ANZAC Day 2021

Anzac day is a day to remember. To remember those who went away, leaving their families, their community and country, to serve in war zones, risking their life and limb. Most were young and most were to die young. Nations call upon their youth to answer the call, while the older men, either military or civilian, direct their destinies. For many it was a call to adventure or let’s be frank, an opportunity to get away from an unpleasant love affair, a boring job or financial trouble.  The majority enlisted because of patriotic reasons.

ANZAC Day is to remember those who served during World War I. On this day 25th April all those wars and conflicts our nation has been involved in, even before federation and after world war one, are also embraced.

So why do we remember and who do we remember? ANZAC Day for me is to remember those ordinary folk who served in our military forces and our nurses who gave so much. We remember the families whose sons, brothers, grandsons, friends and cousins who were thousands of miles away and they, not knowing what their fate was to be, suffered anguish.  ANZAC Day should not be exclusively recalling the feats of those in charge like Generals Monash, Chauval, Birdwood, Blamey, etc, albeit worthy they were, but the young soldier, sailor and airman who plodded the jungles, the marshes, the seas, the skies, the deserts, the arctic ice and where ever, for they were really the ones who sacrificed themselves on behalf of others. We remember the privates, the stokers, the able seamen, the air crew, the non-commissioned officers, the lieutenants and captains who led troops while at an incredibly young age and the rate of fatalities of the latter two, per ratio, was very high. We also remember those who served in the merchant navy. Our nurses should be remembered because of their unflinching call to duty, their sense of obligation and too, their sacrifice. These are the people is what ANZAC Day is all about.  The generals have their medals, their awards, their exclusive clubs, with books written about them revealing their exploits on how great they were. But it was young Johnny that really fought and made the sacrifice and if he came home at all, often he did without an arm or a leg(s) or perhaps a mangled burnt face as did our fighting airmen and certainly all with jangled nerves.

Mind you, one of my greatest heroes was a general – Sir General John Gellibrand, the highest ranking Tasmanian officer in WWI.  A sign of a good general is one who looks after the welfare of his troops and Gellibrand was one of them.  His concern was so great that during WWI he clashed constantly with superiors and in one incident, General Monash actually apologised to him, admitting he was right.  Gellibrand’s concern for the men continued after the war, commencing what was then called the Remembrance Club, later to become Legacy. 

Gellibrand would not be easy to get on with.  In civilian life he again clashed constantly with those with whom he worked, but always, always, his concern was with the returning servicemen. On ANZAC DAY he marched with the men in civilian clothes much to chagrin of Monash and Chauval. In my eyes, Gellibrand was a great man who would not suffer fools easily.  Oh, how we need such in these grim days – fearless and righteous leaders!

They are the ones who should not be forgotten.  Many of them nameless.  Many in unmarked graves in Western Europe and elsewhere, buried at sea or shot down over enemy territory. How much did their mothers and fathers, grandparents, their brothers and sisters and all those who loved them, grieve? How many ladies in black were to be seen in the streets of our cities after World War One? Three thousand young Tasmanians died in that war, not to mention the 6,000 who returned wounded.

They went away to fight for their country, their family and freedom, from the Boer War to Afghanistan and in between. We have seen, however, how fragile freedom is.  It can be taken away without a flicker by the whims of those in charge, backed up by State authorities. Yes, they went away to fight for the continuation of freedoms which we enjoyed in Australia to the extent of fighting off an invading, brutal enemy – but freedom can be easily taken away.  It is important, nay, imperative that we remember those who went before us to battle on our behalf and that we cherish what they believed in; freedom of expression, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly and freedom to make our own choices. We must never, never give it up easily as it seems to have happened in this modern era.

ANZAC Day.  To remember those who left our shores and as distance in time increases there is the possibly that it will grow dim in our memory.  To do so would be selfish to the most extreme.  Today and next year and the years after, let us pass the lantern to those who follow.

