ANZAC MEMORIAL (BUILDING) AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from 15 September.
(Lane Cove - Leader of the Opposition) [7.30 p.m.]: The Government in introducing this bill expressed its abhorrence of what had happened in recent times to the Anzac Memorial. That abhorrence the Opposition shares. In supporting the bill I acknowledge the Government’s attempts to protect the Anzac War Memorial from further attacks of vandalism. Increasing penalties for offences and requiring offenders to pay for the damage caused is a step in the right direction.
The Anzac War Memorial in Hyde Park has been subject to numerous acts of vandalism. One, in February this year, resulted in the monument being covered with almost 50 separate graffiti tags in black and blue marker pens. The cost of the damage was estimated at $20,000. The 16-year-old boy arrested over that terrible attack later admitted that his grandfather had once fought for Australia. A policeman was quoted in the media as saying that he could not contain his disgust when the young boy had made that admission. That was not the first time that the memorial had been attacked. In fact, it was defaced 12 months earlier in an attack that monument workers described as mindless, moronic vandalism.
Such wanton desecration of our war monuments must be penalised. For that reason, the Opposition supports the Government’s decision to impose tougher penalties for acts of vandalism. The importance of the shrine as a memorial to those who fought and died for our country cannot be overstated. The Premier in introducing the bill spoke about the importance and significance of World War I. As one whose two grandfathers fought in World War I, one in the terrible, terrible war in France, I understand the significance of World War I. However, I remind the House tonight that the memorial is also a memorial for those who fought in other wars.
I urge the Government to take on board for consideration the fact that, in the teaching of history to young people, what happened in World War II is pretty well ignored. Honourable members know that I have a particular affinity with and regard for Australia’s actions in the Kokoda campaign in Papua New Guinea. In January of 1997 I had the great privilege and honour of walking the Kokoda Track from Kokoda to Owens Corner. To say that it was a difficult walk is probably an understatement. It was probably the most difficult physical thing I have had to do in my life, but also probably the most emotional experience I have had for a long period.
When I returned to Australia I looked with some interest at my daughter’s history book to see what was taught about the Kokoda campaign. I was a little surprised and certainly very disappointed on opening her history book to find that the Kokoda campaign warranted only two paragraphs. I looked at the book and wondered where the stories were about Templeton’s Crossing, the courage at Imita Ridge, what happened at Efogi and Monari and, most significantly, about the gallant and courageous acts of Bruce Kingsbury at Isurava, which won him the only Victoria Cross that has been won on Australian soil. As honourable members would recall, Papua New Guinea at that time was mandated Australian territory.
So why is it that we as Australians think so little of the campaign that it is not taught to the next generation? It is not often that I quote a former Prime Minister in this House and agree with him but the sentiments that I felt about Australia’s disregard for its own history were expressed by Paul Keating when he said in his speech at the Port Moresby Anzac Day commemoration service:
The Australians who served here in Papua New Guinea fought and died not in defence of the old world, but the new world. Their world. They died in defence of Australia, and the civilisation and values which had grown up there. That is why it might be said that, for Australians, the battles in Papua New Guinea were the most important ever fought.
The Prime Minister at the time, Mr Keating, was correct. They were important and significant battles for Australia, yet we choose not to teach our children about them, not to pass on the history of Papua New Guinea, and not to talk about the bravery and the courage of the people who fought in that campaign. Last year I had the great privilege to return to Kokoda in the company of 46 veterans of the Kokoda campaign. They ranged in age from 75 to 88. We went back to Isurava as the battle for Isurava was probably the most significant battle of the Kokoda campaign and, indeed, one of the most significant in our history.
These elderly gentlemen had fought in that terrible campaign and had personal experiences of it. As honourable members can imagine, it was an amazing logistical exercise. We had to be concerned about their health during transportation. The Federal Government transported them to Papua New Guinea on a government jet and helicopters were then organised to fly them to Isurava. We were greeted at Isurava by the people from the local villages who sang a traditional welcome to the veterans, who obviously were very touched by the welcome because many of them remembered how they had been supported by the Papua New Guineans during the war.
As we stood at the parade a number of the men looked around and recalled clearly their own experiences. It was a very emotional time for everyone, but particularly emotional for Stan Bisset, who was one of the chief organisers of the Last Parade. Stan, of all the people there, probably had the most to remember, to think about and to shed a few tears over because he held his brother in his arms at Isurava while he died and part of his trip back to Isurava was to find the spot where Butch had died. A book on the campaign was written by Peter Dornan, who was with us on the track at the Last Parade. I quote his description of what happened to Stan and Butch Bisset:
In the darkness of the jungle, with the tragedy of war all around them, the two brothers huddled together beside the track, oblivious to the insanity of the day’s proceedings. Stan held Butch’s hand as the badly wounded man lapsed in and out of consciousness. At times they would talk sparingly. Stan would remind Butch of football games, parties they’d been to, characters they’d met along the way. Of the Somers Camp and Power House.
As the battalion continued its withdrawal during the night, muddy, bloodied men would tramp or stagger past the two lone figures. Occasionally someone would ask if they wanted a hand. Stan would quietly say "We’re alright, thanks", hoping his voice didn’t betray his feelings of helplessness and grief.
He would talk to Butch of their mother and father and others in the family. His brother’s vague eyes would show a glimmer
of recognition, then fade as he once more lapsed into insensibility.
Dr Duffy came twice more to check on Butch’s condition. Both times he gave him morphine, as the dosage quickly became ineffectual because of the extent of the wounds. Butch’s battle continued through the early hours of the morning, until finally his battered body could fight no more. At 4.00 am, he died.
Crouching in the persistent, miserable rain, Stan felt Butch’s hand go lifeless - causing him to frantically searched for a pulse. His voice broke as he cried out: "Hal, are you awake?" but it was no use. Stan wept silently to himself, his sobs muffled by the sound of the rain on the canopy.
The experience of Stan Bisset going back up there last year was intensely personal, not only because of what he had been through in the campaign but because the campaign had deprived him of his much-loved brother, Butch. It is the stories of men such as those we should preserve. We need to ensure that our children understand and learn. It is a story of great courage, commitment and dedication. That is hopefully what the Government, with the support of the Opposition, gladly given, will ensure is in school history classes. If we can get some of these stories out, talking about the courage of these men and what they have sacrificed for their country, young people may not feel the need to desecrate something as precious and important as the Anzac Memorial.
We talk about increasing fines and other penalties but we need to stop the desecration in the first instance, to stop people from having any thought of defiling the memory of people such as Butch Bisset who died for their country. Surely that has to be the thrust of what we do. The next generation should understand and be committed to ensuring that the values that those men died for will be their values. The Last Parade was an incredibly emotional experience for the 46 veterans and the accompanying family members. Many of them told me that they had never understood why their fathers, brothers and uncles had not spoken to them about what had happened on Kokoda.
When we were there the weather was pleasant, there was not a lot of mud, we were well fed, we were looked after and we were warmly welcomed. But the family members of the veterans gained an appreciation of the difficulty of the terrain. When the men got there, in some ways it was like opening the floodgates. Many of them started to talk about what had happened. For the first time they told their children, and grandchildren in some instances, about what they had experienced. Was it cathartic? For a number of them it was. Was it important? Absolutely. Was it an ending? That is why it was called the Last Parade. For many of them it was finally putting to rest a lot of ghosts.
We owe those men incredibly. We have to honour their memory. We have to make sure that the sense of what they did is instilled in every Australian. Peter Dornan went on to write at the conclusion of his book about how the Last Parade had affected him. He wrote that Stan Bisset celebrated his eighty-sixth birthday during the week he was there and it was certainly a triumph for him to have made the trip back. Peter Dornan said that the trip made him understand his father much better. I again quote from his book:
For myself, "The Silent Men" [who fought in the Kokoda campaign] are silent no more. I understand now the reason for their perceived silence, for their reluctance to talk of the indescribable slaughter they have experienced, and the acts of nihilistic savagery they have witnessed. I understand now their comradeship and strong commitments to each other - an inbuilt support system that renders full credence and authority to the treasured Australian icon of mateship. Through these men, I have also come to know my father. I have come to appreciate the silent burden that war placed on his and their shoulders. In the process, I have also come to know myself intimately as I place myself beside him, scrambling and fighting over the stony hills of Lebanon, then stumbling through the mud and jungle of the Owen Stanleys. I lie beside him in the putrid, stinking trenches and beaches of Gona, warding off disease as much as the enemy. Deep wells of grief and love flood me as I put my arms around him, as I would my children, and attempt to shield him from the surrounding horrors, then assist him to stagger out of the holocaust.
Peter Dornan went on to write:
As the men bid farewell to the brothers and mates who didn’t come home, I feel a stronger bonding with them, after years of pain, examination and conciliation, I pray this Last Parade can release these Silent Men. I will not forget their sacrifice.
