Nau Mai, Haire Mai tena kota, tena kota, tena kota katau ..... so starts the speech I will be delivering at the ANZAC service on the shores of the beautiful Lake Macquarie tomorrow morning. A speech that hopefully will some way to repair the damage done to our ANZAC relationship with Australia by the totally disrespectful and cringeworthy mouthing by Jock Anderson in a Radio NZ discussion about a new book by former Australian Army officer Graham Wilson,
In the book 'Bully Beef and Balderdash' Wilson questions myths surrounding Australia's WW1 and WW2 volunteer forces.
Anderson took it a step further and told the panel "The Aussies have been reluctant soldiers at the best of times and they've been essentially lazy bludgers, some of them excellent black marketeers, scavengers, poachers and thieves". He then proceeded to really excel himself "Occasionally they've actually been quite good soldiers but there is no way they can, in my opinion, hold a candle to the Kiwis".
If Anderson was stupid enough to think his comments would remain unreported across the Tasman then he was mistaken. The papers and airwaves are full of it and generally the comment is far more restrained than I would have expected. The Australian Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, hit the nail on the head when he said last night that "Mr Anderson would come to regret his comments .... they were disrespectful to those who fought on both sides of the Tasman".
So what do we know of Jock Anderson. Has he ever served? answer, No. So where did he gain this insightful knowledge of the Aussie soldier. Well, according to the NBR, Anderson said he formed the opinion talking to unnamed sources in various RSAs around New Zealand. Really, and just how many beers did he buy to get someone to come up with those little gems?
Dr Stephen Clarke, military historian and Chief Executive of the RNZRSA, summed it up when he said in a statement responding to Anderson's mouthing "Broad, inflammatory and unsupported statements is not history,"
As for the thieving bit, hullo pot, this is kettle. Kiwi's have been known to indulge just a tad (or more). Some of you will have read my story on the 'Great Nui Dat Beer heist' where a number of soldiers I was privileged to commend successfully plundered the Australian Armed Forces Canteen Council's main liquor store at the Nui Dat base to the tune of several hundred cartons of beer ... and were never caught.
Australian soldiers are every good (and bad) as their Kiwi counterparts. Anderson's comments in the lead up to ANZAC Day are cringeworthy and to be deplored. They do not reflect well on his reputation as an historian And when I am asked to defend them tomorrow (and I will be) I will say just that.