians. The Australians protected the town for 2½ years against German attack and the people of Zonnebeke still pay tribute to the Australian soldiers who protected their town - at sunrise each morning they play the Last Post.
When I was visiting Zonnebeke I met a man called Frank - I do not remember his last name - who was a World War I veteran. I presumed that Frank was visiting Zonnebeke as a tourist and was catching up with colleagues and friends. However, he told me he had met a Belgian woman in 1917, married her and stayed in Zonnebeke. Speaking to Frank was like delving into a history book of that period. He had not been back to Australia, so he had not seen the Sydney Harbour Bridge. He asked me what it looked like and what impact it had on Sydney. Frank contributed to the protection of Zonnebeke, but he had not forgotten about Australia and what it meant to be Australian. He was proud to be Australian. Frank took me to the war cemetery at Zonnebeke, where I saw the 3,300 white crosses in memory of the Australians who died in the town. That sight brought to mind the following verse of a song that was written by Eric Bogle:
The sun’s shining now on these green fields of France
The warm wind blows gently and the red poppies dance
The trenches have vanished, long under the plough
No gas, no barbed-wire, no guns firing now
But here in this graveyard, it's No Man's Land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
Those words bring home to me what war and devastation mean. There is debate in the community about Anzac Day, the RSL has put forward arguments, there is concern about Super League’s involvement, and so on. I acknowledge the comments of the honourable member for Monaro in this regard. We must bring Anzac Day, the spirit of Anzac and the history of Anzac to the attention of our youth by whatever means are possible. The youth of today are desensitised to such events; they are far removed from them. We must ensure that our children and our children's children have the opportunity to understand Australia's role in history, particularly the role that the Anzacs played in developing this country and in ensuring our future. If we lose sight of that, we lose sight of our future. Schoolchildren lack an understanding of the importance of Australia during World War I, World War II, the Korean War - [Time expired
(Murray) [3.14 p.m.]: I feel honoured to join the honourable member for Bulli, the honourable member for Monaro, the honourable member for Waratah, the Deputy Leader of the National Party, the honourable member for Bathurst, the honourable member for Lane Cove and the honourable member for Lakemba in this debate on Anzac Day. On 25 April 1915 Australia and its
Allies - New Zealand, India, England and France - fought a bloody battle that no-one should have had to fight. Unfortunately, a buoy was placed in unchartered waters and the currents moved it almost one kilometre along to what is now known as Anzac Cove. If our soldiers had landed one kilometre further north, they may have won that battle. Gallipoli was a cruel and savage campaign that lasted 259 days. A 1,000-foot hill rises above Anzac Cove, where the Turks were waiting for our soldiers. Australians should be proud of their ancestors, the Anzacs, who fought so bravely.
I have visited Gallipoli and it was a moving experience, with memorials and graves maintained by the Turks and the Allies. A museum displays photos that highlight the tragedy of war, equipment, clothing and shovels. It maintains the memory of 82 years ago. Approximately one million soldiers were involved, with 500,000 on each side. It is tragic that 500,000 people were declared missing, injured or dead. The penalty was enormous. Approximately 8,000 soldiers are buried on the peninsular in Turkey. World War 1 was the first major war that Australia and New Zealand participated in, and Australia made a huge contribution. The Turks were prepared for the arrival of our soldiers; they had control of the highest point of the landscape. It is interesting to visit the site and to see the trenches - one tunnel stretches almost one kilometre from the highest point down to where our soldiers fought. It is interesting to see how well prepared the Turks were.
From his vantage point at the top of the hill the Turkish commander provided tremendous leadership. Because of the height of the hill he was in an excellent position to survey the battle and issue instructions, and that made the situation extremely difficult for the Allies. Unfortunately because the landing site was wrong there were grave consequences. Russia was in need of supplies and ships endeavoured to help but were lost in the narrow passage of the Dardanelles, and the landing became a spear point for control. Two British warships tried to get through but were lost. It is tragic that several hundred soldiers lost their lives in the Dardanelles, or the Narrows, as it was called. Food and supplies could not reach Russia, which at that time was going through drought and hardship. Our Allies, particularly Britain and France, tried to assist Russia at that time.
