The One Day of the Year: Speech by The Hon. Charlie Lynn MLC

Extracted from “ANZAC Day” Debate, NSW, Parliamentary Debates Legislative Council, 4 April 2012, commencing p. 10593 and annotated as applicable:

The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN (Parliamentary Secretary) [11.05 a.m.]: I move:

1. That this House acknowledges the service and sacrifice of our war veterans during the Second World War from 1939 to 1945.

2. That this House notes that:

(a) Anzac Day this year will commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the war in the Pacific,

(b) this was the first time in our history that Australian mandated territory had been attacked and invaded by a foreign enemy,

(c) our northern cities and towns were subject to more than 100 hostile bombing missions by Japanese military aircraft,

(d) Australian ships were sunk off the east and west coast by Japanese warships, and

(e) Japanese mini-submarines entered Sydney Harbour.

It is appropriate that on the last sitting day before Anzac Day this year this House reflects on the meaning of Anzac and pay its respects to the spirit of Anzac.

Anzac represents a spirit. It is an inspiration which embodies the qualities of courage, discipline and sacrifice. That spirit and tradition sustained our forces in many battles and trials dating from the landing of Gallipoli to this day. The Gallipoli tradition laid down the rules and created a high and enviable standard of conduct and attitude. It brought forth many great moments of heroism and self-sacrifice. We saw this on both sides, where Turkish forces also fought with great bravery and courage and were judged worthy and honourable opponents. Indeed, the respect that was generated between both forces is probably best represented in the words of Colonel Mustafa Kemal, who fought valiantly at Gallipoli and, subsequently, at Ataturk. He became the first President of modern-day Turkey. In 1934 he wrote a tribute to the Anzacs killed at Gallipoli that read:

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore, rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us, where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours … you the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now … in peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well.

The Anzac legend that originated in Gallipoli in 1915 was re-affirmed in the conviction of Australian and New Zealand soldiers in the other great battlefields of the First World War that followed—from the Middle East at Beersheba, modern day Israel, where our soldiers victoriously participated in the last fully fledged cavalry charge in modern warfare; to the mud, blood and barbed wire of the Western Front of France, where over half a million Australian and New Zealand soldiers fought and 46,000 Australians and 12,500 New Zealanders died.

Names like Villers-Bretonneux, Bullecourt, Passchendaele, Fromelles, Le Quesnoy, Pozieres and Dernancourt became part of Australian and New Zealand military folklore. Those names were replicated in the names of streets and newly formed post-war suburbs across Australia and New Zealand.

ANZAC Day Address by Captain Dale Stephens RAN at Harvard University, 2010:

It represents a spirit – an inspiration, which embodies the qualities of courage, discipline and sacrifice. That spirit and tradition sustained our forces in many later battles and trials, and it resonates to this day. The Gallipoli tradition laid down the rules and created a high and enviable standard of conduct and attitude. The conflict in Gallipoli brought forth many great moments of heroism and self-sacrifice. We saw this on both sides where Turkish forces also fought with great bravery and courage and were judged worthy and honourable opponents. Indeed, the respect that was generated between both forces is probably best represented in the words of Colonel Mustafa Kemal, who fought valiantly at Gallipoli and subsequently, as Ataturk, became the first President of modern day Turkey. He wrote a tribute in 1934 to the ANZAC’s killed at Gallipoli that read as follows:
‘Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us, where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours…you, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now … in peace. After having lost their lives on this land. They have become our sons as well.’

The ANZAC legend that originated in Gallipoli in 1915 was re-affirmed in the conviction of Australian and New Zealand soldiers in the other great battlefields of the First World War that followed. From the Middle East at Beersheba, modern day Israel, where our soldiers victoriously participated in the last fully fledged cavalry charge in modern warfare; to the mud, blood and barbed wire of the western front of France where over half a million Australian and New Zealand soldiers fought and 46,000 Australians and 12,500 New Zealanders died. Where names like Villers-Bretonneux, Bullecourt, Passchendeale, Fromelles, Le Quesnoy, Pozieres and Dernancourt became part of Australian and New Zealand military folklore and were replicated in the names of streets and newly formed post-war suburbs across Australia and New Zealand.

Lynn:

So when we pause to commemorate Anzac Day each year we remember places such as Lone Pine, Pozieres, Passchendaele, Kokoda, Tobruk, Singapore, Maryang San, Long Tan, Iraq, Afghanistan and other places—there are so many of them. We remember people. We remember the 60,000 dead from World War I. We remember the 8,000 who died as prisoners of war in World War II. We remember the thousands of Australians who died in the skies over Europe, the 300 lost in Korea, the 500 who died in Vietnam, and those who have recently been killed in action in Afghanistan.

ANZAC Day National Commemmorative Address by Les Carlyon, at the Australian War Memorial, 2011

Today is about remembering places, the names of which are heavy with meaning for Australians.

Places such as Lone Pine and Pozieres and Passchendaele …

Kokoda and Tobruk and Singapore …

Maryang San and Long Tan …

And other places … so many of them.

And we remember people.   We remember the sixty thousand dead from World War I.

