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Wednesday, 26 May 1993
Page: 1338


Senator KEMP (3.30 p.m.) —by leave—I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel (Senator Faulkner) in response to a question without notice asked by Senator West this day, relating to the production of a series of films concerning Australians at war.

I listened with great interest to the answer given by Senator Faulkner regarding the making of a number of films—seven films in all—about the record of Australians in war. Because Senator Faulkner and I differ on quite a number of issues, I listened very carefully to the wording of his answer. From memory, there was not a word I would have changed. He mentioned that it was important to celebrate the courage and sacrifice of the men and women of this country who fought in a series of combats commencing with the First World War. I welcome the move to make these films.

  Having said that, whereas I accept in principle the making of these films, I would be quite fascinated to see the scripts and to find out how they will be developed. There is a great division in the country as to how we view our past; it is one of the great cultural battles which is occurring in this nation. Whereas I welcomed the words spoken by Senator Faulkner, I would very much like to see the content of these films to see how the record of Australians at war is treated.

  One of the debates we have had in this Parliament over the past year and a half concerned the Australian flag. Senator McKiernan raised the issue that Australians have never fought under their flag. I was interested to read a great book which recently came to my attention, The Australian Victories in France in 1918, by General Sir John Monash. In that book General Monash mentioned, among other things, the great pushes that Australians made to help end the 1918 war. Battle reports were coming in from the famous battles in France on 8 and 9 August of that year. Senator McKiernan would be interested to know that General Monash said that a message, telegraphed as the Australians went forward, stated:

Australian flag hoisted over Harbonnieres at midday to-day.

  I very much welcome this move to make these films. They are important and it is important that our youth appreciate the sacrifices that our grandfathers and fathers have made to establish the freedoms in this coun

try. I hope that the films which are produced will be objective and will not be, as Professor Blainey has said, the `black armband history of this country' but a history which truly shows the sacrifices and courage of these men and women.

  I recently gave a lecture about the First World War to a number of students from a senior school in Victoria. They ran an interesting line with me; they asked why Australians are always fighting other people's wars. I was interested to reply because I had just read a book entitled ANZAC to Amiens: A shorter history of the Australian fighting services in the First World War by C.E.W. Bean, the great war historian. The main point of discussion with these students was the First World War. Bean asked why Australians were involved in the First World War and what would have been the effect of a German victory. He says that if there had been a German victory, the first term in the peace treaty would have been the abolition of the British navy. For the Australian nation this would have meant either subservience to Germany or extinction at the hands of the Japanese. This is an interesting point, but a point that the students of this class had never been taught.

  In conclusion, I welcome the move that Senator Faulkner has signalled in this Parliament. Given my interest in Australian history, I will take particular interest in the development of these films, and I urge Senator Faulkner to make sure they give a true reflection of Australian history and not this black armband view of Australian history.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.