In peacetime, the war graves and beautifully maintained memorials kept under a peacetime agreement at Anzac Cove commemorate the lives that were lost. For members of this Parliament and servicemen who are invited to speak on Anzac Day, it is a privilege to have visited the area and have an appreciation of what our allied soldiers went through during that difficult time. The new generation of Turks are ashamed of what happened through their alliance with Germany and wish it had never occurred. On my visit to Anzac Cove I was able to gain an appreciation of what the Turks now feel. They are extremely upset that their forefathers fought against Australians, British, Indians, French and New Zealanders.
We have not learnt the lesson that when an aggressor tries to take control of others by force, wars do not achieve their purpose; and unfortunately we will not learn. In the Northern Hemisphere dramatic changes are taking place, such as the alliance of West and East Germany in more recent years, and Russia still needs support, though thankfully it has become a peaceful nation. It is tragic that central parts of the world are still in conflict. We in the Southern Hemisphere have been fortunate that our land has only been entered by an aggressor once, during the Second World War. Consequently, Australia has always rallied to help its Allies in the Northern Hemisphere, the Middle East and other areas, particularly Korea and Vietnam.
I pay a tribute to the Returned Soldiers League. The men and women who fought for our nation - as epitomised by the Anzacs - have developed their service clubs in memory of our loved ones. The clubs provide human comfort and benefits to returned servicemen and women. They stand as monuments. Australia and New Zealand have more monuments and memorials than any other country in the world. RSL clubs provide facilities for the enjoyment of peacetime. They provide a wonderful service to the community, including funding for welfare programs and sporting facilities.
A book entitled The Anzacs
was recently released. It is unfortunate that only a little more than 20 Anzacs are still alive in New Zealand and Australia. Apparently one boy put his age up so that he could fight as an Anzac in the Second World War, and his father put his age down so that he could also fight. Unfortunately the father became a Japanese prisoner of war. May God help us to keep up the wonderful tradition of Anzac Day. For those who paid the supreme sacrifice, may they rest in peace. Lest We Forget.
(Wollongong) [3.24 p.m.]: It is a great privilege to speak in this debate. Much has been said of the contribution made by many in a number of theatres of war, and particularly by those who made the supreme sacrifice. I draw to the attention of the House another great sacrifice that we
do not eulogise to the same extent: that made by the families, relatives and friends of those who did not return and those who did return but who were significantly affected by their wartime experiences. I grew up in a small country town of just over 500 people, where it is difficult to keep one's personal feelings private and where the depth of feeling and suffering may be common knowledge within the community. It was part of the Anzac Day commemoration that cubs and scouts participated in the parade and in the service held in the town's memorial hall. The impact and reaction of adults, particularly mothers and widows, is indelibly marked on my memory.
As a child of seven or eight years of age I became patently aware that those who had lost a son or husband in the war found it impossible to control those deep feelings of loss. That highlighted the fact that the impact of war does not cease at its cessation. I can remember hearing my father, uncles and others speak of men who had returned from war, and suggest that they were different to how they were before the war. I remember one fellow had a reputation for being an excellent fencer but on his return from the war he became an alcoholic. People were willing to employ him on the understanding that he had to be actually taken out to the farm on Monday morning, otherwise he would not turn up, that he would not do much work on Monday, but would do the equivalent of five days work from Tuesday through to Friday. People accepted that he would be back in town Friday evening and would be totally besotted by alcohol for the rest of the weekend. I remember a number of men were in that category.
