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Sunday 26th April 2015 - 7:07 pm
Comments Off on The ANZAC myth

The ANZAC myth

by Alan Thornhill


There can be no room now for doubt about the importance of national myths.

Not after the huge turn-outs we saw, on ANZAC Day, marking the centenary of our invasion of Gallipoli.

Yes, it was ill-judged.

A military disaster.

But it has become an occasion for reflection, too.

The most eloquent, perhaps, dates back to 1934.

It was the work of Mustafa Kemal, now better known as Atatürk.

In a tribute to the ANZAC troops who died at Gallipoli in 1915, he wrote:-

“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 here in this country of ours … You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

These words are inscribed in the Kemal Atatürk Memorial, on Anzac Parade, Canberra.

Very few of the estimated 120,000 Australians who turned out in Canberra for the Dawn service on ANZAC day, would have seen that inscription.

Not in that stormy weather last Saturday,

Those words are particularly poignant now, though, with fresh contingents of ANZAC troops being sent to the Middle east.

Not to fight this time.

But to train the “Mehmets” – in Atatürk’s words – to fight each other.

There has to be a better way.

But what?

One analyst was asked, in an ABC interview last week, if anything good ever came of war.

His reply was both unhesitating and surprising.

“Big government,” he said.

That was certainly true, in Turkey’s case.

Mustafa Kemal was born Salonika, which is now Thessalonika, Greece.

He pursued a military career with the Turkish Army in Syria.

As a member of the Young Turk revolutionary movement which deposed the Sultan in 1909, he took part in the war of 1911–1912 against Italy in Libya.

He returned to Gallipoli in 1915 as commander of the 19th Division, the main reserve of the Turkish Fifth Army, and opposed the Anzac landing in April 1915.

Kemal was to be Turkey’s first president, when that country became a republic in 1923.

His vision of Turkey, as a modern nation, was realised.

During Kemal’s 15-year rule, many sweeping political, legal and socio-economic changes were made.

Modern Turkey had been born.

In 1933, Kemal said:”I look to the world with an open heart full of pure feelings and friendship”.

In 1934, he accepted the title “Atatürk,” which means “father of Turkey,”

Last week, the Prime Ministers of Australia and Turkey announced that they will unite in the fight against terrorism.

Tony Abbott, was in Turkey to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the landing of Australian soldiers at Gallipoli, when that announcement was made.

The Australian PM said he – and his Turkish counterpart – Ahmet Davutolu had agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation to counter terrorism, tackle terrorist financing and mitigate threats from foreign fighters.

“Turkey is on the front-line in the fight against DAESH and plays a crucial role in these efforts,” Mr Abbott said.

He said, too, that Australia welcomed Turkey’s renewed efforts to prevent young people from using Turkey’s border as the entry point to joining DAESH and other terrorist organizations through tougher border controls and increased information sharing.

“Both parties underlined the importance of identifying and stopping foreign terrorist fighters travelling to conflict zones, at their country of departure,” he added.

Perhaps big government has its uses, after all.

Especially as the current alternatives, in the Middle East, are far from enticing.

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Thursday 23rd April 2015 - 7:52 am
Comments Off on Old foes to co-operate

Old foes to co-operate

by Alan Thornhill

Australia and Turkey are to unite in the fight against terrorism

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who is in Turkey to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the landing of Australian soldiers at Gallipoli, made the announcement.

Mr Abbott said he – and his Turkish counterpart – Ahmet Davuto?lu had agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation to counter terrorism, tackle terrorist financing and mitigate the threats from foreign fighters, during their official bilateral meeting held today in Ankara.

“Turkey is on the front-line in the fight against DAESH and plays a crucial role in these efforts,” Mr Abbott said.

He said Australia welcomes Turkey’s renewed efforts to prevent young people from using Turkey’s border as the entry point to joining DAESH and other terrorist organisations through tougher border controls and increased information sharing.

