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Monday, 6 June 1994
Page: 1352


Senator SANDY MACDONALD (7.21 p.m.) —I rise tonight to mark the anniversary of D-day. Today, 50 years ago, 155,000 allied soldiers, sailors and airmen were poised to strike back into continental Europe in a great pincer action which was to be combined with the might of the Soviet Union in the east. It was the greatest military armada ever to be assembled; God willing, it will always remain thus.

  Europe had seen four horrific years during which the great mass of people had been subjugated to the hell of Nazi Germany. Old and noble states, including Denmark, Norway, Holland, Poland and the great eastern European states, had suffered the cruelty of the `1,000-year Reich'. The state that gave us Beethoven and Handel gave the world the Holocaust. Now this was to come to an end.

  Time, as it always is in war, was of the essence in this invasion. First and foremost, the weather up to and after 6 June 1944 was appalling. God or the hand of fate provided 12 hours of calm. It proved long enough to throw the human cannon fodder ashore. The Americans, the Canadians, the British, and the troops of occupied Europe, including the French and the Poles, all played their part. This was to be an action between fighting soldiers, not merely machines or computers. Never again would a war be fought in such human terms, if that is an appropriate way of putting it. If the weather had turned nasty, the great armada could have gone the same way as the Spanish Armada did 400 years before. Today, we would be commemorating a disaster, not a great feat as we are.

  The second reason why time was of the essence was that the might of the German war machine was far from dead. The prospect of new and menacing weapons like the V1, the V2 and jet aircraft, not to mention their research into heavy water, meant that the menace of Germany had to be terminated, and terminated quickly.

  Few Australians were directly involved on D-day, although about 2,500 were included. One of the most famous, of course, was Nancy Wake, the `White Mouse', who spent a large part of the last four years of the war in occupied France. She is commemorated in many places and she is commemorated again today—a remarkable Australian.

  Many of the 2,500 who were involved were in the air force which provided the total air superiority for the invasion fleet which was essential. Australia's lack of direct involvement on D-day commensurate with its total war effort was because of the pressing requirements of defending mainland Australia and the war in the Pacific.

  After the Battle of El Alamein, British Prime Minister Churchill offered Prime Minister Curtin the opportunity for the mighty 9th Division to take part in the opening up of the second front that was then being planned. But the 6th, 7th and 9th divisions returned home to defend their wives and their families. It was a proper decision.

  It was on this day 50 years ago that much of the framework of world affairs for the next half century was conceived. The re-drawing of the map of Europe between NATO and the Warsaw Pact was based on the defeat of Nazi Germany, which started on this day. The creation of half a century of peace, one of the longest periods of peace Europe has ever known, was delivered by the availability of the Damocles' sword of nuclear deterrent which followed World War II.

  The invasion by the allies was a mighty, courageous and noble tilt at world peace. It achieved its aim. The Senate marked its respect for it by one minute's silence this afternoon. In the Duke of Wellington's words, `Nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won.' In all wars, the difference between the victor and the vanquished is scarcely discernible—this war was no different. It was war, however unfortunate. As Wellington noted, `The only thing worse than losing a war is winning one.' I hope it never comes to pass again.

  It is impossible for me to let the present political moment pass without identifying the ironic behaviour of the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) in Europe. Like all patriotic Australians, whether I voted for him or not, the Prime Minister is our Prime Minister and takes on the great burdens of office and the commitments to behave accordingly. I am sure he is behaving himself impeccably on the royal yacht. He could probably be mistaken for a real forelock tugger, but his behaviour is a bit bizarre.


Senator Collins —You can't have it both ways.


Senator SANDY MACDONALD —His first port of call on this trip was a visit to the Queen.


Senator Collins —That is correct.


Senator SANDY MACDONALD —For a man who rewrites history, I think world observers, Senator Collins, to the extent that they take notice of our Prime Minister, would conclude that he is not very consistent. For our sake, I hope those people on the world stage do not realise just how un-Australian and how unrepresentative of the Anzac spirit the Prime Minister appears to be.


Senator Tambling —I wonder whether he is driving around there with a flag on his car. He won't do it here.


Senator SANDY MACDONALD —I do not know; I would be surprised. As an Australian, it makes me very uneasy that the world may see through him as the Australian electorate does.