My brother was a conscript in Vietnam and was selected to undertake officer training at Scheyville, a temporary officer training unit. He served in Vietnam in charge of a tank group. On one occasion, because of damage to tanks and the isolation of some infantry, he was required to lead the tank group into action. The only way he could communicate with other tanks was to stand exposed in the command turret of his tank. The firepower was such that on one occasion a rocket was directed at his tank. Fortunately he was able to duck but the fins of the rocket cut his back. The operation continued and the infantry were rescued and brought safely back to base. My brother was awarded the Military Cross.
That experience has clearly marked my brother and, from discussions I have had with his wife on a number of occasions, it has impacted on his family also. It needs to be acknowledged and put on the record that war is an experience that does not finish at the conclusion of hostilities, but that many people pay the price for the remainder of their lives. It even spills over into the next generation. It gives me pride to speak in this debate. Nonetheless, we should be conscious of the significance of the occasion. Lest we forget.
(Davidson) [3.30 p.m.]: I am honoured on this occasion to join with my colleagues in speaking about the Anzac spirit and our responsibility to ensure that it is maintained. As I understand it, on Anzac Day this Friday only one Gallipoli veteran will attend the parade. That is reason for us to pause and think that it will not be long before there are no longer any Gallipoli veterans with us. It is incumbent upon all of us to pass on to future generations, and for them to understand and pass on to the next generation, what Anzac is about, what it embodies and embraces.
I come from a generation that essentially has not gone to war or experienced war first hand, so I cannot appreciate the circumstances to the extent of those who have participated in war or who have lost friends or relatives. However, I can certainly respect what they did and the sacrifices they made. I have been fortunate to visit memorials in England, France, Malaysia, Singapore and Korea. I have seen innumerable names listed on the memorials and seen the rows and rows of graves beneath which lie the remains of Australian and other servicemen. They are stark reminders that not all of us have the opportunity to see.
As the honourable member for Bathurst and the honourable member for Lakemba said, the local people near those overseas memorials greatly appreciate the risks taken and the sacrifices made by our servicemen in time of war - and they still remember and honour those sacrifices. It is important that we maintain the relevance of Anzac Day for future generations. We have all seen the black-and-white photos of World War I and the stuttering films. We have heard the disgraceful statistics of war and have seen the many pictures of destruction that bring back shocking memories of those times. There is a risk that current and future generations will become desensitised by the repetition of those images. We must ensure that children understand the messages and the lessons that come from those days.
Yesterday I commended Forestville Returned Services League Sub-branch for the role it is playing in this regard. I am sure many other RSL clubs play a similar role. The Forestville sub-branch involves almost 50 young people's groups through schools, community groups and organisations such as the
scouts. They paid tribute last Sunday to the memory of the Anzacs. That is only a small part of the way in which the RSL can ensure that the message of Anzac Day endures. We should be looking further than that. We should be encouraging RSL clubs at national and State levels to involve young people as far as possible, to ensure that the message and the spirit of Anzac are maintained among schoolchildren. It is sacrosanct. It should not be tarnished. It should not be diluted through organisations seeking commercial advantage.
We should be passionate about the spirit of Anzac. It is not for sale. It belongs to every one of us and we all have a stake in it. We should encourage our children to wear the medals of their grandfathers, to march, to stand with their parents at Anzac services. We must ensure that they understand the Anzac spirit, which came to the fore in adversity. It embodies the camaraderie, the resourcefulness, the initiative, the mateship and the spirit that came out of Gallipoli and many other theatres of war. We all have a responsibility to make sure that the message endures. We must remember; we must learn. Lest we forget.