“Both parties underlined the importance of identifying and stopping foreign terrorist fighters travelling to conflict zones, at their country of departure,” Mr Abbott said.

With over 100 Australians fighting with DAESH in Iraq and Syria – and the arrest this week in Melbourne of young men intent on bringing the violence to Australia – Australia will continue to do all it can to stop foreign fighters,” Mr Abbott declared.

He said there would also be closer co-operation on the issue, between officials of both countries.

Monday 20th April 2015 - 6:33 pm
Comments Off on We’re “dancing with the devil” Wilkie

We’re “dancing with the devil” Wilkie

by Alan Thornhill

Australia is “dancing with the devil” in its intelligence sharing deal with Iran, according to a former intelligence analyst, Andrew Wilkie.

Mr Wilkie, now an independent Tasmanian MP. told the ABC that Iran is the last nation Australia should be swapping sensitive information with.

He said the deal, reached by Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop: “…might be good political theatre for the Government, but it’s complete and utter madness from a security point of view.”

Mr Wilkie said the Iranian government uses torture to extract sensitive information.

Ms Bishop, who has just visited Tehran, announced Iran had agreed to trade information on Australian citizens fighting in Iraq, as part of efforts to counter the Islamic State militia.

“They are in Iraq in places that we are not, they also have a very sophisticated intelligence network so there’s a lot of information that they’ve been gathering,” she added.

But Mr Wilkie was not convinced.

“The announcement by the Foreign Minister that Australia is entering into a security arrangement with the regime in Tehran really should send shudders down the spine of every Australian,” he said.

He said Australia risked being used as a pawn and the information could not be trusted.

“When you start dancing with the devil in a place like Tehran, then we run the risk of becoming almost as bad as those who we dance with,” Mr Wilkie said.

“They are also experts at disinformation.

“…we’ve seen this time and time again.

“…the regime in Iran will tell people whatever they want us to believe.”

Mr Wilkie said he was the only serving member of Parliament who had worked in Australia’s intelligence services and therefore had a unique insight.

“I saw first-hand some of the, and excuse the expression, the crap that was coming out of Iran, which was worse than useless because it was downright misleading,” he said.

He said Australia should not accept intelligence that comes from torture.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor was seeking further details about the deal and would take a steady and considered approach.

“I’m not naive,” Mr Shorten said.

“Iran’s a very sophisticated country with a different view of the world to Australia and so we need to keep our eyes open whenever we deal with them.”

Monday 20th April 2015 - 3:02 pm
Comments Off on Bill Shorten spells out Labor policies

Bill Shorten spells out Labor policies

by Alan Thornhill

Bill Shorten has now sketched the policies he will take to the next Federal election.

Addressing Labor’s National Policy Forum in Sydney today, Mr Shorten set out several goals, saying:-

“We’ve put forward a costed and tested plan to close tax loopholes and crack down on profit-shifting to make sure that multinational companies pay their fair share.”

He said this would ensure:”…a reasonable, equitable revenue measure, raising more than $7 billion over the next decade.

“We’ve called for a national crisis summit on family violence, and promised to convene one within our first 100 days, as part of our determination to ensure every Australian woman is safe in her home, not at the mercy of a postcode lottery of uncertain support,” Mr Shorten added.

And he said:” we’ve offered a constructive proposal for building the next generation of submarines here in Australia – an investment in our national security and our high-skill manufacturing sector.”

The Labor leader said, too, that:” we’ve offered a way forward for our renewable energy sector –providing certainty for investment and jobs in an industry where we should be using our natural and competitive advantages.

“We’ve worked co-operatively on national security, striking the right balance between the liberty of the individual and the safety of our people.

“We’ve urged faster progress on Constitutional Recognition for the first Australians, including a national gathering of Indigenous leaders to build consensus for change.

“And we have committed to a new community-centred focus on reducing Aboriginal incarceration, including a new justice target in Closing the Gap.”