Neither should we. Members of Parliament on both sides of the House should be committed to making sure that the generation that follows us, the one that follows it and the one that follows it understand the commitment of the people who fought in campaigns such as Kokoda. I make a practical suggestion about the problems of the war memorial. I note that the Government has announced that there will be a wall around the memorial at night. Whilst I recognise that that is a solution, it concerns me that we have to go as far as putting up what I suspect might be another target for graffiti artists, although it will be a lot easier to clean that wall and at least it will protect the memorial.
I suggest that the Government consider introduction of a memorial guard similar to the highly successful shrine guard in Melbourne that was introduced in 1935. The Melbourne shrine guard has a strength of 10 constables and operates on an annual budget of around $1.2 million a year. From 7.00 a.m. to sunset in winter shrine guard officers dress in traditional Army light horse uniform and
carry .303 rifles. In summer daylight hours they wear a more contemporary uniform complete with plume hat. At night they wear police uniforms and are fully kitted with a baton, a pistol, spray and a police radio. The Government is already proposing to have some guards at the memorial, however we are proposing that the Anzac Memorial guards would patrol the memorial and surrounds for 24 hours a day, and fulfil ceremonial as well as protective functions.
The ceremonial presence of a uniformed guard would be an added tourist feature for Sydney. Members of the memorial guard could be special constables with former police and military service experience. Input on the project would have to be sought from the trust which currently manages the memorial, the Returned Services League and New South Wales police. The Opposition suggests that the Government consider the proposal as a serious option to provide better protection of the Anzac Memorial. We can never truly appreciate the debt that we owe those who fought and died for us around the world. We must continue to honour the manner in which they did it, the commitment which they showed to this country. In closing, I will quote from Osma White’s book Green Armour
. His words relating to the Kokoda campaign could be applied to all who fought and died for this country. He wrote:
I was convinced for all time of the dignity and nobility of common men. I was convinced for all time that common men have a pure and shining courage when they fight for what they believe to be a just cause.
That which was fine in these men outweighed and made trivial all that was horrible in their plight. I cannot explain it except to say that they were at all times cheerful and helped one another. They never gave up the fight. They never admitted defeat. They never asked for help.
I felt proud to be of their race and cause, bitterly ashamed to be so nagged by the trivial ills of my own flesh. I wondered if all men, when they had endured so much that exhausted nerves would no longer give response, were creatures of the spirit, eternal and indestructible as stars.
Those words describe the men and women who fought for and guarded our democracy. We must ensure that they continue to be honoured and that we never forget.
(Heathcote - Parliamentary Secretary) [7.51 p.m.]: I support the Anzac Memorial (Building) Amendment Bill. It will be obvious to members of this House that I wear my medals proudly. I do not wear them for some jovial reason but to reinforce the support of this House for those who have gone before us and who fought in wars and conflicts. In the past few weeks since the desecration of the Anzac Memorial building, I and my colleagues in the RSL movement have felt anger towards the people who desecrated a monument to those who have died in wars. Their actions are almost unforgivable. I find it incomprehensible that people in our community today can do such things to important, sacred monuments in our country.
Those monuments relate predominantly to World War I. I went through conflicts in both Malaya and Vietnam. I understand, as few members of this House do, the horrors and traumas of both the conflicts and the internal struggles that colleagues suffer when they return home. I vividly remember that colleagues of mine who were not able to support their families or themselves took what they regarded at the time as the easy way out. They took drugs, drank alcohol and, in some cases, they took the self-inflicted bullet to rid themselves of the internal horrors and monsters they could not get rid of in other ways.
Bearing in mind what has happened in the last few weeks, I wonder what is happening to our community. I ask myself as I look at my own children: Where the hell are we going wrong? How in God’s name can anyone who has any principle in life do what these people have done? How in God’s name have their parents not instilled in their own children respect for those who died in war? It is frightening. The desecration of the Anzac Memorial in Sydney is only one serious act of vandalism. When I was the member for Bulli acts of vandalism occurred regularly outside my office in Thirroul. The honourable member for Keira would be able to confirm what has happened on the South Coast. Reasonably regularly people act with stupidity; at times I would call it childish stupidity. Where does that stupidity come from?
The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that education is important. But education will only benefit those who are being educated now. How do we get the message across to the fools who are desecrating our monuments now? How do we make them understand that what they are doing is wrong? Should we simply go to a newspaper? Obviously, that is not good enough. Should we implement police patrols, or make them pay fines? There should have been an interventionist approach right from the beginning. Years ago we should have been emphasising to the people of New South Wales and their children the importance of protecting the monuments to those who have gone before us.
The Opposition suggested the use of a military guard at the memorial. I support that idea. However, it is not possible to have a military guard protecting
every memorial in New South Wales. I will urge the Premier to write to John Howard immediately to request the provision of a military guard, as provided for at Victoria Barracks. It would not be necessary for the military guard to change uniform every four hours. The military could be used as they are used at the Victoria Barracks: to ensure that the proper procedures are in place and that the correct personnel are present to protect the Anzac Memorial. In their Army uniforms they would be a constant reminder of the need to respect those who have gone before us.
I am receiving a deal of interjection from the Opposition. That is disappointing on a day like today. This is a serious issue. I did not interrupt the Leader of the Opposition during her contribution. As a Vietnam veteran I take umbrage at any member of the Opposition interjecting during this serious debate, particularly the honourable member for North Shore, whose husband is a naval officer.
Point of order: This is a most inappropriate outburst of fake emotion on the part of the honourable member for Heathcote.
I suggest that the honourable member for Heathcote was misleading the House in relation to who provided the military guard at Victoria Barracks, and I think the honourable member knows that.
Madam ACTING-SPEAKER (Mrs Beamer):
Order! There is no point of order.
I request you to ask the honourable member for North Shore to withdraw her comment that my statements are inappropriate.
I will not.
I place on record that the honourable member for North Shore, a woman who continues to remind the House that her husband is a Vietnam veteran, has the audacity to claim that my comments are inappropriate. The bill clearly indicates what is needed. Unfortunately, as a matter of necessity some punitive powers need to be introduced. The bill will ensure that heavy penalties are imposed on anyone who vandalises our memorials. The community is extremely concerned about vandalism of the Anzac Memorial.
The bill increases the penalty for that offence. Under the 1987 by-laws to the Anzac Memorial (Building) Act 1923 the penalties for damaging the memorial were increased from $40 to a maximum of $200. Under the Summary Offences Act the maximum financial penalty for causing spray paint damage is 20 penalty units, or $2,200. That Act also contains a provision enabling the court to require persons found guilty of criminal damage to pay and/or contribute to the cost of the damage caused. That is an important aspect of the bill. Not only will there be a punitive measure by way of a financial penalty, the offenders will be disciplined by ensuring that they help to clean up the mess they made in desecrating the memorial.
The by-laws will be amended to increase the maximum penalty for damaging the Anzac Memorial building to 20 penalty units. That is in line with the requirements of the Government when this bill passes through the House, and I hope that will occur tonight without any call for a division. It grieves me and, I am sure, most honourable members that the Parliament has to face this situation. As the Premier’s representative on the Anzac House Trust for some years, as was the former honourable member for Monaro who was also a Vietnam veteran, it means a great deal to me to be involved with the Returned Services League under the stewardship of Rusty Priest as President and John Sheehan as Secretary. I know first-hand of their dedication to the RSL and veterans throughout this State and nation.
I spoke to Rusty Priest only yesterday and I am aware that he is shattered by the disastrous events that occurred in Sydney. John Sheehan, to whom I speak regularly, is equally as shattered. They and veterans from all wars and conflicts are extremely disappointed with the decision that was made. Action must be taken to ensure that the education in our schools, as instanced by the Premier in his contribution, is widened. We must attempt to ensure that the youth of our community are fully advised of what has happened in past wars. More must be done.
I am pleased that this type of education occurs in schools, but it must be enhanced and increased. Consideration might be given to publicising the issue in picture theatres, as was done during the war years. Movie shorts were shown in theatres as a constant reminder of what was occurring overseas. That is still done in some theatres and on television. However, the information must be made available in areas frequented by adolescents. They do not sit at home to watch these things on television. We must target areas where they will be reminded of the sacrifices these men and women made. If that is done we may have a chance of one day getting away from imposing punitive measures on those
who might well be children who have gone wrong in their lives.
We cannot and should not blame them, but from my perspective - not only as a parliamentarian but as a parent and a veteran - I have great difficulty in refraining from blaming them. I realise full well that the blame does not lie solely with young people. It lies with others, with society, which must be changed, and with our culture, which must be changed also. Tonight honourable members have an opportunity to show in at least a small way that the Parliament acknowledges those who have gone before us. If we can demonstrate that in a small way to the youth of this country and make them aware that we are disgusted with the desecration of the Anzac Memorial, we may stop that type of activity from happening again. I support the bill.