We remember the eight thousand who died as prisoners of war in World War II.   We remember the thousands of Australians who died in the skies over Europe … and the three hundred lost in Korea … and the five hundred who died in Vietnam.

This brings us to the seventieth anniversary of the war in the Pacific. This was the war that threatened our homeland, Australia. This is a great opportunity for us to put that time in perspective. Over recent years I have been somewhat concerned with new academic research into the war in the Pacific. Modern historians are saying, “Really, there was no need for us to worry too much because Australia was never going to be invaded; the Japanese were never going to invade us.” That may well be the case now—the vision of hindsight is a great tool. However, it was not the case then. They were not aware of it then.

Nobody put the situation as it existed in 1942 better than Prime Minister John Curtin in his speech to the American people as Australia faced the prospect of invasion by the Japanese. Curtin realised that our mother country, Britain, could no longer help us in this hour of need and he therefore reached out to the United States of America. His speech at that time captures the moment. It is the feeling at the time that we should never forget and should always honour. We should not reinterpret events as some people are trying to do. I quote some segments from Curtin’s speech:

On the great waters of the Pacific Ocean war now breathes its bloody steam. From the skies of the Pacific pours down a deathly hail. In the countless islands of the Pacific the tide of war flows madly. For you in America; for us in Australia, it is flowing badly.

The Australian Government has fought for its people. We never regarded the Pacific as a segment of the great struggle. We did not insist that it was the primary theatre of war, but we did say, and events have so far, unhappily, proved us right, that the loss of the Pacific can be disastrous. Who among us, contemplating the future on that day in December last when Japan struck like an assassin at Pearl Harbour, at Manila, at Wake and Guam, would have hazarded a guess that by March the enemy would be astride all the south-west Pacific except General MacArthur’s gallant men, and Australia and New Zealand. But that is the case. And, realising very swiftly that it would be the case, the Australian Government sought a full and proper recognition of the part the Pacific was playing in the general strategic disposition of the world’s warring forces. It was, therefore, but natural that, within twenty days after Japan’s first treacherous blow, I said on behalf of the Australian Government that we looked to America as the paramount factor on the democracies’ side of the Pacific.

There is no belittling of the Old Country in this outlook. Britain has fought and won in the air the tremendous battle of Britain. Britain has fought, and with your strong help, has won, the equally vital battle of the Atlantic. She has a paramount obligation to supply all possible help to Russia. She cannot, at the same time, go all out in the Pacific. We Australians, with New Zealand, represent Great Britain here in the Pacific – we are her sons – and on us the responsibility falls. I pledge to you my word we will not fail. You, as I have said, must be our leader. We will pull knee to knee with you for every ounce of our weight.

He went on to say:

We are, then, committed, heart and soul, to total warfare. How far, you may ask me, have we progressed along that road? I may answer you this way. Out of every ten men in Australia four are wholly engaged in war as members of the fighting forces or making the munition and equipment to fight with. The other six, besides feeding and clothing the whole ten and their families, have to produce the food and wool and metals which Britain needs for her very existence. We are not, of course, stopping at four out of ten. We had over three when Japan challenged our life and liberty. The proportion is now growing every day. On the one hand we are ruthlessly cutting out unessential expenditure so as to free men and women for war work; and on the other, mobilizing woman-power to the utmost to supplement the men. From four out of ten devoted to war, we shall pass to five and six out of ten. We have no limit.

We have no qualms here. There is no fifth column in this country.

That was in 1942. He continued:

We are all the one race – the English speaking race. We will not yield easily a yard of our soil. We have great space here and tree by tree, village by village, and town by town we will fall back if we must. That will occur only if we lack the means of meeting the enemy with parity in materials and machines. For, remember, we are the Anzac breed. Our men stormed Gallipoli; they swept through the Libyan desert; they were the “rats” of Tobruk; they were the men who fought under “bitter, sarcastic, pugnacious Gordon Bennett” down Malaya and were still fighting when the surrender of Singapore came. These men gave of their best in Greece and Crete; they will give more than their best on their own soil, when their hearths and homes lie under enemy threat.

Our air force are in the Kingsford-Smith tradition. You have, no doubt, met quite a lot of them in Canada; the Nazis have come to know them over Hamburg and Berlin and in paratroop landings in France. Our naval forces silently do their share on the seven seas.

I am not boasting to you. But were I to say less I would not be paying proper due to a band of men who have been tested in the crucible of world wars and hallmarked as pure metal. Our fighting forces are born attackers; we will hit the enemy wherever we can, as often as we can, and the extent of it will be measured only by the weapons in our hands.

We fight with what we have and what we have is our all. We fight for the same free institutions that you enjoy. We fight so that, in the words of Lincoln, “government of the people, for the people, by the people, shall not perish from the earth”. Our legislature is elected the same as is yours; and we will fight for it, and for the right to have it, just as you will fight to keep the Capitol at Washington the meeting place of freely-elected men and women representative of a free people.

