News National Is the Anzac spirit ‘contaminated by commercialism’?

Is the Anzac spirit ‘contaminated by commercialism’?

Monday night's Q&A panel.
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Author and academic Carolyn Holbrook has called for better compensation for permanently disabled war veterans saying the government spends too much on commemorating war.

Dr Holbrook’s recently published book, Anzac: The Unauthorised Biography, looks at the commercialisation of Anzac commemorations and examines how the Anzac myth has changed over the decades.

Speaking on Q&A on Monday night, Dr Holbrook said she was concerned about how much Australia was forking out to promote and remember war.

“Australia is spending $430m commemorating (WWI). Canada is spending zero,” she said.

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A video question by a viewer, an injured war veteran, said compensation was diminishing – compensation for permanently disabled veterans being 65 per cent of minimum wage.

Former Deputy Prime Minister and author Tim Fischer said the Australian government of the day has the reponsibility to look after these veterans.

“Yes there was a slippage,” Mr Fischer admitted.

“Yes there has been one lot of legislation to go through which has corrected that, but there is unfinished business and I hope fair play will apply.

“You gave and you served and now you are incapacitated and deserve support.”

Leading up to the Anzac Day centenary, several companies were criticised for being part of a corporate herd trying to cash in on the Anzac legend.

Angry consumers causing Woolworths to remove an advertising campaign after they decided to link Diggers with its ‘fresh food people’ slogan was just one example.

Dr Holbrook suggested the government needed to control and police more tightly the commercialisation of Anzac Day.

“I’m not saying we should have no commercialisation, I understand the RSLs need to raise money and does that through campaigns with commercial companies,” she said.

“But it’s highly inappropriate for the government to be in cohorts with a beer company, and inappropriate for the government to lending the Anzac brand to an alcohol company.”

The government also came under the spotlight for “glorifying warfare” and romanticising the bloody realities of fighting on the frontline.

Human Rights Watch Deputy Program Director Tom Porteous agreed that those fallen at war should be honoured, but “we should’t allow the honouring of the dead to become obscured by the reality that war is absolute hell”.

“We shouldn’t let it obscure politicians and military leaders can make mistakes. We shouldn’t let it obscure that in war on our side and on the enemy side there are brutal atrocities and war crimes,” Mr Porteous said.

“We should not let it obscure the massive suffering of civilians in times of war.”

Mr Porteous added: “The danger thats its being used by the political class to avoid scrutiny for their decisions for going to war, to be unaccountable for actions and avoid responsibility for those civilians who have suffered war.”

Meanwhile, Arthur Sinodinos confirmed that Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull did not have any influence in a decision by SBS to sack one of its reporters over offensive Anzac Day tweets.

Scott McIntyre drew widespread condemnation for criticising what he said was the “cultification (sic) of an imperialist invasion” – apparently in reference to the Gallipoli campaign.

Mr Sinodinos said Mr Turnbull, who has described the comments as “despicable”, only drew them to the attention of SBS’s managing director Michael Ebeid.


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