(Vaucluse) [8.04 p.m.]: I have mixed feelings when speaking to this bill. This is the first opportunity I have had to speak in the House this week as troops go ashore in East Timor. I add my words of support to those troops and their families and I reinforce the message that has been enunciated by a number of honourable members: that our thoughts and prayers are with the troops as they prepare to do the work they have been trained to do overseas. Our thoughts are also with their families as they wait anxiously for their safe return. I endorse the words of the honourable member for Heathcote. I share his concern that it has been necessary to bring the bill before the House. As the Leader of the Opposition said, the Opposition fully supports the bill. It is sad that it had to be introduced.
Obviously the Opposition supports the need for fencing around the memorial if the Government and the Anzac Trust feel that is desperately needed as another measure. The Leader of the Opposition suggested a third measure, namely, a memorial guard similar to that which operates in Victoria. There was some slight dispute across the Chamber between the shadow minister for health and the honourable member for Heathcote. I should attempt to clarify that issue before addressing other matters. The honourable member for Heathcote said that he would accept the concept of a memorial guard. He immediately proceeded to say that he would support a request to the Federal Government for the provision of such a guard.
I am sure that as he thinks the matter through he will realise, as the Opposition realises, that complications are involved with having military personnel on guard duty in the community. Effectively that is a civilian job done by special constables. That would be the way to go. It should be done by the Police Service or a security firm. A memorial guard would be an important tourist attraction in Sydney and would give the necessary security. It is a shame that over the years that shrine has suffered desecration on a number of occasions.
The bill addresses one symptom of the problem. A number of honourable members have referred to the fact that graffiti does not occur solely in Hyde Park or at the Anzac Memorial. It occurs in a number of places, and particularly in a number of memorials across the State. One of the concerns of the Opposition is that the bill deals specifically with the Anzac Memorial. Honourable members will recall that last year a similar event occurred in Waverley Park. Somebody knocked the top off the memorial in the park.
Thankfully, efforts were made pre-dawn on Anzac Day to repair the damage. Across the community there seems to be a sense of disrespect for a number of memorials - and not solely memorials but the property of the wider community, private and public. I call upon honourable members to consider the wider issue related to graffiti. The problem is not simply painting on a memorial or on a wall; it is desecrating the community and adding to urban decay. One must ask why. When one examines the instances relating to the Anzac Memorial, one questions where it is sited. It is located in a public park immediately in front of police headquarters. How can a war memorial located right in front of police headquarters be desecrated every few months?
Probably the memorial was there first.
As the honourable member for Auburn said, probably the war memorial was there before police headquarters. Either way, immediately in front of police headquarters there is lawlessness. That is simply part of a wider community problem. It is essential that consideration be given to a number of other measures. Graffiti has been an issue that I have pursued aggressively in my electorate for a number of years. A reward of $500 has been offered for information regarding graffitiing, and photographs of tags have been placed in local papers.
I have been astounded that within two hours of a photograph of a tag being published and a $500 reward offered, up to 50 people have rung Crime Stoppers and identified not a range of people but one person who did it. People know who is doing it and will respond to reward schemes. Unfortunately,
a number of communities have not taken that type of initiative. I suggest that honourable members pursue that sort of initiative in their areas because people know who is marking property with graffiti and we can apprehend them and deal with them appropriately.
The other point that I would make is that throughout the world there is one successful strategy for dealing with graffiti: whether it is cleaned off, painted over or whatever, the successful move is to remove the graffiti immediately. Over a number of decades a feeling of helplessness has been created in the community that we cannot do something about graffiti. We can. I urge the 93 local members of this House to get the message out to our communities that graffiti can be removed. Solvents are available from hardware stores that will remove graffiti fairly easily, without much elbow grease, while on some surfaces it can be steam cleaned, and so forth. But let us get the message to our communities that the most successful strategy to suppress graffiti is removal of it immediately.
New South Wales has just had a number of council elections. One concern about councils is that they continue to promote the grunge culture. I know that in the Vaucluse electorate and in particular in Waverley Council we have that problem. There is no doubt that the grunge culture of inviting people to put murals on walls and other property simply invites more graffiti. I ask councils and local members who have influence over them to take up this issue and encourage councils to be responsible, as well as encouraging residents and businesses to clean up their property immediately.
Another issue that is worthy of mention is law and order. People have talked about that subject to the point where most people are becoming bored with it. Most may have forgotten that the term "law and order" has two parts; the second is order. It refers to public order. In New South Wales, over a number of decades, we have lost public order. We need to reinstate public order, and graffiti is one of the strongest statements in the New South Wales community and communities around the world. It says to members of the public, no matter what space it is on: This space is uncontrolled and uncontrollable. Graffiti is a priority, and the Parliament, the community and public utilities must do all they can to remove graffiti. It sends a strong message to the public: Don’t use this area because you could be in danger. That has the cumulative effect of encouraging more graffiti and more damage later on.
We need to reinstate public order. We need to re-people our public spaces; and one way of doing that is by tackling the graffiti problem as quickly as possible. I commenced by saying that the Opposition supports the bill. I will close by summarising that position. The Opposition parties support the penalties. We think it is a sad fact of life that it is necessary to pass a bill to protect the Anzac Memorial. We raise the issue of other memorials across New South Wales. We must give the same protection to those other memorials, to give due respect to the Australian forces of years gone by and of today. Obviously, we support the fencing of the memorial if that is really needed. It is a shame if it is. The memorial guard could be an important initiative. We call on the Premier, in a spirit of bipartisanship, to take up that option. It makes a lot of sense both from a security and tourism point of view.
(Auburn) [8.13 p.m.]: The disgraceful act of vandalism that took place at the Anzac Memorial building in Hyde Park on 9 February this year will not be tolerated by the great majority of the people of this State. The Premier said in his second reading speech:
The community’s pride and respect for the Anzac tradition was reflected in its outrage at the desecration of this sacred place - our principal war memorial, dedicated to the memory of men and women who have served their country in war. Sydneysiders were shocked to find the memorial disfigured; angry at the act of mindless graffiti.
That call for action moved throughout the New South Wales community, and the Government acted immediately with an allocation of funds for an upgrade of security. The Hyde Park memorial tells the story of the impact of war on Australians. I will give one example of this. I am sorry that the honourable member for Wyong has left the Chamber. However, the honourable member for Peats is present. The example is that of Harry Jensen, former Lord Mayor of Sydney, member for Wyong, and Minister for Local Government in the Renshaw and Wran Governments.
Harry Jensen’s story is very interesting. His father went to Gallipoli when Harry’s mother was pregnant with Harry. The father fought at Lone Pine, where he was mortally wounded. He was taken onto a ship in the harbour of the Dardanelles, there to suffer a miserable existence for three days before he died. He never saw Harry, his son. That is just one story about the people involved with wars. Harry grew up a fine young man, helped by Legacy and other organisations that assist returned servicemen and servicewomen as well as the surviving spouses of deceased servicemen and servicewomen.
The Anzac Memorial was dedicated to the forces involved in World War I. In 1984, the fiftieth anniversary of the original dedication of the building, the memorial was formally rededicated to all Australians who served their country in war - the Boer War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, various United Nations operations, and now East Timor. This structure, along with every modest memorial in suburbs, towns and cities across the State, is a monument to the bravery and suffering of Australians who gave up their youth, and some their lives, to protect this southern land, so that our children and our children’s children could live their lives freely and peacefully. What is peace? It is people at ease, it is Australia, it is tolerance, and it is eternal life. But the vandalism on 9 February created a major problem. I would remind the House of the misery of war and what war can do to people. I read from an extract of a letter written by Captain Duffy when he said to my auntie about my father’s brother:
I would like you to know, Mrs Nagle, that Athol’s death was a great shock to me and that I suffered a very great loss. Certainly, I don’t try to put it on a plane with your sad loss, but please believe me when I tell you that Athol’s loss was the one that I felt most heavily of all, and one which I really will never forget.
Sometimes when I was suffering drawn-out death from starvation and disease I was thankful that if Athol had to go that he died a quick, clean, painless death - a warrior’s death on the field of battle, not the long, drawn-out, miserable, broken down slave’s death that so many of our fine boys did suffer.
Athol, Mrs Nagle, was the first man of the AIF in Malaysia to give up his life. It was a chance bullet that got him. At least it was swift and clean, for it was reported to me that he had been hit, and I went across to him only a matter of 10 or 12 yards and he had already passed away.
I must confess that I was quite stunned as I sat beside him there and held him in my arms. The light was not good, as it was only about three-quarters of an hour to darkness, and the light in the enclosed jungle was feeble at the best of times.
