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Address at the pre-ANZAC Day morning tea, Parramatta.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. DR BRENDAN NELSON MP

18 April 2008

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. DR BRENDAN NELSON MP ADDRESS AT THE PRE-ANZAC DAY MORNING TEA PARRAMATTA RSL, PARRAMATTA

EO&E………………………………………………………………………………......

Well thank you very much Senator Payne. Marise, my friend and my colleague. And Marise, as you know, has worked very hard for the people of Parramatta for a decade as she just reminded us and she’s also the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and doing an outstanding job in that regard as well.

Maurice Green, to you and the members of the Parramatta RSL, thank you for everything that you do for veterans but more importantly thank you for all that you and your members have done for our nation to make us who we are and give us what we have.

Bob Dervin, your secretary. John Haines, the Vice President of RSL New South Wales. All of you that are here this morning from other sub-branches and representing different threads of service to our nation, I thank you for being here but more

importantly I thank you for what you’ve done.

And Tony Issa, the councillor from Parramatta. There are lots of challenges in federal parliament and federal politics but my hat goes off to anybody that represents us in local government. I can assure you.

I’d just like today to speak to you about two things. One of course is ANZAC Day and what it means to us and should mean to us as Australians. And then just briefly set out for you what I think the challenges are for our country into which we need to build policy for our future and it is, as Marise and Maurice both said, a listening tour

and that’s more a case of me listening to you not you listening to me. So I look forward to the opportunity to actually speak to you and listen to you personally about the concerns and ideas that you have for our nation’s future.

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As a person at the age of 49 who’s not ever worn the uniform of the Australian Defence Force in one of its three services, I think for me the thing that I’ve found most moving and telling are the epitaphs that are on the gravestones.

And private I. D. Hart was killed on the 25th of November 1917. And his mother wrote the epitaph for his headstone which said:

I GAVE MY SON HE GAVE HIS ALL HIS LIFE FOR AUSTRALIA AND EMPIRE

And I think only those of you who have worn the uniform, who have placed yourself in harm’s way in our name, can begin to understand what that means, and only someone who has lost a child could imagine what it must be like to be a mother to do such a thing.

And so too, Private McLean from the 8th Battalion was 21 when he was killed at Gallipoli. And he was from Korumburra and his distraught mother Isabella wrote for his headstone, she said:

HIS FRIENDS BEREFT HAVE ONLY LEFT HIS PHOTO ON THE WALL MOTHER

And I cited that in the address I gave at Lone Paine last year representing Australia as the Defence Minister at the ANZAC Day ceremonies on the Gallipoli Peninsula. And I asked the question then and I ask it again today: why is not possible for every one of us in every workplace, in every school and every home to hang a photograph of just one of them who gave his life, who gave his all for our country? And do you know the irony of it was that I thought that I would track down a photograph of Private McLean and hang it in my office and then in my home for the remainder of my life, and we haven’t been able through the Australian War Memorial or anywhere else to find a photograph of him - which is a cruel irony given what his mother Isabella wrote for his headstone.

It is very easy for us I think from the safe distance of the 21st Century to look back on sacrifices that have been made in our name, and allow our past to become a distant stranger. We shouldn’t ever allow, through neglectful indifference, our failure to understand and appreciate the individual sacrifices that have been made in our name.

There is no group of Australians that have done more to shape our values and our beliefs and our identity than those men and women who today wear, or who have worn, the uniform of the Royal Australian Navy, of the Army, or the Royal Australian Air Force. More than 100,000 Australians, in our name, in our uniform, under our flag, gave their lives in other parts of the world through a series of conflicts from the Boer War through today in both Iraq and Afghanistan to see that our generation could have a future in which we could have confidence and that we would enjoy freedoms that I think too often too many Australians have taken for granted. Those men and women lie as silent witnesses to a future that they have given us. And we honour them

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and we honour you who made those sacrifices by the way we live our lives and the way we shape our nation.

I particularly say to Australians with ANZAC Day approaching, that until you understand what was done and how it was done it is very hard to be fully Australian. It is a day of respectful remembrance and commemoration of sacrifices that have been made for us.

