Part of Field Marshal Tony Abbott’s survival plan is to present himself as a modern-day heir of the ANZACs.
The embattled Mad Monk is travelling to Wellington today to meet NZ Prime Minister John Key to announce a 400-strong joint training mission to Iraq.
On April 25 when the 100th anniversary of the catastrophic defeat will be commemorated, Abbott will be on the shores of Gallipoli surrounded by the largest security detail ever assigned to an Australian PM travelling abroad.
The whole mawkish fiasco will be transmitted live on Australian television.
Abbott’s Government is spending an incredible $325m on the ANZAC/World War One jamboree. This includes the cost of sending to Gallipoli a fleet of warships and RAAF warplanes, planeloads of veterans and their families, hotel accommodation, coach transport and meals. Plus a junket of journalists, including the extended Carlyon and Fitzsimons families, politicians, defence top brass (and their wives) and Abbott’s newly-appointed knights and dames.
In his book, Anzac’s long shadow – The cost of our national obsession, James Brown said Government spending would be boosted by a further $300m from the private sector. However, nothing like that has been donated by big business.
Brown, a former army officer, claims that Canberra is spending three times more than the UK on World War One commemorations and his estimate has not been challenged.
In the past 12 month hundreds of serving and retired military personnel have been ferried to the battlefields of France and Belgium in a expensive exercise in glorifying war and boosting support for Western war operations in the Middle East.
Shrouded in sentimentality, nostalgia, romance and idealism, the real purpose of these commemorations is to rally support for defence forces recruitment and Australia’s active military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Will the Liberal Party have the guts and gumption to dump him before he trashes the ANZAC legend in which 8700 Australians and 2700 Kiwis were killed in the eight-month campaign in 1915?
Losing Colin Lanceley
Painter Colin Lanceley AO, one of my dearest friends, has died aged 76. We first met at the Hungry Horse Gallery, Paddington, during the early 1960s.
He was hanging out with artists like Russell Drysdale, Sid Nolan and Donald Friend and being talked about as the “next big thing”. I was an ambulance chaser on the Sydney Daily Mirror, Rupert Murdoch’s tearaway afternoon tabloid.
Speaking at a memorial meeting on February 20 at the National Art School in Darlinghurst which Colin helped to develop in the 1990s, I said: “In those far off days, disillusioned and frustrated young Australians, feeling browbeaten by the appalling sterility of the Bob Menzies era, faced a dilemma which may have been borrowed from the manual of the Victorian Rural Fire Service: It was either: ‘Stay and Fight’ or ‘Leave Early’. Colin and I decided – quite independently – on the latter course. He left earlier than me, arriving in London in 1964 and I pitched up in 1967.”
Our long friendship was unusual because while I was enthralled by art and painters, Colin loathed journalists. He regularly blamed me – personally – for the slovenly and politically biased stories in the mainstream media, particularly Murdoch’s newspapers.
Shortly before his death he agreed to give me an interview in which he talked about his career and his strongly-held convictions.
Asked why he went to London in the Sixties, Colin replied: “You have to be where great art is. It’s the proximity of all great pictures and that just doesn’t exist here.
“I think what’s always been important to artists is the influence of other art, great art. Art learns from other art, always, and it still does.”
Recently, when an obituarist wrote that Colin had been a “Fabian socialist” his beloved partner Kay said with fiery conviction: “Colin was never a Fabian; he was a socialist.” Of course, her language was more colourful but not suitable for a polite gathering such as this.
In our interview, Colin described his views this way: “Artists are committed to all sorts of ideas that is part of the passion for life. And if someone’s mucking up, if someone’s damaging innocent people or sending society in the wrong direction and making it a cruel and savage place, that’s not what artists are working for.
“We don’t want a savage world, you know. So instead of sailing through life half-asleep, you’re engaged.”
That’s Colin in full flight. Colour, light, line, mischief, challenging, combative, thoughtful, sensitive, philosophical – just like the wondrous body of work he’s left to us and to the world that he so loved and so inspired him.
The loss of Colin is one of several grievous deaths in the past few weeks. Brian “Digger” Williams, the North Queensland-born Reuters journalist, has died in his beloved Athens with his partner Aliki at his side.
A memorial service will be held on March 30 at St Brides Church, Fleet Street, followed by a visit to the nearby London Gin Company for drinks. “Digger” would have approved.
Former Labor MLC Paul O’Grady, a staunch left-winger, has died after a long illness. He was the first Upper House MP to declare his homosexuality while others preferred to maintain their stressful silence and double lives.
Inside the Liberals
The sensational resignation letter of Federal Liberal Party Treasurer Philip Higginson, dated 22 February 2015, deserves closer attention.
He admits raising $70m since 2011 and recently laying out plans for Prime Minister Tony Abbott to visit the US raise “tens of millions” from American donors.
“I have also participated fully in the creation of record levels of income particularly in the crucial years 2012/13 and 2013/14.
“I can now quite confidently ask individuals and their advisers for donations of a million dollars and even more recently confidentially request a million pounds Sterling without vacillating.
“I was planning to increase that ask to tens of millions of dollars within the USA and had laid out plans to the PM for approval in principal. I believe it is still possible.”
He concluded by saying he was travelling to New York “to see my grandson and a few VIPs in industry and government to perhaps rattle the can for the last time.”
Higginson’s letter clearly means that the Liberal Party is heavily funded by US, UK and other foreign interests. This is in breach of funding rules which forbid donations from anonymous overseas sources.
Have the Liberals breached Australia’s electoral laws? Who are the US donors – the guns lobby, the coal industry, Big Pharma, Wall Street thieves, the arms industry or reactionary Washington think tanks?
No wonder Murdoch papers avoided coverage of this part of Higginson’s letter. By why has Bill Shorten kept his mouth shut?
From the Bible
Like many of my readers, I find solace in the Holy Bible after listening to apocalyptic speeches by Tony Abbott on his obsessional interest with the “death cult”.
Turning to St Mark’s Gospel (6:22-9) I was struck by the symbolic importance of this passage:
“For when Herodias’ daughter [Salome] came and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl: ‘Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it.’ … ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’ And the king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests, he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard and gave orders to bring his head. He went and beheaded him in the prison.”
The image of the good St John having his neck severed by a knife, sword or axe is a wonderful example of Christianity’s eternal message of love.