To describe my sensations at the time is somewhat difficult, as I found it difficult to believe that Athol had left us. Hard to believe that it was Athol, for not only was it my first casualty, but I always regarded Athol as a close personal friend and thought a great deal of him and was in fact very fond of my quiet, loyal, orderly room sergeant.
I made quite sure that it was Athol, took his disc from around his neck, took his rifle and pay book and lay him so that he looked as though he was sleeping peacefully. I would have liked to have either got his body back with us, or to have buried him there, but time and the conditions that we were placed in did not permit it as I had wounded men with me, another man having been struck in the knee during the same firing in which Athol lost his life and, as I had my responsibilities to the living, I had to content myself with saying a hasty prayer over him and commending him to God’s mercy and care.
That is the story of life. All that is left to their memory and to the sacrifices they made is a statue in a suburb, an RSL memorial or the Anzac memorial. Some idiots, just for the fun of it and because they have nothing else to do in their miserable lives, sprayed the memorial with graffiti. The memorials are dedicated to the memory of ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen. The Glebe Island Bridge was renamed Anzac Bridge as a symbolic gesture to protect the memory of the Anzacs, the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, who fought as a unit in Gallipoli in the First World War.
This bill proposes: an amendment to section 9 (3) of the Act to increase the maximum penalty that may be imposed for a breach of a by-law from $200, set in 1987, to 20 penalty points, or $2,200; an amendment to increase the maximum penalty that can be awarded for a breach of by-law 12 relating to damage to a memorial to 20 penalty units, and to increase the maximum penalty for other offences under the current by-laws to 10 penalty units; and amendment to insert a new section 11 to enable a Local Court to order a person who has been convicted of an offence under the by-laws to pay compensation for damage caused by the commission of the offence, up to a maximum limit of 20 penalty points. New section 11 is similar to section 33 of the Summary Offences Act.
It is a sad state of affairs that someone would damage any monument to the men and women who gave up their lives for us. I just read to the House extracts about two Australians, one who fought in World War I and another who fought in World War II, who gave up their lives for their nation. The proposed increase in penalties and provisions for the payment of compensation for damage to a memorial will send a clear message to those selfish, arrogant, stupid idiots who have not been trained, like Harry Jensen’s father or Athol Nagle, to defend their country and sacrifice their lives for this great nation.
All that these vandals, these fools, want to do is destroy the memory of the dead, their bravery and their sacrifice; and destroy the memory of lost youth for those who survived. In memory of their sacrifice we have the Anzac Memorial and the RSL and many monuments that have been dedicated to our ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen. Those who seek to vandalise these monuments should get the message: It will not be tolerated ever again. If they are caught, I am sure they will be dealt with according to law. Lest We Forget.
(Coffs Harbour) [8.22 p.m.]: In contributing to this debate, which I am pleased has
bipartisan support, I draw the attention of the House to something that honourable members, particularly Government members, would look at on most days when the House sits. It is a commemorative plaque in this Chamber in remembrance of George Frederick Braund and Edward Rennix Larkin, former members for Armidale and Willoughby respectively, who died in May 1915 at the Dardanelles. I look at that plaque regularly and pay tribute to them for their sacrifice. They were serving members of Parliament who, in a time of need, enlisted and headed off to Europe to fight a war, declared by Britain on our behalf, to protect the future of Australia. Those two members of this House died in battle.
The Anzac Memorial is dedicated to all those who served in the Great War, the Boer War, World War II, Korea, Borneo and Vietnam, to those now serving as a peacekeeping corps in East Timor, and to other Australian forces. To say that it makes my blood boil when someone commits a mindless act, such as that perpetrated on 2 February, on a memorial that reflects our past, is a gross understatement.
During the Great War my grandfather Cyril Morison raised his age from 17 and enlisted in the Royal Australian Artillery. He served in France as a gunner. He was more than six feet tall, a big and happy man. He had a reputation for enjoying a bit of fun, but also for serving his country and his community. He served in France for two years, I think. He was retired medically unfit to England before the end of the war, suffering from what was known in those days as shell shock. He recuperated in England and, by the time the war had finished, he had returned to Australia. He married my grandmother, Jeannie Morison, a five foot-nothing redhead with a great sense of humour and a great view of life. She was a wonderful lady.
My grandmother had four children - Alan, John, Dorothy and my mother Betty. By the time my mother was 2½ years of age my grandfather had died, after spending time at Broughton Hall in Callan Park. The effects of war had killed him. From the age of five I have attended the Anzac Day dawn service every year. I take my children, so that they can understand the suffering that not only my grandfather endured, but also my mother, her brothers and sister and my grandmother - because she had to raise four children on her own in hard times. We did not have as good a welfare system then as we have now. It is the duty of every Australian, those born here and those who immigrated, to respect the memory of those who died in war and those who died after they returned home.
This legislation does not go far enough to punish idiots who vandalise such memorials. We live in a society that tells parents they cannot smack their children, that they cannot do this and they cannot do that. I interjected during the contribution of a previous speaker to say, "Thanks to Frank Walker." The introduction of the Summary Offences Act sent a message to young Australians that they could do almost anything. We have reached the situation today where our youth - and I believe this damage was perpetrated by young people - think it is all right to desecrate a sacred memorial. Memorials have been damaged in Sydney and in many areas of New South Wales.
I suggest to the Government that this legislation should be applied to all war memorials as sacred places. Earlier this year I took my children to a park in Hamilton, Newcastle, where my grandfather’s name is inscribed on a memorial as a person who died as a result of World War I. Unfortunately, his name was spelt incorrectly with two r’s. I pointed out his name to my children and said, "That was your grandfather. He did his bit for his country." The freedom my children enjoy in society today is the result of the actions of people such as their great-grandfather. They went to war, gave up their families, their futures and their lives to enable us to debate this bill today.
I cannot bear for one moment the thought of people desecrating this memorial. As a child my grandmother taught us a poem, written in 1915 by a Canadian, John McCrae. It was near and dear to my grandmother’s heart, and I silently recite it to myself every Anzac Day at the dawn service. The poem reflects my attitude, and that of many others, about returned servicemen, no matter what conflict they fought in. I will recite the poem, which is called "Flanders Fields":
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
I put it to this House that the vermin that desecrate memorials break faith with those people who gave us our freedom and who gave them the opportunity to live as well as they do in this country today. By committing such acts of vandalism on the Anzac memorial in Sydney and on any war memorial they not only desecrate it but they break faith with the people who lie in Flanders fields. I commend the bill to the House.
(East Hills) [8.31 p.m.]: This bill has bipartisan support, and so it should have. Clearly, the bill is designed to punish people who are caught desecrating the Hyde Park war memorial. Unfortunately, people who are caught should be punished. One cannot just tell them that what they did was bad, that it was not the right thing to do, and then let them go on their way. On these occasions society has to say that such a crime is worse than painting a shop window or doing a tag on a council toilet block. I am sure all honourable members would agree with that.
My father fought in World War II and when I was a child I would talk to him and ask him what he did in the war. He would tell me some things but not that they got a few hundred men together, attacked the Japanese, blew them all apart, ripped them with bayonets and won. He would just tell me some of the more humorous anecdotes of the war because, frankly, he did not want to burden a six- or seven-year old child with what war was about. It was only when I went to school and later on university and read more widely that I realised what it would be like to be a soldier in the war.
My father is now 84 years of age and people of his generation lived through the war. My children would talk to him about all sorts of things but they would not even think to talk to him about what he did in World War II. That is a pity because if more children today talked to their grandparents about what they did in wars - and most of them did it reluctantly, as none of us want to be involved in a war - we would have a more educated community and maybe children would be less inclined to want to carry out such acts.
My father did not brag about the war; he just told me stories about his mates. I remember a fellow by the name of Fotheringham. Of course no Australian would talk about a soldier called Fotheringham; his name to everyone was Foggo. A bloke who was always asleep on the job had the name of Dozey. I can remember visiting Dozey Mason every weekend for a long time. My father’s nickname would not surprise most honourable members; it was Shorty!
I can remember my father telling me a story only a few years ago about when the Australian and American forces had retaken Milne Bay. At a certain point the Australians celebrated the fact that a Japanese troopship was on the run and leaving. American and Australian planes managed to fly over and attack the troopship and it sank. All the Australians on the island celebrated and cheered until it became obvious, when the bodies washed up, that they were Australian prisoners of war who were being taken back to Japan. One hears that type of anecdote once and does not forget. I have tried to teach children such stories in schools so that they listen and do not go out and desecrate memorials.
Earlier someone asked if the history of World War II, the Vietnam War and other wars are taught in schools as the history of World War I is taught? That is taught in schools. No good history teacher would fail to teach the history of Australia’s involvement in war. That is not to celebrate or brag that we have been on the winning side; that is not the point. Young men and women died, as all honourable members know. I saw the film Saving Private Ryan
and after the first 25 minutes I thought that it should be compulsory viewing for everyone - certainly for young people involved in gangs, and those who think it is all right to beat somebody in the street or who feel that violence is a part of life and ought to be encouraged in some way.
