24 April 2005


BerlinBear avatarPreviously posted on my old blog.

Tomorrow, 25th April, is ANZAC day. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. ANZAC day is the day on which New Zealand and Australia remember their soldiers who landed at Gallipoli in the First World War and fought there against the Turks, who were defending the peninsula from Allied invasion. More generally, ANZAC day has become the day on which New Zealanders and Australians honour all of their returned servicemen and women and their war dead. It is a public holiday in both countries, and there are a great many memorial services held, not only in New Zealand and Australia, but also in Turkey and around the world. For example, I will be going to an ANZAC day service tomorrow here in Berlin, organised jointly by the Australian and New Zealand embassies. Anyway, the point is, ANZAC day is a big deal to many New Zealanders and Australians.

Given that, perhaps you can imagine the sense of indignation that many New Zealanders will be feeling when they read that Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard, has decided to fly in the face of tradition and snub the New Zealand memorial service at Gallipoli this year. Instead, he'll be at a barbeque on the beach. No, really. The full story is at Scoop.
Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard will be boycotting an official ANZAC Day New Zealand ceremony at Chunuk Bair, Gallipoli, preferring instead to attend a barbeque on the shores of ANZAC Cove.

The snub had New Zealand foreign affairs and defence officials exchanging emails with their Australian counterparts over the past two weeks. Attempts to find a solution to the snub have proven to be futile.

John Howard’s decision not to attend is being perceived as an insult by veterans, senior defence officials, and, Australian and New Zealand visitors here at Gallipoli. One senior New Zealand officer said it is an outrage.

OK, so let me clarify. It's not as though John Howard is somewhere else entirely and can't make it. John Howard will be attending the Australian ceremony in the morning. But then, when the New Zealand ceremony takes place a couple of hours later, good old John will be at a barbie on the beach just a couple of kilometres away. Pardon my French, but what a knob!

As the name ANZAC implies, the Australian and New Zealand soldiers fought alongside each other (along also with many thousand of British and French troops) at Gallipoli. It was very much a joint effort. So to say that this decision by good old Johnny is a bit of an insult to New Zealand veterans would be putting it mildly.

It will be interesting to see if there is any political fallout from this. There has been no indication at this stage what Howard's reasons for not attending might be. For the moment, the NZ Prime Minister (who is not in Gallipoli this year) has been very diplomatic about it:
New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark is not publicly critical of the Australian PM’s boycott but appeared outwardly annoyed. She said: “That (the decision) is entirely a matter for Mr Howard on how he designs his programme… Mr Howard’s programme is entirely for him to determine.

But I'll be surprised if nothing at all is said in the aftermath.

I'm afraid that this just further confirms my previously-held impression of John Howard as, frankly, an arrogant tosser. It is completely beyond me how and why the Australian electorate goes on re-electing him time after time after time. If I were Australian, I'd view him as an embarrassment to my country. As I am not, I simply view him as an odious little man with an attitude problem and a misplaced desire to turn his country into a carbon-copy of the USA.

Can you tell this has got me wound up? OK, sorry, I'll stop now.

[Update 25/04/05 14:00] OK, it's actually worse than I thought it was. Contrary to my original post, I've now found out that the New Zealand Prime Minister is in Gallipoli today, and attended both the Australian and New Zealand services. I'll be posting later today about the very moving ANZAC service here in Berlin that I've just returned from.]