(Auburn) [3.35 p.m.]: I rise in regard to one who did not come back, my father's brother, my uncle Athol Nagle. I read to the House an extract from a letter written to my auntie on 27 May 1946 by my uncle's commanding officer, Captain D. J. Duffy. He wrote:
I would like you to know, Mrs Nagle that Athol's death was a great shock to me and that I suffered a very great loss - certainly I don't try to put it on a plane with your sad loss! But please believe me when I tell you that Athol's loss was the one that I felt most heavily of all and one which I will never really forget. I thought of him a lot just after it happened and I could never get it out of my mind during my long period as a P.O.W. and found myself constantly thinking about Athol and wondering how he would have fared in all the misery, sickness and upset of P.O.W. life. Sometimes when I saw suffering - drawn out death from starvation and disease I was thankful that if Athol had to go that he had died a quick clean painless death - a warrior's death on the field of battle - not the long drawn out miserable broken down slave's death that so many of our fine boys did suffer. Athol, Mrs Nagle was the first man of the A.I.F. in Malaya to give his life on the field of battle in the hour of his country's need. He lost his life in the jungle on the 14 January about a quarter past 5 (pm) just after we had successfully ambushed some 600 to 800 japs. Athol, brave soul was with me and a small part of my company (some 30 odd in number) that had lost contact with the remainder. We were making our way slowly through very thick jungle when we heard Japanese in the vicinity. We could not see them and hoped to avoid them as we feared that we would be heavily outnumbered and had some wounded men with us. I was afraid of our small party being ambushed . . . when suddenly wild firing broke out. It was a chance bullet that got him but at least it was swift and clean for it was reported to me that he had been hit and I went across to him only a matter of 10 or 12 yards and he had already passed away. I must confess that I was quite stunned as I sat behind him there and held him in my arms - the light was not good as it was only about ¾ hour to darkness and the light in the enclosed jungle was feeble at the best of times. To describe my sensations at the time is somewhat difficult as I found it hard to believe that Athol had left us. Hard to believe that it was Athol - for not only was it my first casualty but I always regarded Athol as a close personal friend and thought a great deal of him and was in fact very fond of my quiet loyal orderly room sergeant. I made quite sure that it was Athol, took his discs from around his neck - took his rifle and pay book and lay him so that he looked as though he was sleeping peacefully. I would have liked to have either taken his body back with us or to have buried him there but time and the conditions that we were placed in did not permit it as I had wounded men with me - another man having been struck in the face during the same firing in which Athol lost his life - and as I had my responsibilities to the living I had to content myself with saying a simple prayer over him - commending him to God's mercy and care. As we moved off I took a last look at him and he looked so peaceful - it was hard to believe that he was not just sleeping but alas it was sleep too profound. That is really all that I can tell you of Athol except to say that it was my ambition to go back up into the jungle to look for Athol's remains and to see them interred . . .
In the circumstances he was unable to do so. Mr Speaker, my uncle was born here. His grandfather came to Australia in 1838. My uncle gave his life for his nation and his family. Lest we forget.
(Pittwater) [3.38 p.m.]: It is with great honour that I join in supporting the motion moved by the honourable member for Bulli to commemorate Anzac Day and those who served and fought for the Australian people in the First World War. As a member of this Chamber who has not lived through or known any war involving Australia I believe that it is important for the younger generation to remember and to commemorate Anzac Day. I took the initiative to write to all schools and parents and citizens organisations in the electorate of Pittwater asking them to encourage students to take part not simply in Anzac ceremonies at the schools but in community ceremonies on Anzac Day.
I was keen to ensure that young people do not simply consider Anzac Day as another day off school or, as mentioned in the current debate, another day to go and watch a game of football. They should consider it, next to Australia Day, as Australia's greatest national day. It is a day of commemoration. Young people should take the opportunity to participate in their communities’ ceremonies of remembrance and celebration of Australia's freedom and peace. It is difficult for young Australians today to grasp the concept of freedom due to the fact that those who have not experienced war will often view the battle for freedom as a cause that they do not understand. Therefore, the concept of freedom and its
importance to the people who fought for it is commemorated on Anzac Day. As a member of Parliament for the first time on this Anzac Day, I will have the great honour to participate in Anzac Day celebrations in my community, to march with the Returned Services League clubs and to proudly wear my grandfather's medals. I look forward to the importance of Anzac Day being remembered by younger generations as the Anzacs themselves die off.
Members and officers of the House stood in their places.
Motion agreed to.