I read that the film was too real for some people. Americans are brought up with the idea that everybody has a gun with numerous bullets; that Arnold Schwarzenegger characters blow people away; that they live on into the next scene; and they end up with the girl - or sometimes the bloke, depending on their choice - at the end of the movie. It seems so inappropriate that the American culture cannot seem to cope with the truth about war.
I have screened the film Gallipoli
for years 9 to 12 students who were not born when that film was made in Australia. They loved its humour and the idea that Anzacs volunteered to go to war, ripped apart Egypt and had fun climbing up the sphinx and the pyramids as they got ready to go over and fight in Gallipoli. Every child in the class who saw that film believed that those who starred in it would live happily ever after.
They believed that the Australians will make it above the trenches and capture the Turks. The children were stunned to see the young bloke throw down his gun and run towards the enemy - because he was a runner and forgot where he was - get hit with about 100 bullets in the chest and die. They
were stunned because war movies are supposed to end with the good guys winning and the characters living on into the next scene.
I tried to convey a different message in schools. World War II history is taught in schools and it is particularly important to recognise that World War I memorials are not the only memorials of importance. As the honourable member for Coffs Harbour and the Leader of the Opposition said, the memorials represent every Australian who has fought, not all of whom died. Many came back mentally scarred for life, a fact that was not and could not be recognised at the turn of the century.
The honourable member for Coffs Harbour said that his father was, if you like, cashiered out of the army because of that. In a sense shell shock would not have been written down, but they would have found some other way of saying he was not fit for service. In the British and particularly the French armies if shell shock was recognised as a mental illness brought on by the fear of war and the suffering that it caused, every army could have walked home. They did not want to recognise mental illness.
Many soldiers in many armies were shot for cowardice when it was simply a matter of their mental and physical being giving up under the pressure they suffered. My wife’s grandfather came back after serving in Tobruk. All he was able to do was play cards, drink and smoke, like many other soldiers from Tobruk. It made him an alcoholic and he died of lung cancer. That is just one story. He had a friend who, as he got older, stopped cooking on the stove and putting things in the fridge. He would light a wood fire on the kitchen floor and put a billy on it. Relatives would visit and ask him what he was doing, and try to convince him that he was living in the 1970s.
It is not just in 1914 or the 1940s at Crete and Tobruk. Many victims were mental victims. A fellow I taught with at school until this year was in the air force. His job was to fly over Vietnam and take photographs of the damage the Australians had been able to inflict in that war. While he was away his wife and his two children were killed in a car accident. When he came back after that war he was on dozens of Valium tablets a day just to cope with the most mundane aspects of life. When a memorial is erected these are the stories that we have to get across to the kids we are trying to teach.
One aspect must be a type of punishment, because there will be kids involved. I use the word "kids" I suppose a little inadvisedly; some of them are older. Primary school kids want to know; they listen and they respect. Of concern are members of the group who will not and cannot get a job, feel alienated and believe that our society is war mongering. It is not. I did not support the Vietnam war; I marched against it. My colleague the honourable member for Heathcote took part in that war. I had nothing against the soldiers, sailors and the others who went to Vietnam. When they came back - and I have since had a chance to meet many of them - I realised what they had been through, especially as so many of them were conscripts. Even those who were not conscripts were forced to go.
The honourable member for Coffs Harbour quoted a poem. Some of the best lessons I hope I have ever taught the kids were to listen to war poems. Everyone should read the poetry of Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and so many other great poets who wrote poetry while in the trenches. Dolce et Decorum Est. I wish I could remember the lines. I do not want to embarrass myself, but I remember the terribleness of that poem, about the men being dragged along on carts as their stomach frothed up through their mouths after they had been gassed. The lines end with the idea that one would not tell young kids it was beautiful to die for their country if they could see how those soldiers died.
But putting aside that sort of patriotism, we owe it to the soldiers who died to remember them. If we have to introduce a form of punishment and make the punishment stronger, I am happy to support the Premier’s motion. I am glad that the Opposition supports it also. I am equally happy to look at any other method combining education with punishment to make sure that the events of February never happen again. I have faith, however, that modern schoolchildren, if taught these things, will understand them.
I suppose that to some honourable members this seems a very personal speech in some ways. I used to make a point of taking some of the worst students in the schools in which I taught, firstly, because if they are going to be bad they will be sent to a senior head teacher anyway; secondly, the idea was that you might really be able to teach them something. When I was teaching them about what war was really like and the sacrifices Australians had made in conflicts, the kids would be eating out of the palm of my hand. They wanted to know.
I never felt that I would be a great maths teacher or a great science teacher, but I knew that I was a very good history teacher when the students after sitting and listening would go out and say, "Gee, we just didn’t know it would be like that."
Think of the photographs they can be shown. Britain, for example, lost 400,000 horses in the First World War. The panic of the horses would have been unbelievable. That is what memorials are about. They are not erected to say that Australia is great, that it is an RSL country and war is great. One has to be conservative. I proudly say that I am a member of the Labor Party. Some honourable members would be aware that I am probably in the left faction.
It is called the left faction.
The soft left faction. The point I am trying to make is that I am sure we may have disagreements on a range of issues - I spent this afternoon in a fairly robust debate with some of my colleagues opposite - but on these types of issues this House is as one. It is not kid bashing. It is not punishment just for the sake of a cheap headline; it is a punishment that has to fit a crime against humanity. The honourable member for Auburn said they are only buildings and they have names scratched into them, but those whose names are scratched onto that building or an obelisk, whether it is the Vietnam memorial in Canberra, the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park or memorials in Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie or Grafton, have made that ultimate sacrifice. They did not see their children, their grandchildren or their families again. They may never have married.
The unknown soldier who is interred in Canberra, no-one knows who he - for that matter, it may be she - is or was and no-one ever will because that person represents all the soldiers who fought in all the wars in which this country has been involved. I support the bill. I have a true belief in everything I have said.
(Cronulla) [8.46 p.m.]: Let me say at the outset that I support this bill. However, I want to speak to it only briefly because most of the things that can be said about the bill have been said. My father, like so many in this House, was a former servicemen who served and saw action in New Guinea. We all deeply deplore the necessity to bring this sort of legislation before the House. It should be said also that what we are talking about is a tiny minority. What has been said this evening about education, imparting Australia’s heritage and the courage of those who defended our country, has been imparted and has sustained the great majority of the next generation. They would no more contemplate damaging any of these buildings than any one of us would.
It is impossible to fathom the reasoning of those who indulge in such vandalism. As the honourable member for East Hills said, it is not simply vandalism; it is a crime against humanity because these buildings are symbolic of the sacrifice, the pain and the comradeship that is embodied in war and war with all its horrors. I do not think I have ever been to an Anzac Day ceremony that has glorified war or that has spoken about the price that has been paid for our freedom. We can be very proud as a nation in celebrating Anzac Day that we celebrate it with the notice that we do.
Australia in 1999 would seem almost like a foreign planet if Anzacs could come back today, but there is a continuity and a quality that transcends, and that is the reverence that we have for those who suffered agony and death to protect our freedom. Whether it be 1914 or 1999, the sort of human qualities that they displayed are still revered by their fellow citizens, and that will continue no matter the changes that take place in our society. The Leader of the Opposition has made a sensible suggestion and contribution to this debate in suggesting placing a shrine guard on the memorial, as has happened in Victoria. I believe that would enhance the war memorial as well as protect it. Nevertheless, it is good that this legislation has been brought forward. It shows that as a community we still care, we still want to protect our heritage and we still want to revere the price that was paid so that we can all enjoy our present freedom.
(Keira) [8.50 p.m.]: It is with some dismay that I take part in this debate. Like so many other speakers, I have to shake my head and wonder why it is necessary to have a debate of this nature and to implement provisions such as contained in the bill. Nevertheless, it is necessary because of what happened at the Hyde Park Anzac Memorial on 9 February. That despicable graffiti attack was vandalism at its worst. Members and the communities they represent often reflect on a park or site that has been vandalised but for a monument such as this to be vandalised is, as I said, vandalism at its worst.
War memorials - whether the Anzac Memorial at Hyde Park or other memorials across the State, which I will talk about shortly - encapsulate the essence and fabric of our community. They teach us the lessons of what is our community, what made us grow as a people, what binds us and taught us mutual respect and support, and what encourages us to live together. Therefore, I just do not understand why the bill is necessary.
War memorials are dedicated to many men and women who in a whole range of ways served and contributed to the growth of our nation and community. It is often said, but through the First World War and all the other conflicts in which we have been represented we have matured, grown as a nation and worked together. There was shock and anger in our community that people should want to take actions such as those that led to this debate.
