RSL members miffed as PM mentions Soldier On

The ABC has a story today that some RSL members who heard the prime minister’s speech to the RSL National Conference were upset that he mentioned the work of veterans’ organisation, Soldier On. A reading of the PM’s speech shows that he had a lot more to say about the RSL than about Soldier On and another recently formed veterans’ organisation, Mates4Mates, but there are clearly some tensions in the veterans’ community. (The PM did mention some new initiatives where the government is working with Soldier On.) These tensions perhaps replicate those in past years between the RSL and Vietnam veterans’ groups.

It is not surprising that the PM knows a lot about Soldier On. His son-in-law, James Brown (Anzac’s Long Shadow) has been an active supporter of Soldier On and the PM recently opened Soldier On’s rehabilitation centre in Canberra. (Brown is also an active RSL member, which suggests that the best way to promote amicable relations between the groups is to be involved in both of them.) Brown, like Soldier On’s CEO, John Bale, has been critical of official commemoration spending, particularly on the $100 million Monash Centre boondoggle at Villers-Bretonneux.)

Opposition Leader Shorten also spoke to the RSL Conference, as did the Governor-General. The Governor-General also mentioned the work of Soldier On and had previously opened its Melbourne rehabilitation centre. Honest History has donated to Soldier On and has been invited to visit its Canberra rehabilitation centre.

Footnote: The RSL has a new National President, Rod White, of New South Wales. Mr White, a Vietnam veteran (retiring with the rank of Major), was born in 1946.

David Stephens

7 June 2016

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