If only Wikileaker Julian Assange was in the Government and could leak the actual footage of these mysterious focus groups that found Anzac Day was ‘divisive’ because of multiculturalism.
It’s hard to imagine who, specifically, is planning to be offended by the World War I centenary commemorations. Unless some dopey focus group leader who desperately needed something to put in the ‘possible issues’ column sketched some outrageous possibilities such as gory re-enactments of Australian soldiers killing Turks, or Vietnamese.
According to today’s Daily Telegraph, the Federal Government commissioned research and focus group testing that found multiculturalism means commemorating the centenary of Anzac Day is a “double-edged sword” and a “potential area of divisiveness”.
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So the Federal Government is planning to create some kind of Anzac Day brand or motif for the 2015 centenary of the Australian landing at Gallipoli. What a frightful thought.
A cartoon wombat called “Digger”, perhaps, or two M&M-like mascots coined “Heads” and “Tails”?
Here’s a goodie: how about a paunchy Aussie bloke with a broad Ostrayan twang and a stubby of VB (actually, make that Coopers now that Foster’s has gone offshore), urging us to celebrate Anzac Day with the catchcry “Just Dig It” or “Anzie, Anzie, Anzie, Oi Oi Oi”?
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He’ll wake up on Christmas Day the way he now does every day – without his Daddy. He’s just four, a little nugget of a boy. In years to come, he may remember the time he stood between Mummy and the Prime Minister, as the big coffin with the flag drove past. But, for now, something’s missing: there’s a hole in his family where his dad used to be.
“They’re tough little buggers,” his mum, Reigan Langley, tells me, her words fading to tears as she, her three daughters and her son face their first Christmas without the man around whom their lives pivoted. Todd Langley, the 28th Australian soldier to fall in Afghanistan, won’t be home for Christmas.
As the rest of us fret over the turkey or fuss over finishing touches, for Langley, this festive season is one of aching loss. Houses festooned with fairy lights, shopping centres tinkling with carols, even a nativity scene with its complete family must rasp like an untuned violin against her heart.
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As we approach the Centenary of World War I, we start to think about the tremendous sacrifice so many of our diggers made. It is unimaginable to think that over 60,000 young men died in Gallipoli and the Western Front.
When you visit the battlefields of France and Belgium and the cemeteries and memorials you see countless numbers of white crosses honoring the fallen. Many of those crosses are for soldiers who are “Known Only to God”.
At the various memorials such as VC Corner and Menin Gate the names of those who were missing in action are engraved in stone. The Australian Government’s official estimation is there are approximately 18,000 Diggers lying under the fields of France and Belgium.
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Australian Soldiers are the strongest tribe in Uruzgan Province and it is this profile that wins hearts and minds in Afghanistan, not well-meaning gestures of handing out bags of money.
It is that strategic change over the last 18 months that is now paying off in Uruzgan. Afghans respond to what some may call traditional characteristics of bravery, courage, honour and revenge. They are also very polite, even though tomorrow they may kill you. If you could bring back Alexander the Great, he would say we are fighting the same people, using the same tactics they used against him 2,000 years ago.
Despite what Australia’s David Kilcullen, the architect of this new pop military version of counterinsurgency (COIN), will have you believe, this is not about a kindler gentler war. There has been a grave misrepresentation of COIN. In fact, unlike author of The Strongest Tribe former Marine Commander Bing West, who has spent endless nights bunkered down under fire with troops, I doubt whether Kilcullen would have been to very far off Route One.
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The intonation is crucial.
Australians use the phrase in two quite different ways, and the clue to whether what Mr Abbott said in Afghanistan was disrespectful or not lies in the modulation of his voice.
Did he say ‘shit happens’, meaning ‘get over it, suck it up, spilt milk’? Or did he say ‘shit happens’, meaning ‘nothing could have been done, it was fate, or God’s will.’
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News that our Diggers have rejected Kevin Rudd’s pessimistic view of the war in Afghanistan is no surprise.
A foreign minister who derides the French and German contribution to the conflict as nothing more than ‘organising folk dancing festivals’ when each nation has suffered nearly 50 casualties is insensitive and out of touch.
Like our European friends Australia’s participation in Afghanistan is part of a broader international effort that is making considerable progress.
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The timing is a co-incidence but it’s a terrible spectacle nonetheless.
As we’re bringing another three Australian Diggers home in coffins from Afghanistan, and increasing our civilian presence there, the man in charge of the allied military efforts has been dragged back to Washington because of something he said to a Rolling Stone journalist.
I’m not sure who comes out of this looking worse, President Obama or his General Stanley McChrystal.
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