It is pleasing to note that after the attack there was an immediate clean-up and temporary security measures were installed. As the Premier stated in his second reading speech, there will be a structural solution. That is unfortunate but necessary. The bill will impose stiffer penalties. A bipartisan approach has been adopted to the bill and I trust that it will receive unanimous support.
In relation to local war memorials in regional and rural centres, in the electorate of Keira, which I have the privilege to represent, there are war memorials in the suburbs of Austinmer, Thirroul, Bulli, Woonona and Corrimal. The Corrimal memorial was also vandalised on the weekend of 5 and 6 June this year. Recalling the Premier’s strong response and concern about the attack on the Anzac Memorial, I contacted his office. The Premier made discretionary funds available to the Corrimal Returned Services League sub-branch to assist in the clean-up of the graffiti at Corrimal.
Corrimal war memorial is special to me because I grew up in Corrimal. My primary school went to the memorial for services before Anzac Day. When I was a member of the Boy Scouts movement we marched with pride on the Sunday before Anzac Day. In the local Corrimal Anzac Day marches I would march with my grandfather, who served in the First World War, and my uncle, who served in the Second World War. The stories they told me reflect many of the stories referred to by other members.
From talking to them and observing annual Anzac services I learnt how lucky I was to have been born so late. My father was lucky to have been born too late to go to the Second World War; I was born too late to go to the Vietnam war. Like the honourable member for Coffs Harbour, I am an annual attendee of an Anzac Day service, whether it be the Dawn Service or one of the other services. It is a matter of acknowledging the hardship endured and the effort put in by my forbears and so many people in the community in which I live and serve. It is not so much celebrated but acknowledged and remembered. I have the opportunity to speak in this debate as a result of their labours.
I acknowledge the work of Harry Mills, a World War II veteran who was faced with a heart-wrenching scene when he went to tend the gardens of the Corrimal war memorial. Almost every day of the week the first thing he does is walk to the memorial to tidy it, do a bit of gardening and care for it. RSL sub-branch president Phil Dobbs, who was a great mate of my grandfather, said that in the 15 years since the memorial had been erected in this location - it was moved from a nearby site - it was the first time it had been defaced by graffiti. Like Phil Dobbs, I trust that it is the last time. I also acknowledge correspondence I received from a great old mate of mine, Bruce Pleasant, who is the honorary secretary of the Corrimal RSL sub-branch. He wrote:
On behalf of the President and members of the Corrimal RSL Sub-Branch I have great pleasure in thanking you for your interest and representation on our behalf in sending financial help from the State Government so that the removal of the graffiti on the Anzac Grove War Memorial would be carried out at no cost to the Sub-Branch.
Would you please convey our thanks to the Premier . . .
That letter of appreciation underscores that the community of Keira, and ex-service people in particular, would expect me to support the bill. The Government administers a number of programs aimed at attacking graffiti generally. There is a program for the rail corridor encouraging local communities to come up with solutions. The Attorney General’s Department has recently called for submissions on a program to deal with graffiti. I have been working with the Bulli Police Citizens Youth Club to do some work in the suburbs of Corrimal, Woonona, Bulli and Thirroul to encourage local young people to remove graffiti and to paint murals.
The honourable member for Vaucluse made the point that graffiti must be removed as quickly as possible after it appears. I accept, understand and agree with that, but in my experience painting a mural over the site of graffiti means that it is unlikely to be attacked again. Such an art project makes the site more pleasant. That is the sort of approach that the Bulli Police Citizens Youth Club will take.
The bill deals with desecration of special places. In many instances people consider them to be sacred places in our history and, dare I say, in our future. If we understand the sense of history that these places reflect and teach people about them we can more easily plan our future and organise the direction in which the community goes. The bill proposes three amendments. First, it will amend
section 9 (3) of the Anzac Memorial (Building) Act to increase the maximum penalty that may be imposed for a breach of a by-law from $200 to 20 penalty units, which is currently $2,200.
Second, the bill increases the maximum penalty that can be awarded for a breach of by-law 12 relating to damage to the memorial to 20 penalty units, and increases the maximum penalty for other offences under the current by-laws to 10 penalty units. A new provision, section 11, is inserted to enable the Local Court to order a person who has been convicted of an offence under the by-laws to pay compensation for damage caused by the commission of the offence, up to a maximum of 20 penalty units. Sadly, the bill is necessary. As has been noted, the bill will receive bipartisan support. I support it, and I know that the people I represent in this place will equally support it.
(Baulkham Hills) [9.00 p.m.]: It is perhaps ironic that tonight, with the commencement of the involvement of the Australian forces in East Timor, we should be debating this bill. The bill is about protecting a national monument, a monument which was erected to commemorate Australians who served in war. The monument is not about glorifying war; it is about glorifying the acts of those who served in war.
To most Australians it seems almost unbelievable that individuals in the community - and fortunately, there are not too many - would see fit to commit acts of graffiti, vandalism and destruction on this our national war monument. As the Leader of the Opposition said, in February of this year the monument was covered with about 50 separate graffiti tags in black and blue marker pens and the cost of the damage was estimated to be $20,000. It is also sad to note that police arrested a 16-year-old boy who later admitted that his grandfather had once fought for Australia.
I would not be able to suggest to this House why people would stoop to do such things. Maybe it is a sign of the times. Maybe the 1945 war, the Vietnam War and other wars that have taken place are simply distant memories to some young people, who have probably never been directly involved. But the reality is that there is certainly a shortfall in the education system. I accept the assurances from a former teacher, the honourable member for East Hills, that young people have been taught about war and about the sacrifices of war. But for the contribution of Australians who served in war we would not have this Parliament in its present form. We would not be free to walk the streets, and we would not be free to violently argue and disagree with each other. Yet some people in this community cannot accept that to be the situation.
Perhaps there have been too many television shows, too many late-night movies, or too many American quiz shows. I do not know. But the simple reality is that something has gone wrong when members of the community see fit to desecrate a national monument such as the War Memorial. The history of war has been very sad and very tragic. Many Australians have paid the supreme sacrifice so that we may enjoy the freedom and peace that we enjoy today.
In the middle of the sleepy, little village of Patonga on the Central Coast, where I think there are only two or three shops, there is a monument right at the intersection of the two main streets. It is some years since I visited Patonga; I went there many years ago as a young man. As I recall, there is a monument there to R. F. Williams, DFC, who was killed over France. I never knew R. F. Williams, but I must admit that many years ago I used to stand there and study the monument to R. F. Williams, wondering who R. F. Williams was and what his story was.
I made an inquiry of a local fisherman, Ken Witchard, who happened to know R. F. Williams. I think they called him Dick Williams. He said that R. F. Williams was a good young bloke, that he had left Patonga to join the forces, and he was shot down over France at a very early age. Nevertheless, that monument still stands today as a tribute to a young man’s service and supreme sacrifice for the nation. There are many R. F. Williamses. In each town, each village, there is always a war monument - not glorifying war but glorifying the acts of those who served for their country.
I am pleased to note that at Castle Hill, in the area that I represent, there is an active RSL club. Each Sunday before Anzac Day the RSL club organises a service in the Castle Hill park on the Old Northern Road. The service is well attended. Local schools participate, and the community participates. For once they sit down and think of the sacrifices that the Australians made in times of war. I attend the service regularly. When I attend I look out on the Old Northern Road and think of all the people who would have travelled down that road to leave Australia for unknown overseas destinations. But they left with one thing in common: they had all heard the clarion call to serve their country.
I could imagine the cast that would have gone down that road. Old Fords, old Buicks and old Chevs, from Dural, Glenhaven and Castle Hill,
would have carried young Australians who were to embark upon what was to be the most important mission of their lives: service for their country and service for peace, freedom and democracy as we know it. I commend the Castle Hill RSL Club for holding that service and for getting the community and the schools involved. As the honourable member for East Hills said, it is essential that we involve young people in what is part of our national recognition of the sacrifices made by Australians of previous generations.
I recall many years ago, as a young, enthusiastic member of the Salvation Army, being involved in a street meeting - an open-air meeting as they are called - at Granville railway station. The drum was banging, the band was playing, and the meeting was going really well. Along came a chap who was slightly the worse for wear. But, of course, he started to get involved in the open-air meeting. He would clap at the wrong time, sing at the wrong time, and all those kinds of things. I guess he was swept up with the emotion of the time of the meeting, which was great. He then came down to the Salvation Army hall. I acknowledge the presence in the Chamber of the Hon. J. R. Johnson, which is ironic also. He and I have many Salvation Army stories we could relate.
This chap came down to the back of the Salvation Army hall and all night he kept interrupting - interjecting, as we would say in political circles. He could have been a potential member of Parliament, I do not know, but he kept interjecting. Finally, he decided when they gave the appeal to make a decision. He came forward, he went out the front, they prayed with him, then he got up and, strangely, he seemed to be sober. I cannot explain it. It may have been a miracle.