Mr Shorten said his party had now reached the end of the consultation phase, on its policies.

But it would be calling on its members to think deeply, in the months ahead, on the development of its policies.

Saturday 18th April 2015 - 7:06 pm
Comments Off on Show your defiance:PM & Opposition Leader

Show your defiance:PM & Opposition Leader

by Alan Thornhill

Political leaders are urging Australians to turn out in great numbers for ANZAC Day, defying terrorists who planned to disrupt the day’s celebrations in Melbourne.

The terrorists’ plot was foiled this morning, when police launched raids in Melbourne, arresting five men.

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, and Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, later urged Australians to respond by attending ANZAC Day celebrations next Saturday in great numbers.

Speaking to reporters in Sydney, Mr Abbott said:” … people should turn up at Anzac Day events in the largest possible numbers.”

He said that is “….the best thing you can do in the face of those who would do us harm is live your life normally.

“The best sign of defiance that we can give to those who would do us harm is to go about a normal, peaceful, free and fair Australian life.

“…I say to everyone who is thinking of going to an Anzac Day event: please don’t be deterred.

“Turn up in the largest possible numbers to support our country, to support our values and to support our armed forces.”

Mr Shorten endorsed those remarks.

“I know Australians will not let these events disrupt the commemoration of the 100 year anniversary of the first ANZAC landing in Gallipoli,” the Opposition Leader said.

The ABC is reporting that police arrested five men in Melbourne this morning, in a major counter-terrorism operation.

They said two of the men they were planning an Islamic State-inspired terrorist attack on an Anzac Day ceremony.

These two men were identified as an 18-year-old Hallam man and an 18-year-old Hampton Park man.

Another man was arrested for weapons offences and two other men were in custody assisting police with their inquiries.

All were arrested after seven search warrants were executed as part of Operation Rising.

The Australian Federal Police said they believed the two 18-year-olds were plotting an attack to take place on Anzac Day.

AFP Acting Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan said it was believed the attacks were to have involved the use of “edged knives.”

“It is alleged both men were undertaking preparations for a terrorist attack at an Anzac Day activity in Melbourne which included targeting police officers,” he said.

Victorian Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton described the plot as being inspired by Islamic State (IS).

“At this stage we’re comfortable that we have this threat fully contained,” Mr Patton said.

“…we have no information that it was a planned beheading.

” But there was reference to an attack on police,” he told a news conference in Melbourne.

“Some evidence that was collected at a couple of the scenes and some other information we have leads us to believe that this particular matter was ISIS-inspired.”

Acting Deputy Commissioner Gaughan said this morning’s operation involved 200 police officers and was the culmination of Operation Rising.

The ABC said it understands that a number of the arrested men attended the Al Furqan Islamic study centre in South Springvale and were associates of Abdul Numan Haider, who also attended the centre.

Haider was shot and killed by counter-terrorism police in September last year.

Tuesday 14th April 2015 - 4:47 pm
Comments Off on Australia steps up its military training in Iraq

Australia steps up its military training in Iraq

by Alan Thornhill

Australia will commit a military force – of more than 300 defence force personnel – to help train Iraqi soldiers to fight Islamic extremists.

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who announced this today, said the Australian trainers would be drawn largely from the Army’s 7th Brigade, based in Brisbane.

“It is, as I stress, a Building Partner Capacity training mission,” Mr Abbott said.

“It’s not a combat mission.

“But Iraq is a dangerous place.

“It is a dangerous place and I can’t tell you that this is risk-free.”

The Prime Minister said the operation, involving Australian military personnel, would last about two years.

“They will work as part of a combined Task Group alongside about 100 personnel from the New Zealand Defence Force,” he added.

“The mission of the Australian and New Zealand trainers will be to help the Iraqi Government to prepare sufficient forces to maintain the momentum of the counter-attack against ISIL, or Daesh, and regain control of its territory, Mr Abbott said.

He recalled that the Government announced, on March 3. that it had decided to commence preparations to deploy this force.

