ANZAC Day Address - Flinders Island

It is an honour to have been invited to share ANZAC Day with you. It seems very appropriate to celebrate ANZAC Day on Flinders Island, which was largely built on the Soldier Settlement Programme after World War II – so poignantly described in Bob Mainwaring’s book the Gold Coast Settlers noting that Bob himself was a soldier settler and a former warden of Flinders Island.

A few years ago when I became Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, I nearly drowned in a sea of acronyms. I found Defence had a language all of its own.

No longer did IR stand for “Industrial Relations.”

No longer did GST stand for “Goods and Services Tax.”

Instead, IR stood for “infra red” and GST for “ground surveillance training.”

So fed up did I become with all this Defence talk of using acronyms, I one day told the bureaucrats briefing me that I was finding the use of all these TLAs a bit tedious.

To which I got this uniform look of incomprehension. I thought to myself – at last – I’ve got them.

I said, “I’m sick of all these TLAs – you know – TLA, three letter acronyms.”

I soon discovered humour was a rare commodity in the bureaucracy.

Now whilst most of us quite rightly get tired of jargon and acronyms, there is of course one acronym that is embedded deep in the Australian psyche and soul and held with great and deep and abiding affection – ANZAC. The abbreviation, or dare I say, acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

If historian Charles Bean is correct, that acronym also has its genesis with a bureaucrat in Defence, for legend has it that it was the idea of a clerk at Headquarters that came up with ANZAC to give a code name to the Australian and New Zealand forces.

And today, 95 years ago, many young Australians made a name for themselves and their country in their pursuit for freedom for us. Their sacrifice and their forebears’ and successors’ sacrifices have provided us with the peace, security, freedom, way of life and wealth which we enjoy today.

Some of you here today are the successors in title of the ANZACs.

Those who may have served in the Second World War, Malayan Emergency, Korean War, Vietnam War, Afghanistan  or Iraq, to name just some of the theatres in which Australian troops have served and sacrificed since World War I.

In honouring not only the original ANZACs, but all our Defence personnel we celebrate not the war, not the loss of life, not the injuries, not the dislocation, but we celebrate the sense of service, the sense of sacrifice, the sense of subjecting ones own wellbeing for the benefit of a greater cause – values which are the very essence of Christianity and the bedrock of our western civilisation.

So today we celebrate those qualities of our forbears and currently serving personnel who embody those values in their willingness to serve and sacrifice not only for us here in Australia but around the world for other peoples as well, like they do today in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In recent times it has become fashionable for parliamentarians (with the benefit of hindsight) to say sorry for the shortcomings of previous generations.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to apologise for other people’s shortcomings – it sure takes the focus off your own shortcomings!

For when I’ve reflected, those shortcoming complained about, were undertaken by the same generations that so willingly sacrificed themselves for our good so that we could have the quality of life we enjoy today.  I wonder why we don’t have a few official congratulations and thank you statements to our forbears.

I sometimes wonder – as I do out loud today – whether the things for which we seek to flagellate our forbears would be so important if, for example, the world had been allowed to be subjected to German National Socialism or Japanese Imperialism.

I firmly believe that on any Profit and Loss statement, or in the scales of good and bad, we as a people and as a country have a lot for which to be thankful – very thankful – for the contribution and faith of our forbears.

So I’m glad in this current climate of revision of our history by some, we still set aside time such as ANZAC Day to recall and remember not only for ourselves, but to pass on to the next generation our nations history of service before self, of sacrifice, of fighting for God ordained values and rights, for the benefit of future generations of which we today are the beneficiaries.

And our nation’s history of service and sacrifice and helping is nothing but the sum total of all the individual Australians who shared those values and commitments.

Our task, like that moving scene at the end of the film Saving Private Ryan, is to ask whether we are living a life worthy of the sacrifice of our forbears.

And in another 95 years, will the Australians of 2105 AD be able to look upon our contribution of today with the same heartfelt thanks as we do for the service of the ANZACs 95 years ago and their tradition which we need to uphold both individually and as a community.

That’s my challenge. That’s your challenge. That’s our challenge as a country. God bless. Lest we forget.

About Eric

Eric Abetz has been a Liberal Senator for Tasmania since 1994 and has served in a range of Leadership, Ministerial and Shadow Ministerial roles.

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