My father was actively involved with the Salvation Army. He used to go out and counsel people and talk to them. I said to him, "Dad, what is the story with that guy?’ My father said, "Well, he served in the war. When he came back things were never the same. He was one of the many victims who could not readjust." For many people the war probably should not have ended because they were hopelessly lost. The chap I have referred to had been away for the duration of the war, he had a very good military record, but he could not cope. Society was just too difficult. He had too many bitter memories of what had happened during the conflict, and thereafter his life went downhill and he became a victim of alcohol.
He came along to the Salvation Army and told the major his story. I was very impressed. I was only about 10. I could not believe how this could have happened. But I now understand how it could happen, and I now understand that so many people went to war who might have survived the battles but, at the end of the day, they had lost the struggle within because they could not cope. Yet we have people who see fit to desecrate a monument that is established to acknowledge the efforts of Australians who have served in war - Australians who paid the supreme sacrifice - and also those who returned but were never quite the same again.
It is almost unbelievable that this should happen. The Opposition supports the bill in a bipartisan way because it is the right thing to do and because it is a step in the right direction. The Opposition believes that all reasonable Australians understand that they must treasure, nurture and honour their heritage so far as the Anzac Memorial is concerned. I shall make one brief comment on the nitty-gritty of the bill. In regard to compensation the bill provides:
A court that convicts a person of an offence under the by-laws . . . may, in addition to any penalty impose for the offence, order the person to pay an amount not exceeding 20 penalty units as the cost of, or as a contribution to the cost of, the repair or restoration of any damage caused by the action that resulted in the conviction.
I suggest that the word "maintenance" should be inserted so that the person may be ordered to contribute not only to the repair or restoration of any damage caused by the action that resulted in the conviction, but also to the maintenance of the Anzac Memorial. I do not regard that as being unreasonable. The Opposition supports the bill because it is the right thing to do and because it is Australian. People must never forget the sacrifice of Australians in times of war.
(Wakehurst) [9.12 p.m.]: I am pleased that the bill will pass through the House tonight. I am specially pleased that it has received bipartisan support. The measures contained in the bill go to the heart of the Australian psyche, to the heart of who we are today and to the heart of those in the community who want to ensure that the memory of people who served this country is properly protected. At the outset it is appropriate for me to convey to the troops who are leaving our shores, or have left our shores in the past few days, to go to East Timor that the thoughts of honourable members are with them and that the thoughts of each and every member of the community are with them. We thank them for their commitment and their preparedness to serve Australia, as so many before them have done. We express our concern for their welfare and the welfare of their families. After
all, in the end it is the families who have had to carry the burden of servicemen who have gone overseas to answer the call throughout Australia’s history. They wait and they give up their fathers and mothers to service, in many cases permanently.
Very few families in Australia would not have been touched by war at some stage by having a member of the family serve. A number of honourable members have spoken in this debate about family members. I would guess that almost every honourable member has someone who has served overseas. In my case my grandfather Paddy Hazzard served in France during World War I, was wounded twice and awarded the Military Medal. My father served in the Pacific Basin in the Navy and was in Japan with the occupation forces. My mother was in the first intake into the Women’s Royal Australian Air Force. My father-in-law, Charles Hartley, served as a Rat of Tobruk and went to New Guinea.
Those who have not served find it difficult to comprehend what those people went through. It is even harder to comprehend what people who are not members of one’s own family went through. I recollect some years go, before my wife and I were married, we went to New Guinea. Before leaving I received what I thought was a rather unusual request from my father-in-law. He gave me a long list of names of his friends and asked me to look up where they had been buried in New Guinea. I still remember that list and recall attending the war cemetery in New Guinea. I remember seeing what seemed to be thousands of white crosses. I looked at the ages of those who were buried there and realised that my father-in-law was only 21 when most of his mates were killed in New Guinea. His platoon was almost wiped out.
Those types of realisations need to be brought back to successive generations: that so many people have given so much of themselves to enable us to become what we are as a nation today. Many schools make wonderful efforts to remind young children of that commitment. Local schools in the Warringah area have Anzac services. At Allambie Heights school, where my children attend, invariably an Anzac Memorial service is held; Poppy, Charles Hartley, comes along wearing his medals and my kids get to see them. Poppy did an awful lot during the war. My father also attends when he can do so. They are opportunities people should never fail to take. That is not glorification of war, contrary to what some might say, but rather it is an acknowledgment of the commitment and dedication of people who contributed to making Australia what it is today.
With that background it is amazing that any reasonable person could desecrate any war memorial, whether it be the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park or other memorials scattered around the country and in suburban areas. It worries me that as a society we have failed to start from the bottom, from the grass roots, the young people. Young people are only a small minority, but I suspect that most of those who offend in this way are in their teens. We have failed to ensure that the message has reached some of them and have failed to inculcate community and social values, what is right and what is wrong. As a consequence we must face the fact of this appalling behaviour of people desecrating memorials.
On 9 February this year the Hyde Park Memorial was terribly desecrated. The honourable member for Keira spoke about some of the anti-graffiti projects. I support those types of initiatives by councils. Warringah Council has such a project. However, I sometimes wonder whether we pussyfoot around too much with people who adopt this in-your-face attitude and are quite happy to spray graffiti - horrific and unartistic graffiti - on memorials. There is nothing uglier than a series of tags, as they are called, on public and private space. There seems to be no limit to it. I have heard a succession of governments say they are doing something about it. As the honourable member for Keira said, some councils are doing valuable work. Warringah Council is making efforts in that regard. I understand the basic philosophy of bringing young people into the tent, so to speak, and trying to work with them. A lot of councils take photographs of the tags and try to work out which kids are involved and work with them. That is fine, and I accept it, but governments have failed to take the next step of announcing that if the practice continues, heavy penalties will be imposed and the offenders will be made to clean up the graffiti.
At some point the balance has to be made right. This important bill focuses on war memorials, but we must remember that this is only one small step from invading people’s public and private space, invading the very psyche of our Australianness. We should separate the two. We must bear in mind that not taking action in one area perhaps encourages lack of order in other areas. I for one want to make clear that whichever government is in power needs to strengthen our attitude against graffiti.
A person, young or old, who marks the Anzac War Memorial with graffiti must know that he or she will be punished and will be required to pay compensation. With a person who marks other public or private places we might take a softer view,
but we should set limits of tolerance and perhaps try other methods to discourage graffiti, but at the end of the day the offender must know that he or she will be charged with malicious damage to property and will appear before a court, and judges and magistrates must have power to direct the offender to clean off the graffiti. At this stage, that is an option that is rarely used.
Obviously I and all other members of the Opposition support the bill. However, it seems to me that the imposition of a penalty of 20 penalty units, or $2,200, is entirely inadequate. Someone who desecrates the Anzac Memorial building, or for that matter any other memorial, should face a penalty in the order of $20,000. Why is the maximum penalty set at $2,200? Many young people these days have plenty of money to buy spray cans and whatever, and this sort of penalty will hardly be a deterrent. My belief, after listening to the debate, is that this Parliament is telling magistrates and judges that Parliament expects them to impose a substantial penalty.
That maximum penalty, as light as it is, should be readily used when imposing penalties on people who commit graffiti offences against the Anzac Memorial. I repeat, I personally would prefer the penalty to be $20,000. I cannot understand why the provisions of the bill limit the award of compensation to 20 penalty points, or $2,200. If the cost of the damage is $10,000, $20,000 or $30,000, why should the person who desecrated the Anzac Memorial not pay the whole of the cost of repairing that damage? I do not care whether they would still be paying off that penalty when they are 80; they should pay for the damage that they cause. I do not understand why the Government has not gone that extra step of imposing an appropriate penalty.
I thank the Government on behalf of the Opposition for introducing this legislation, which we support. But if some yahoo with no respect for those who have served in our theatres of war, or with respect for those who made the ultimate sacrifice, goes in the dead of night with a spray can or other devices to desecrate the Anzac Memorial, why is the amount of money ordered as compensation not equivalent to the cost of repairing the damage? The offender should pay the lot. The penalty should be open-ended. I suggest that at some point the Government revisit the legislation. If any other people are silly enough to desecrate the Anzac Memorial, or for that matter any other memorial, I hope the Government will introduce amending legislation and increase the penalty provisions to provide for more substantial amounts for penalties and compensation.
Finally, I would like to place on record my support for the excellent suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that a guard be placed on the Anzac Memorial. The honourable member for Heathcote supported that suggestion and said he would talk to the Premier about it - I assume in the Labor caucus tomorrow. I encourage other Government members to raise that matter with the Premier. This legislation has bipartisan support, and suggestions from the Opposition should be given bipartisan consideration.
