Haigh, Bruce: The ANZACS: ransacked by the Right

Bruce Haigh

The ANZACS: ransacked by the Right‘, Independent Australia, 24 November 2018

Retired diplomat writes that the Anzac myth has been constructed to serve conservative interests. Australia’s default position is to the right of centre.

We are just emerging from a prolonged period of “remembrance” relating to the Australian involvement, deaths and casualties in World War One (WWI). It was anything but remembrance. It was a glorification of war, in particular, WWI. But it is worse — the Right has put war front and centre in their narrative about the development of Australia as a nation. It is a white history. It ignores the Aboriginal narrative dating back 60,000 years and it ignores the history of labour, the trade union movement and the environment in shaping lives and endeavour.

Haigh looks at how the war was seen by correspondents Bean and Schuler, focusing particularly on Bean’s vision of the Australian soldier and how that drove his post-war actions. ‘Bean was more concerned with his [Australian War] memorial, building a shine that glorified his beloved soldiers, rather than practically helping the broken, shell-shocked shadow of the men who returned.’

Bean also had the inferiority complex typical of Australians of that era. ‘The war was a chance to demonstrate that Australia was better and excelled in manliness, skill, grit and courage. Reading Bean’s history, the impression he consolidates is that Australia came out of WWI with the prize for “Best on Battlefield”.’

And so it has continued.

This year the director of the AWM, Brendan Nelson, a former Liberal politician, repeated the propaganda of past memorial parades at the 100th Anniversary celebration at the ending of WWI. He did so with all the pomp, circumstance and farce of a Gilbert and Sullivan opera. A popinjay, a martinet; absent from his address was any semblance of the dignity associated with remembrance. But this is what ANZAC has become a sound and light show, a vehicle to promote national pride in a big and bloody disaster.

Forgotten were the veterans who struggle to have a voice and their pain and claims addressed. The $600 million spent to provide political leverage for the Coalition, plus a further $500 million to extend and upgrade the AWM, would have gone a long way to assist and improve the lives of veterans.

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