Public First Program


Shane Elson


email Shane

+61-3-5134 8556

+61-4-1349 7828

April 2007 # 3

(Right Click here to download Audio - MP3)

Back to Editorials 2007

ANZAC - For Whom?

For the last ten years I’ve been trying to work out why I have lost interest in the ANZAC day memorials. I attended my first when I was 15 and played in the Municipal band. We played at a Dawn Service and my dad, a WWII vet, took me down to the war memorial. It would be almost 20 years later that I spoke to him about his war time ‘adventures’ and found out what his experience had been.

It wasn’t until many years later that I started to discover the truth about the ANZAC legend and the wars Australian service people had died in. I started to find out about the way our governments treated the widows and families of the dead they supposedly ‘honoured’. I started to find out about the non-physical injuries our service people carried and how these injuries tore apart families and how the dying continued in the garages and back yards and in the cars and off buildings and cliffs and how the number of war widows and orphans continued to grow long after the last shots had been fired

And then along came the Howard government.

There is no denying that Howard is a populist. Any balanced and reasonable commentator or political observer will tell you this. He is a man blown about by the winds of fortune and change as much as he is, as some describe him, a ‘cunning’ politician. One of the first moves by the Howard government was to open up the ANZAC day memorials to a form of insidious privatisation. I’ll try and explain what I mean.

Howard’s agenda is not at all removed from the neo-conservative push being resisted around the globe. This ideology believes that each of us is solely responsible for our own lives. These neocons believe that if you’re born into poverty then there is nothing a society can do to help you. You must get out of your poverty solely by applying yourself to moving up the economic ladder (sound familiar?). This same philosophy applies to every aspect of our individual lives.

These neo-conservatives are not stupid. Far from it. They know how ridiculous this sounds. In order to take our minds off thinking about how ridiculous their proposals are, they try and find ways of distracting us. The three main ways of doing this are highlighting crime, sex and nationalism. They embark on literal crusades against crime and rail about ‘deviant’ sexuality, be it homosexuality, youth sexuality, pensioner sexuality or whatever. If all that fails they turn to nationalism, the most destructive of all tendencies among societies.

But here they face another dilemma. They have told us for so long “there is no such thing as society”, to quote Lady Thatcher, that we almost believe them. Our so called leaders have told us that the only ones who think in terms of society are ‘lefties’ and ‘radicals’ and other nefarious types who will, if we allow them, break into our houses (crime), rape (sex) our women and burn our flag (nationalism). In short, its only bad people who think in terms of society.

Having convinced enough of us to keep voting them back in, Howard’s bunch had to find a way of ‘uniting’ us even though their campaign and policies are about dividing us. To achieve this end they had to find something that crossed state borders and tapped into the basic good within us. They had to find something, to use the psychoanalytic term, by which to sublimate our needs. That is, to provide some new form of activity that would distract us from our real need. ANZAC provides just the right amount of ‘goodness’ and nostalgia to become something by which Howard wanted to define himself.

Seeing himself as Churchillian type leader, Howard unleashed the chains, not only of the GST, but also of the ‘creatives’ in the PR and image management industry to have a go at ‘modernising’ ANZAC. What has evolved over the last few years is a bastard child that on the one hand wants to convince us that war is peace and on the other, that to not embrace the remembrance of war is to be unpatriotic. Orwell would be proud of what is being attempted as our collective consciousness is sucked down the memory hole and burnt to a cinder.

It was only a couple of years ago that it finally dawned on me why I had lost interest in attending the ANZAC memorials. It was when I saw a McDonald’s ad featuring the most egregious display of corporate sentimentalism I have ever seen. I watched this ad with my jaw literally on the ground and realised that the sacred had been turned into the profane, that ANZAC was now a fully commercialised venture.

What? Do you mean they’ll soon be charging all those ‘wonderful young Australians’, who John Howard says he won’t have a bad word said against them, an entrance fee to access Lone Pine and Anzac cove? You betcha. When we allow the memory of a society to be sold for crass commercialism we really need to ask ourselves some questions!

As far as Howard is concerned we can’t be allowed to focus on the misery and deprivation that hundreds of thousands of Australians face each day due to the policies implemented by his government. We can’t focus on the grief and anger of veteran’s families denied compensation for death or injury caused by military misdeed. We can’t be allowed to focus on the disintegration of our society in the face of the privatisation of everything. We can’t speak about the loss of our national soul under the impost of the dollar. These are the reasons I have become disillusioned with the memorial of ANZAC day.

All ANZAC day does for me now is leave me feeling empty. I want to understand what it was like for the diggers. I want to embrace these men and women and tell them how grateful I am. I want them to be able to tell me how they feel and what it is they fought for.

I think I would be right in saying that most of them fought to make our nation safe and a better place to bring up their and our kids. I think I would also be right in saying they certainly didn’t fight to allow the commercialisation of their memory to be aided and abetted by their elected representatives. I wonder if we, those of us still young enough, have the true “spirit of ANZAC” and will do what Howard says we should do and fight to make sure that we look out for the war widows and their families. And not only them but also the poor, the disabled and the downtrodden. After all, if that’s what the diggers fought for, shouldn’t that be the ANZAC legend we’re supposed to embrace?

Recent Editorials



Jones, Race and Class Interests (MP3)


Bombay Nights



The Politics of Convenience and Liability (MP3)


Tears, Perks and People (MP3)


Technically Speaking(MP3)


Hicks, Burke and Howard (MP3)


The Free Market on a Lazy Sunday (MP3)


You Lose Power (MP3)


Rearranging the Deckchairs (MP3)


Educated Ignorance (MP3)


Young Liberals

go to Town (MP3)


In a Funk - A 2006 Reflection (MP3)


Our Legacy (MP3)


Away in a Manger (MP3)


The Devil and the Peso (MP3)


Charades (MP3)


Sands (MP3)


Hillbilly Dreams (MP3)

Rumsfeld's Henny Penny Excuse (MP3)

The Mufti and the Dog Whistle (MP3)

Colonialism, Palm Oil & the Solomons (MP3)

On A Mission from God (MP3)

Howard's Quadrant Memory Hole (MP3)

Greenwashing, Astroturfing and Gippsland's A-Team (MP3)

Wag The Dog (MP3)

Aussie Values the Howard Nelson Way (MP3)

Nothing Changes (MP3)

Howard's Brutal Language (MP3)