As the honourable member for Heathcote said, it may not be practicable to place Army personnel on guard at the memorial, but perhaps we should not exclude that suggestion. However, special constables, with the power of arrest and some police powers, would provide a good measure of protection for the Anzac Memorial. Further, it could add to the attraction of the memorial to the community who visit our most sacred of sites, the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park.
Personally, I hope that fences around the memorial are not necessary. To erect fences would be to say that we are giving up hope and cannot expect better from our community. I think we can expect more. In fact this legislation, with a bit more punch and a strengthening of the message that we demand more respect for memorials to those who have gone before us and perhaps given their lives to protect all of us, will convince would-be offenders that the community no longer will accept desecration of our memorials. Hopefully, the fences will not be necessary. With those comments, I add my total support to that of others for the bill.
(Monaro) [9.26 p.m.]: I support the Anzac Memorial (Building) Amendment Bill. I am disappointed that I must speak to this bill, which has been introduced as a result of vandalism and desecration of the Anzac Memorial. The significance of this bill is highlighted by Australia’s ongoing commitment to deployment of troops in East Timor. The basic issue is about setting examples. From a very early age I was taught about a family’s commitment and responsibilities in war. I was told this when my grandmother’s brother, Alan Buckmaster, a young Australian, went off to the First World War but did not come back. At home we have a suitcase of letters that he wrote to his sister. There are amazing stories to be told.
As a young boy I was fortunate to meet and talk with my grandfather, Cedric Blake, who served Australia in the First World War. Unfortunately, he was gassed in France, passing away in 1956 as a result of that incident of war. His brother-in-law, my great uncle Charlie Walker, lives in Warrawee
today. He was one of the Rats of Tobruk. My great uncle told me terrific stories about his duties in Northern Africa throughout the Second World War.
I was entertained as a young fellow by a great friend of our family, Mr Fred Ordish, whom we called Uncle Fred. He was held prisoner of war by the Germans for 4½ years during the Second World War, and was able to tell us amazing stories about his encounters. He held no bad feelings after the war, going on to serve in Foreign Affairs, serving Australia in the Diplomatic Corps in Austria and other European countries. As young people we played with a pith helmet and sword that belonged to his father, who served in the Boer War. So our connection goes right back to that war.
My father was a member of the AIF, serving in Queensland and the Northern Territory. Just the other day a friend, Winston Phillips, spoke to me in Cooma. He told me, "We are a bit worried. Our 20-year-old son is in Townsville, on his way to East Timor." He said, "We hope he will be fine." I wished him all the best, assuring him that God would be with him. My memory went back to my father, who was in Townsville in the Second World War, ending up in the Northern Territory when the Japanese bombed Darwin. His brother-in-law, Rockly Buckmaster, joined up at the same time, went to Borneo, and contributed to Australia’s history.
Recently I was saddened by the passing of my wife’s father, John Collins. Although not truly representative of the ANZACs, he joined the Royal Air Force and served in India and Burma as an armourer on Spitfires and Mohawks. He must have had contact with Australians at the time because he and his family immigrated here in the early 1960s. I am also reminded of the former member for Monaro, Peter Cochran, who is a Vietnam veteran. Many of my friends and acquaintances throughout my electorate also served in Vietnam. Recently I attended Lon Tan Day commemorations and the ANZAC Parade in Canberra at the Anzac Memorial. I have attended many ANZAC marches and have proudly worn my father’s and grandfather’s medals.
Recently I attended a memorial service dedicated to the nurses who also proudly served Australia and contributed to overseas campaigns. They will be remembered by a memorial which will soon be dedicated on Anzac Parade in the Australian Capital Territory. My father did not tell me many stories of his experiences in the war, other than about where he had been. He taught me to how to drive trucks and operate machinery which he had been taught to use in the war. He did tell me a story about holidaying at Broulee and Mossy Point on the South Coast during the Second World War when, under blackout conditions, his family heard the Japanese recharging their submarine batteries in the bay at night. I suppose that was around the time that the mini-submarine attacks occurred on Sydney Harbour.
I was proud to attend the ceremonies at Old Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial in Canberra to mark the return of the Unknown Soldier. Throughout my school days at Canberra Grammar School I was forever reminded of the loss of the three Eddison brothers. The three boys enlisted and went to the Second World War, and all three lost their lives. As a result of my involvement with local government I attended Beersheba Day, which commemorated the last charge of the Australian Light Horse Brigade. That is truly a remarkable story, and a great example of Australia’s commitment to the preservation of our beliefs.
There are local memorials in my electorate at Queanbeyan, Bungendore, Braidwood and Cooma. Every year at Bungendore and Queanbeyan, John Munns and Geoff Collinson from the local Light Horse Brigade don all their regalia and lead the marches on horseback. That is a very moving occasion. It will be up to future generations to continue to show their respect and remember our history. It is up to us to set an example for the young people.
I am dismayed by the vandalism and believe, as do other speakers, that the penalties are not tough enough. The bill should contain provisions to protect the memorials that have been built to remember ex-servicemen. They set examples for us, and in some cases they laid down their lives. Like members of my family before me, they made a major commitment to Australia and helped make it what it is today. We should set an example for those young people who choose to desecrate Australian memorials. Stories should be told about the ANZAC commitment and fitting penalties for that type of behaviour should be put in place.
(Albury) [9.34 p.m.]: Australians are unique, and Australia as a nation is unique in many ways, particularly in its involvement in wars. As Australian troops were about to leave to restore peace in East Timor, the Prime Minister highlighted the fact that Australians have never been involved in a war as aggressors. That is a unique and important fact of which we can be very proud. As a nation we should be proud of the heroism and deeds of our servicemen in war. We should also be proud of their motivation. They went to fight for what was right, for peace and for freedom.
I am particularly disturbed by the attack on the sacred Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park. I remember vividly the first time I went there. I was taken as a child with my sister by our mother, who impressed upon us that this memorial was provided by a grateful community to those who had given their lives to protect our freedom and our rights. Even as a child I was struck by the sanctity of the memorial. In those days people moved about the memorial in a reverent way and spoke in hushed tones. I vividly remember my mother whispering to my sister and me about the importance of the memorial. She told us that we should respect it and those whose memories it revered.
I am proud to say that in my electorate there are many memorials to those who have served and fought for Australia. Recently in the small village of Burrumbuttock some local citizens got together and, with the support of a grant from the Federal Government, established a memorial in a prominent place in the centre of the village. I am pleased I was present to take part in the ceremony; it was a very moving occasion. I am also proud of the city of Albury. The monument in Albury is a large, stark white tower that stands on the western hill. Standing in the main street of Albury and looking to the west one cannot miss it. It says to the world that the people of Albury and surrounding district respect and admire those from their area who were prepared to pay the ultimate cost to ensure the freedom, rights and privileges of those they left behind. I am very proud, as are my constituents, of that memorial and the reverence it shows to those people who lost their lives in the defence of freedom.
I also commend, as other members have, the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that there should be a permanent presence at the Anzac Memorial similar to the permanent presence at the Shrine of Remembrance on St Kilda Road, Melbourne. That successful exercise adds to the solemnity of the shrine and helps to ensure that that important memorial in Melbourne is protected and taken care of. We could do well to copy that example. As previous speakers have said, those involved would have to be special constables who perhaps had the power of arrest. I hope they would never have to exercise that power and that visitors would be respectful. However, if the power of arrest is exercised it should be exercised to protect that sacred and special place. We need to take whatever steps are necessary to protect it. It is important to present generations, and will be important to future generations, to remind them of what Australians have done in the past.
(Wyong - Parliamentary Secretary), on behalf of Mr Carr [9.38 p.m.], in reply: I thank all members who have contributed to the debate. It is clear from their contributions that most members have spoken in a heartfelt way. The Anzac Memorial is a reminder of a key part of our history that binds the Australian nation together. The tradition of Anzac and home ownership are two key factors that provide the essential stability of this country.
The desecration of the Anzac Memorial in February was a most unfortunate incident. I am pleased by the bipartisan support for this bill. As many speakers have said, there are many memorials in New South Wales. In the past 15 years the memorials at both Toukley and Wyong in my electorate, which many in our community regard as sacred sites, have not been desecrated. Some members have claimed that the perpetrators of the desecration in February lacked education. I believe such a claim places too heavy a burden on the education system.
Parents are essentially the first teachers of young Australians. We have to ensure that parents raise their children to respect both their fellow Australians and the traditions of the country. It is important that we look to those critical aspects of parenting in dealing with the issue before us. I echo the sentiments of a those members who have mentioned the ANZAC tradition, which lives on. That tradition is evidenced by the young Australians who are in East Timor tonight. It is important to acknowledge that it is an ongoing tradition that makes the Anzac Memorial so important to us. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.