I think it’s also important for Australians to appreciate that it wasn’t just those of you who wore the uniform for us but those who love you and those who made sacrifices to enable you to serve our country. Whether it be in peace, whether it be in peacekeeping, or whether it be in war, I think too often we fail to appreciate that there are wives and husbands and partners and children who suffer terrible deprivations to enable you to serve our country, and we thank you very, very much for it.

In facing our country’s future, whilst times have changed, I think it’s important that we understand our values do not. And last year, in delivering the dawn service address at Gallipoli, I made the observation that as Australians our values are etched less in marble and granite than they are in a helping hand, to say g’day to somebody, to always want to be a mate, knowing that that’s the best way to reach out to people - an Army rising sun and an Australian flag.

There are many values that are represented by our three uniforms and the Australian Defence Force, but to me it is essentially about reaching out to help other human beings. Not only other Australians but others who are in distress, whether in our own street or in other parts of the world.

And John Simpson Kirkpatrick’s sacrifice as a jordy who joined the AIF in the 3rd Field Ambulance, whose mother wrote for his headstone, which is at the beach cemetery there at Gallipoli:

HE GAVE HIS LIFE THAT OTHERS MIGHT LIVE

That in the end to be an Australian is about mateship - colloquially - but it’s about reaching out to help others, making sacrifices for other Australians, and even at risk of our own welfare and indeed our own lives.

In facing our future as a country it’s very important that we build the foundation upon the values that have been given to us by yours and earlier generations of Australians. That our responsibilities to one another are always more important than our rights. That the values that define us as Australians are more important than value. And meaningful planning and sacrifices for our future are far more important than the day-to-day concerns that we have as we respectfully understand the past that has been given to us.

I think that there are five key challenges for our country into which policy needs to be built for our future. How do we make sure that our children enjoy a level of prosperity of which we can be proud and in which they can have confidence? What decisions do

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we need to make today to create the future that our children want and need and not allow them to just have a future forced upon them by the rest of the world?

The second is the federation which served our country so well for much of the 20th century. It is obvious that it is now time for us as Australians to look at the responsibilities of the three tiers of government, the way we collect and distribute money to make sure that we have the most effective governance that we can have for this century.

Our third challenge is how do we as Australians and global citizens adjust to living on environmental interest instead of capital, to secure water for our country and also to see that we are a part of a responsible global decision, knowing fully what it will cost future generations of Australians to deal with climate change.

Our fourth challenge is the security and defence of our country, and increasingly our interest and values. And whilst we are here in Parramatta today there are men and women, almost 4,000 Australian men and women in our uniform who are not only on our borders but in other parts of the world, who are dealing with a resurgent totalitarianism which is predominantly in the form of Islamic extremism. The fundamental values for which we stand as Australians, universal human ideals - of respect for other human beings, respect for women, respect for religious freedom, respect for political freedom and choice - all of those things are under threat from people that have evil intentions and think nothing of taking innocent life.

Our fifth challenge is the cohesion of our society and the values for which we stand. That gambling as an addiction, and alcohol abuse and drug abuse, illiteracy, also welfare without responsibilities to one another and our country - all of those things are the key challenges into which we have to build policy as Australians and, which as Marise alluded to, we have already commenced the process on our side of politics.

But the other thing that’s very important is that we are confident in who we are as Australians. We’ve had six and a half million people come to our country whom we welcomed since the end of World War 2. And wherever we come from and those people who made very painful decisions to leave their families and countries to become Australians, it’s important for us that we be Australians first and we’re Australians last. We are who we are by virtue of our institutions. Those of you who have worn our uniform, our heroes, our villains, our triumphs and our failures, our economic and social adversity - all of those and many other things define us as Australians. And it’s very important that wherever we are in the world, wherever Defence men and women are in the world, in our uniform, under our flag, that they go in our name to represent the fundamental ideals of mankind which are embodied in

Australian values.

So thank you very much for having me here this morning. I particularly thank you again for everything that you and your families have done and continue to do to support you. I think our country does an enormous amount to look after our veterans; by international standards I think the best in the world. But we sure have a way to go and I look forward to listening to you and speaking to you.

Thank you.

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