“This followed requests for an Australian contribution from both the Iraqi and US governments,” Mr Abbott said.

These preparations are now complete and the combined Task Group will deploy to Iraq over the next few weeks.

“The training mission is expected to be fully operational in May 2015.

“The combined Task Group will be stationed at the Taji Military Complex north of Baghdad, working to build the capacity of units of the Iraqi army.

“We will also deploy around 20 personnel to coalition headquarters roles in Iraq.

“The Air Task Group will continue to support coalition air operations,” he added.

“This marks the next phase of Australia’s contribution to the international coalition effort to assist the Iraqi Government to disrupt, degrade and ultimately defeat the Daesh death cult,” Mr Abbott said.

Friday 3rd April 2015 - 6:30 pm
Comments Off on Austerity “not needed here:” economists

Austerity “not needed here:” economists

by Alan Thornhill


These three economists don’t believe in the Easter Bunny.

And – judging from an article they published in The Canberra Times on line today Michael O’Donnell, Charlotte Yates and Sue Williamson – don’t have much time for what the Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman, calls “the Austerity Fairy,” either.

They noted, in their article, that international and Australian academics had met in Canberra last week to discuss the impact of the Federal government’s austerity policies on the public sector.

They noted that:”…. austerity policies are argued by many international economic agencies and the European Union as necessary for some countries to restore economic growth and a continued high standard of living.”

Yet they said:” ….in several countries, notably Australia and Canada, the economic conditions underpinning austerity policies elsewhere, are not present.

“Instead, governments have deployed the rhetoric of austerity to justify cuts to the public sector and to constrain the ability of public service unions to negotiate collective bargaining agreements that maintain and – or – improve the wages and conditions of public sector employees.”

How can they say that?

After all, economics is “the miserable science, isn’t it?

Their views are remarkably suspiciously close to those of the Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman, who writes regularly for The New York Times.

So let’s have a closer look.

They say” “the Australian government is committed to implementing austerity measures to bring the budget into surplus.

And add:”In regard to the public sector, a number of Australian governments, including Labor governments, have used the blunt instrument of an “efficiency dividend” to limit spending.

“Despite the imposition of an efficiency dividend under the Abbott government, the federal budget deficit and government net government debt as a proportion of GDP have expanded at a rapid pace.”

The Statistician may have given us a clue, earlier this week, as to how that happened.

The Bureau reported that while private sector job vacancies rose by a very healthy 4.9 per cent, in the 12 months to the end of February. public sector vacancies leapt by 22.7 per cent.

So there must have been some very noisy desk shuffling going on, somewhere in the public sector, over the past year or so.

But back to our three economists.

They say that in 2014 alone net debt increased by some $60 billion.

But they add that:”overall… Australia’s net debt at 15 per cent of GDP in 2015 remains relatively low compared to other developed economies.”

And they say:”recently, the Prime Minister stated that a budget emergency no longer existed.”

But they add:”the federal government…intends to reduce spending on the public service by outsourcing and privatising government functions as part of its agenda to shrink the overall size of the Australian public service.”

“Curtailing wage rises forms yet another plank of austerity measures,” they said.

“In the latest round of enterprise bargaining, agencies have offered employees pay rises of between 0.5 per cent and 1.08 per cent a year.

“The productivity offsets identified by agencies are based on employees working longer hours or conditions – such as personal carer’s leave – being reduced.

“If Australia is not experiencing a fiscal emergency, why does the Australian government continue its mantra that austerity measures are needed?” they asked

They said:”The rationale justifying austerity is also often couched in technical language that appears to be neutral and impartial.”

But added: “Conservative federal governments have traditionally had a deep distrust towards the public service.

“While some public servants enjoy a positive public image – nurses spring to mind – public servants in federal agencies are routinely criticised as part of the austerity discourse.

“Recently, Australian Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd was reported as stating that ‘public service productivity is held back by ‘soft’ employment conditions, excessive personal leave and under-performance.’