Be assured of the calibre of our national character. This war may see the end of much that we have painfully and slowly built in our 150 years of existence. But even though all of it go, there will still be Australians fighting on Australian soil until the turning point be reached, and we will advance over blackened ruins, through blasted and fire-swept cities, across scorched plains, until we drive the enemy into the sea. I give you the pledge of my country. There will always be an Australian Government and there will always be an Australian people. We are too strong in our hearts; our spirit is too high; the justice of our cause throbs too deeply in our being for that high purpose to be overcome.

I may be looking down a vista of weary months; of soul-shaking reverses; of grim struggle; of back-breaking work. But as surely as I sit here talking to you across the war-tossed Pacific Ocean I see our flag; I see Old Glory; I see the proud banner of the heroic Chinese; I see the standard of the valiant Dutch.

And I see them flying high in the wind of liberty over a Pacific from which aggression has been wiped out; over peoples restored to freedom; and flying triumphant as the glorified symbols of united nations strong in will and in power to achieve decency and dignity, unyielding to evil in any form.

That was a powerful and inspiring speech by our leader at the time, Prime Minister John Curtin, a great man. It is a speech that every Australian school child should know, understand and digest because that is the spirit that is enduring. That is our legacy today from them. We do not need to reinterpret that. We do not need modern historians being paid to say, “Oh, Curtin was a bit over the top. It wasn’t really that bad. They didn’t really mean to invade us.” When you read the speeches at the time and learn about the battles of the time you realise they knew our freedom and liberty were under grave threat. We must never forget that. It is up to us as custodians of the spirit of Anzac to ensure it is never forgotten.

We in the Parliament are the people who write the policy for education. We are the people who approve the legislation to support that policy. We have to take charge. We are the link generation. It was our grandfathers, fathers and brothers who served in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and now our sons are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. We must ensure that this history is never forgotten. The spirit of Anzac is part of our psyche; it is a source of great pride. We have to make a pledge to get this into our education system as part of our history. I am not saying that that is going to turn us into a sabre-rattling militaristic society as some would suggest. It is not that at all.

It is commemorating the sacrifice that was made for the peace, prosperity and freedom that we enjoy in Australia today and that we too often take for granted. If we take it for granted and let it slip, it will be reinterpreted, different stories will be told and different agendas will be introduced. There is no need for it to be interpreted as it is something special to us. Major General Michael Jeffery, who I had the great pleasure to serve under as his chief staff officer at Holsworthy with the First Brigade, went on to become Governor-General. He said:

I believe that those who served, including our fallen, would want us to get back to the fundamental principles of what a decent life is all about—principles that they believed in and fought for, and are still fighting for, or upholding, in East Timor, the Solomons, Iraq, the Gulf and numerous other trouble spots around the world.

Lynn (following quote not attributed in Hansard)

Those principles might include a spirit of service before self, an intrinsic sense of honesty and fair play in dealing with others, a sense of individual and group responsibility, a firm and practising belief in the essential spirituality of man, a total commitment to family values as the basis of a just and caring society, and finally an absolute conviction that true democratic freedom must be nurtured and protected at all times when threatened by evil, including the scourge of global terrorism. It is worth fighting for and, if necessary, dying for. That is the legacy.

ANZAC Address by Major General Michael Jeffrey, Governor General, 2004, reported by the Sydney Morning Herald:

Those principles might include:

a spirit of service before self;

an intrinsic sense of honesty and fair play in our dealings with others;

a sense of individual and group responsibility;

a firm and practising belief in the essential spirituality of man;

a total commitment to family values as the basis of a just and caring society;

and, finally, an absolute conviction that true democratic freedom must be nurtured and protected at all times, and – when threatened by evil including the scourge of global terrorism – is worth fighting for and, if necessary, dying.

We need to tell Canberra that it does not have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for special market research groups to develop a logo for the Centenary of Anzac. We have a logo: It is called the rising sun badge—that is the logo for Anzac. We do not need marketing spivs to try to design something else. That rising sun badge is traditional, fundamental and everybody understands it. We do not need focus groups; we just need to ask communities in Australia, “How would you like to commemorate Anzac in your community your way to honour your people?” Their names are listed on every war memorial in every town and city around Australia. How do we honour them?

We have to say it has taken 100 years for us to establish our Anzac tradition; who we are as Australians and what are our values. We are the link generation and we have to ask, “What do we have to do to ensure that we put in place education systems to interpret Anzac so that it lasts for the next 100 years?” That is our job as parliamentarians across the total political spectrum. We have to go where the young minds are—that is, into the social media—to tell them the stories. When I take young people across the Kokoda Trail I tell them the stories. I stand them at the end of the Kokoda Trail before the almost 4,000 headstones at Bomana War Cemetery where kids as young as they are lie. I say:

I want you to look these headstones in the eye and when you go home if you commit to be as good as you can be, at whatever you choose to do or be, they will know that their sacrifice was worth it. But if you go home and you do not use your God given potential to the maximum then perhaps they would question whether the sacrifice was worth it.

I am proud to say that the young people who get that message and take that journey have not failed us, and will not fail us. They are what I call the custodians of the spirit of Anzac and the spirit of Kokoda, and they do us proud.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s