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Opposition Leader denies knowledge of a fake dawn service planned for Anzac Day in Vietnam by Channel 7's Sunrise program.

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Fri day 13 April 2007

Opposition Leader denies knowledge of a fake dawn service planned for Anzac Day in Vietnam by Channel 7's Sunrise program


TONY EASTLEY: The Federal Opposition Leader is this morning trying to hose down a new wave of criticism over his involvement in a fake dawn service planned for Anzac Day in Vietnam. 


Emails have emerged that prove Mr Rudd's office was aware last month of a plan by Channel Seven's Sunrise program to stage an early service at Long Tan to coincide with television timeslots in Australia. 


On the weekend, Mr Rudd strenuously denied any knowledge of, or involvement in staging a pretend service before dawn. 


He now says an email to his office about the issue was overlooked on Sunday, and he accepts responsibility. 


From Canberra, Hayden Cooper reports. 


HAYDEN COOPER: Kevin Rudd's regular appearances on Channel Seven's Sunrise program have played a significant role in boosting his profile across the nation. 


But when news emerged on the weekend of a plan to hold a fake dawn service in Vietnam to coincide with television ratings in Australia, Mr Rudd was doing all he could to put acres of space between him and any plans Channel Seven may have had. 


KEVIN RUDD: Any suggestion that anyone from my office requested any change to Anzac Day services is absolutely false and absolutely without foundation. 


HAYDEN COOPER: Kevin Rudd speaking on Sunday. 


But today, newspapers have published an email sent by an official at the Veterans' Affairs Department to Mr Rudd's personal secretary. 


The email was sent a fortnight ago before Mr Rudd's denials on Sunday, and it warns the Opposition Leader that holding a dawn service an hour early would seriously offend veterans and the wider community. 


Mr Rudd says the email was not reported to him by his staff on Sunday, and this morning in his regular Channel Seven appearance he was playing it down. 


KEVIN RUDD: You guys at Sunrise invited Joe and I to go off to Long Tan for Anzac Day. And in my head, you know, that was actually about the beginning and the end of it. And the rest of it was kind of a question of whether we'd finally confirm going. 


I've got to say the whole thing needs to be put into context of we're there, or the proposal was to be there to honour our Vietnam vets. Anzac Day is sacred for all Australians. I'd never be party to any request to change services. 


HAYDEN COOPER: The show's two hosts David Koch and Melissa Doyle were also adopting a defensive stance, and even the Government frontbencher Joe Hockey was on board, since he too is a Channel Seven regular. 


JOE HOCKEY: No one should in any way doubt the intentions of Sunrise , of Adam Boland, of Kochie, Kevin Rudd or anyone else. I mean, the intention has always been to honour the diggers, in that case in Vietnam, let's move on. 


DAVID KOCH: Talk about putting the cart before the horse and people having no idea what we're actually doing. But still, that didn't stop people going out and saying, "Oh, it's a fake service". There was going to be no fake service, it was ... our dawn service was always going to be from Currumbin. Nowhere else. 


HAYDEN COOPER: But over on the rival Channel Nine morning show there was a more a slightly more robust discussion between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott. 


JULIA GILLARD: There was one email from a veteran, Bill Rolfe, to his office who said he was concerned about those arrangements. That should have been passed on, but Kevin wasn't responsible for the arrangements. 


HOST: Tony, what do you say about that? 


TONY ABBOTT: Look, it's not a good look for Kevin Rudd, and I think Kevin really needs to explain himself here. 


TONY EASTLEY: The Health Minister Tony Abbott, ending that report from Hayden Cooper in Canberra.