“The commissioner also mentioned anecdotal stories about public servants taking leave due to being hung-over.

“Whether true or not, such statements aim to legitimise the need for austerity measures while undermining any sense of the public good or the value of the contributions of public service employees.

“Attempted reductions to employment conditions also reveal the gendered aspects of public sector austerity.

“The introduction of policies to outsource service delivery often results in fewer jobs, at lower wages and with reduced employment conditions,” the three economists added.

“Why should we expect the workers who look after our children, support the delivery of much-needed public services and provide emergency services at times of crisis, to do this work for less?” they asked.

“The current enterprise negotiations present an opportunity to further the government’s neo-liberal ideology, yet they are neither economically necessary nor good for the building of robust communities and workplaces,” they concluded.

Perhaps the real problem, though, is a little different.

Professor Krugman’s articles, in The New York Times, can be downloaded easily from the internet.

And perhaps he has the powers necessary to persuade even professional economists to abandon moderate conventional wisdom – and the right way of thinking – just as ISIS has with some young Muslims.

Michael O’Donnell is professor of human resource management, UNSW Canberra; Charlotte Yates is professor, school of labour studies & department of political science, McMaster University, Canada; Sue Williamson, is lecturer, human resource management, UNSW Canberra.

Monday 23rd March 2015 - 1:29 pm
Comments Off on Government planning to short-change veterans:Labor

Government planning to short-change veterans:Labor

by Alan Thornhill

The Federal government is planning to cut the pensions of 280,000 veterans, war widows, war orphans and veterans with disability, Labor says.

The Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, David Feeney, says independent research shows that, as a result, members of the veteran community would be up to $80 a week worse off within 10 years.

Similar cuts are planned for Age and other pensioners.

Mr Feeney said the government is planning to do this by slashing the rate of indexation for Veterans’ pensioners, too, from September 2017.

He has also accused the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Michael Ronaldson, of issuing a misleading statement on the subject.

Mr Ronaldson’s statement, late last week, was on the system the government uses to make twice yearly adjustments to these pensions.

But Mr Feeney said:” the minister failed to mention in his recent press release that the Abbott Government plans to cut the pensions of 280,000 veterans, war widows, war orphans and veterans with disability by slashing the rate of indexation from September 2017.”

He said the current indexation scheme, brought in by the former Labor Government, provides regular adjustments for both price rises and increases in national prosperity.

These are based on movements in the Consumer Price Index and Male Total Average Weekly Earnings.

However Mr Feeney said:”the Abbott Government proposes to alter this scheme by linking aged and service pensions as well as disability and war widow and widower compensation pension indexation to CPI-only.

“This will see thousands of dollars ripped out of the pockets of these pensioners every year,” he said.

“Independent analysis by the Australian Council of Social Services has shown that under the Abbott Government’s plans, members of the veteran community would be up to $80 worse off per week within 10 years, Mr Feeney said.

The plan to move to CPI-only indexation will rip around $65 million from the pockets of 280,000 war veterans and their families, including war widows, war orphans and disabled veterans, according to the Abbott government’s own budget papers, he added.

These harsh and unjust measures have been pushed by the Abbott Government despite the Minister for Veterans Affairs, Michael Ronaldson, saying before the election that CPI-only indexation was ‘basically unfair’.

Despite the promises made by the Abbott Government being committed to fairness for our ex-service men and women, war veterans and their families have been hit hard and unfairly by the 2014-15 Budget.

“Tony Abbott must commit to these unjust measures being removed from the 2015-16 Budget which will be released in May,” Mr Feeney said.

“Labor will continue to oppose CPI-only indexation,” he added.

“Our veterans shouldn’t have to foot the bill for Tony Abbott’s broken promises and twisted priorities.”


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Weathercoast by Alan Thornhill

A novel on the murder of seven young Anglican Christian Brothers in the Solomon Islands.

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Alan Thornhill

Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.

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