Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Opposition Leader discusses Kokoda Day; ALP reform; policy differentiation; and leadership.

Download PDFDownload PDF





Subjects: Kokoda Day; Party Reform; Policy Differentiation and Leadership.

BURY: Labor Leader Simon Crean today is going to call for a Battle for Australia Day to commemorate the defence of the nation during WWII. It could be called Kokoda Day and be similar to the September 15 Battle of Britain Day marked in the United Kingdom and I am very pleased to say that the Leader of the Opposition, Simon Crean is on the line. Good afternoon to you Simon.

CREAN: Brian how are you. Good to talk to you again.

BURY: Thank you my friend it’s good to talk to you. Congratulations on this move I think Kokoda Day is a great idea.

CREAN: Well I think it is very important, actually today is the 60th anniversary of Milne Bay, where the Australians turned back the Japanese advance. So this was a defining year for Australia 1942. Singapore had fallen. Darwin had been bombed. We’d taken some heavy naval hits in the South Pacific, Coral Sea etc and this was really the Australian fighting strength that held the might of the Japanese empire.

BURY: Yes and it was a Pacific Gallipoli I think.

CREAN: Well that’s right. It was when Australia was most threatened Brian.

BURY: Yes.

CREAN: And we recognise Anzac Day for all of the right reasons. This was the Battle for Australia and if it hadn’t had been for our ground forces against all the odds who knows what we would be living under now. I think it’s very important especially given the renewed interest around Anzac Day


that we remember the significance of the year 1942. Give it a name that’s iconic but recognise all the significance of it. Teach it not just in the schools but for the community to remember the importance of it.

BURY: Simon do you see it as a public holiday or would it be just a day of remembrance.

CREAN: No. I won’t be calling for it as a public holiday as such. I mean what I want is a debate about the issue and I’m pleased to see today the Prime Minister said it was worth considering. So let’s try and get the debate up and let’s see where that takes us. It’s not the argument so much for the public holiday not to replace Anzac Day but it’s a day of remembrance for all those who fought for us.

BURY: I think it brings us together as a nation when we have these very special days, it’s not for the glorification of war but I think it’s a celebration of the indomitable spirit of the Australians who, if they feel they are being threatened, will band together, and it brought everyone together didn’t it at that time.

CREAN: It did and it’s a reminder of how as a nation we pull together to defend and how as a nation we’ve come forward and built the peace since. So I mean, I think it’s got a lot of elements that can be identified around it. But there were some great and difficult gruelling sorts of battles and the fact that the Prime Minister was up there unveiling the memorial not so long ago on the Kokoda Track I just think it is so terribly important. The British do it, Australia should too.

BURY: I think we will and I think Australians will back you and it will be a unilateral decision, there’ll be no bipartisanship in this?

CREAN: Well there should be plenty of bipartisanship…

BURY: I mean bipartisanship in this.

CREAN: Yes, and that’s what we need and that’s why I want the debate. I mean, it was appropriate today to talk about it, I mean the RSL National Congress meeting in Brisbane. Brisbane, of course, was where Douglas MacArthur established the headquarters as apart of the Alliance that helped defend Australia. So significance for the city, but the year itself and the 60th anniversary, that’s what we should be remembering. Let’s have a ‘Battle for Australia Day’. Call it ‘Kokoda Day’ if you like. But let’s get the public debate going on it.

BURY: When you think about it, 60 years ago they were very, very young people. They were called choco’s and all sorts of things like that. But it didn’t seem to matter to anyone once they got on that track that they were


Australian soldiers and they did the job as Aussie soldiers, but they were boys. They were very young people.

CREAN: They knew they had a task and they did it. They did it with great bravery, great gallantry. And the point is sixty years on, mean a number of them of course, many of them, fell during the battles themselves. Those that did survive, they’re getting older, it’s their memory that we have to recognise and commemorate.

BURY: I think that’s right but I think the message goes out loud and clear to the young of Australia, they were young men of your age doing a big job to protect this nation.

CREAN: Yes, they had to rise to the occasion then. We should remember them. That’s what it’s essentially all about.

BURY: And they were very clever to, I mean what they did was turn the tide of the might of that Japanese force that had not been defeated anywhere in the Pacific and they really did turn the tables on them.

CREAN: They did. And it was Field Marshall Slim, at the time who said it was the Australian forces that effectively, for the first time, repelled the Japanese forces, the might of the Japanese Empire. So its’ not just Australia that owes them a great debt of gratitude, it’s the whole of the Alliance that was part of the fight for democratic values and the fight for our freedom. And that’s why the Alliance is so strong today between us and the Americans. But it’s recognised for the strength of commitment and involvement of the Australian fighting troops.

BURY: Well thank you for bringing it to our notice, thank you for bringing up that proposal. I think it will be accepted and it will be a bipartisan approach to this. I knew what I was trying to get at, but how are you enjoying the role of Leader of the Federal opposition?

CREAN: I am enjoying it. It’s a hectic life. It takes me away a lot more from home but it’s a great opportunity, great opportunity to present an alternate set of directions and policies and I’m looking forward to the challenge.

BURY: You seem to have bitten of a heck of a lot and you’re chewing like crazy. So the reforms are very high on your agenda. Are you going to have any blocks on the way for that?

CREAN: Well change is always difficult, people don’t like change especially if their own positions are threatened. But I’m absolutely determined to get the change Brian, because I think that we as a society have moved on, the Labor Party has to move on as well. And it’s not just developing these values within the Party that I’m talking about: of greater inclusion, better


integrity, ensuring that the branch stackers don’t get their way. But also equal relationships, these are the sorts of values that I want to develop and promote as to the type of Government I would lead. So, It’s not only important internally it distils, it defines the values by which I think Government have to deal with the broader community. Greater openness, much greater involvement of them, treating them with integrity, treating them as equals. That’s what the modernisation is about.

BURY: Absolutely. But it did seem to me a little while back that there was a blurring of the lines between conservatives and Labor, so do you really want to make a divide between conservatives and Labor in policies I mean.

CREAN: Yes, in policies of course, I mean. And we’ve put out a number of them recently.

Our position on Iraq for example. We have a different approach and thankfully the Government has come around to that, that we’ve got to have the case made.

We support, for example Paid Maternity Leave, where the Government doesn’t.

We support greater corporate Governance to stop the corporate crooks and the threat that that poses to peoples superannuation and retirement funds. The Government doesn’t.

We support the protection of worker’s entitlements if a company goes belly up. The Government doesn’t.

So, you know these are important points of differentiation Brian.

We also support the ratification of Kyoto and how silly does Australia look at the moment? I mean, just about every other country in the world is now signing up to Kyoto, only Australia and the United States are holding out.

BURY: Well it sounds to me Simon Crean you are relishing this. I think you could eat it with a knife and fork. You sound as, you’re very excited about it.

CREAN: I’m just about to go and pick up a knife and fork. But thanks very much…

BURY: I don’t wish to be told that.

CREAN: Yes but for the right purposes.

BURY: Absolutely.


CREAN: But thanks very much for the opportunity to, on your program, to raise this because if we’re going to have the public debate about it, it’s very important that radio, communicating that message, gets in behind it.

BURY: Simon, thank you very much for your time.

CREAN: My pleasure Brian, thank you.