How our freedoms can be maintained

It was Winston Churchhill who said, “Never waste a good crisis” and certainly governments of all persuasions and levels in the democratic world have taken advantage of the existing situation. The current corona-virus has seen all sorts of previously freedoms erased from the public arena adding that “this new norm”.  George Orwell said, “Once freedom is taken away they will not be given back”.

Quite apart from the current restrictions (and at places draconian) on freedom of expression, freedom of movement, freedom of action and even freedom of thought (Nigel Forage, social commentator from the UK was told by the police he will have to “rethink”) many, many people have been arrested for even questioning such abuses of power. We are not talking about Communist China, Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany, but western democracies.

There have even been attempts of late to control the media.  Without a free media and an independent judiciary, freedom cannot be guaranteed. Spirited debate between the ABC and sections of Sky News is as it should be, providing an array of opinion. 

There are, however, other proven ways to give the people power which may not be in the interest of governments, who now seem to think they know what is best for us all.

In California at the moment, the Governor, Gavin Newsom, may be sacked by the people.  That is because they have, what is termed, the Power of Recall, as do other US States. Recall is a procedure where an elected official can be removed from office before the election by the consent of the majority of the electorate.

Do we need something similar in Australia?  Indeed there are two other methods that can be used that gives great decision making to the electorate, much to the chagrin of government.  These methods help to ensure the gross abuse of power by those who rule us contained.  These are Citizens Imitated Referenda (CIR) and Voters’ Veto VV).

CIR is termed direct democracy, giving power to the people.  It works extra well and has done since 1891, in Switzerland. There, citizens can launch a popular initiative to demand a change to the constitution. Any eligible voter can participate. In Switzerland (population in excess of 8 million) when 100,000 valid signatures are in favour of a proposal within a period of 18 months, can initiate a referendum.  This allows all eligible citizens to participate in decision-making. The beauty of the system is that the central government cannot refuse the Will of the People; they are obliged to accept the people’s decision.  People also have the right to reject certain international treaties.  As stated, it works well and despite critics, there is no election chaos.  It is well ordered and a referendum can be held at the same time of the local or federal elections.

The other is Voters’ Veto. This gives, again, power to the people. After collecting enough signatures, poorly worded legislation or legislation that is not in the interest of the people can be vetoed.  The government then would have the opportunity to put its case forward, but if again if rejected, the government is obligated to honour the People’s Will.

In 1991, Neil Robson, who was in the Tasmanian Parliament from 1976-1992, came close to having Voters’ Veto passed by the Tasmanian Government.  He was not successful.  I worked with Neil on this project as I saw that if passed, it would give power to the people and stop in some measure the intrigues of party politics. 

Each state in the Australian Commonwealth needs CIR and VV although there is a case if we had CIR we would not need VV. 

We have to recognise that governments do not necessarily work in the interest of the people; often they work in their own interests.  Freedom does not come from governments, nor will (and there are exceptions) politicians go battling for the freedom of citizens. They will do what their Party will tell them to do.  Freedom is a powerful urge. People have fought for freedom since we have walked the earth.  We have seen countless tyrants over the thousands of year come and go, but go they did. Freedom is not given; it has to be won and once won it has to be safeguarded.  Our inherited freedoms such as the Magna Carter, the 1688 Bill of Rights, which sets out basic civil rights, Common Law, our own Australian Constitution and the International Charter of Human Rights  – and I dare say many more – have been ignored and abused with many of the people accepting without question that those in charge have our best interest at heart.  I can only add what ex-President of the United States Ronald Reagan warned.  “The most terrifying words in the English language are, Í am here from the government and I’m here to help you”. The growth of government over our lives is frightening.  We, the People, must have ways to control this intrusion.

Dealing with the Media

As one who at the time of writing has had more than fifty years of experience with the media in all its forms, printed, television, radio and video, I would like to pass on to you some experiences and knowledge how the media works.  In your time during your chosen career, your life outside of your profession and perhaps beyond, it is important for you to know how to deal with the media.

The media is never on your side.  Never make the mistake thinking that they are.  Never make the mistake believing you can use the media to your advantage.  You never can.  The media will do what it wants to do.  Always keep this in mind.  The media is not your friend.  On occasions it may appear they are, but that is only because they are getting a story or a comment from you, which is to their advantage, not to yours.  It may be true that you can also gain from the publicity, but publicity can work both ways, it can be helpful and/or it can be unhelpful.

Always be in charge of your acceptance of the media remembering they are there to use you. It is true you can use them as well, but do not make the mistake you are controlling them. You will not. They are not your friend.  They are not there to further your career.  It may be true that they can help your career, but keep in mind if it is in their interest they will turn against you and the result will be not what you were hoping it to be.

When being interviewed by the media, stay on the subject, do not stray.  Be careful what you say; saying the wrong thing can be disastrous for you.  Anything controversial said by you, they will latch on to.  That is why I say, be careful what you and stay on the subject.  If you can, think and rehearse what you are going to say beforehand.  I repeat, do not say outlandish things or controversial, for those comments will be what will be aired. Be careful. Remember too and this is very important and many in the limelight foolishly do not seem to consider it; everyone now has a camera, especially with phone cameras and security cameras.  Knowing this be sure you are on your good behaviour at all times.  Do not let them catch you out.  Speak and behave sensibly.  Anyone nowadays think they can have their five minutes of fame, by catching one on a camera in a compromising situation. Most people do not have personal responsibility when it comes to other people; they think only of their selves and what they can get out of it whether it is financial or their moment of brief fame – or it could be a combination of both.

I cannot emphasise your personal responsibility to yourself in this regard and to your family. Be aware of the media and be aware that everyone is now watching, because of the proliferations of cameras. Also too in this age of political correctness, the media is just hoping you will say the wrong thing and run with it. This is what I mean, when I say stay on the subject and speak sensibly.

I repeat, the media is NOT your friend, even though it may give an impression that it is.  Never, ever, give a comment “off the cuff” because that is what they will hone in on.

Be upstanding, be diplomatic and as said, keep to the subject and give sensible and authoritive comments.  Never criticise a colleague, be loyal to your friends and to those who depend upon you.  The media can be there to help you in your career, but also remember they can destroy your career.  Too many immature people in this regard have destroyed themselves.

Beware of the media; do not think you can use them to your advantage and that they are on your side.  Be careful in what you say to them.  By all means appear on the media, but manage your appearances wisely.  In time, experience will show you this and until then, be wary. They are not there to deliberately promote your career, even though they may say so or give that impression.  They are there to get a story and it means destroying you, they will.  Always be wise to them…at times it may be best to refrain from saying anything.  Always be polite to them because if they feel you are treating them poorly they have the power to give you bad publicity even though it would be unjustified. They are human beings and they can hold a grudge.

I cannot overly state too much, learn all about the media and their tactics. I can tell you knowing many in the media (and yes there have been some good ones) very few of them have scruples especially when on the scent of a good story.  They will manipulate the result they want, even though it is far from the truth, without any conscience. This is human nature and the media is no different.

Remember if you go “live” anything you say cannot be edited. Be extra careful in what you say.  On the other hand if it is pre-recorded they can edit it to their advantage, so again be careful in what you say.  Never relax your alertness.  Speak with confidence and speak with authority. At times it may be necessary to be fully honest and simply say something like, I really know how much about that subject or of those matters. Always be honest, never make up stories, exaggerate or lie, because it will be found out and you will have to answer for it.

When in public always behave like a gentleman; never show off or behave in an unruly manner, because you are on show.  People are watching you.  Many will be waiting for you to make a mistake and cause harm to your personal reputation or bring your club into dishonour.  Remember, we live in political correct times, so never give the media the story they want or would like.

Too many religious leaders, sportsmen, politicians, pop stars and movie stars believe in their own publicity.  They come to believe they are mini gods.  They are fools. Invariably their puffed-up pride is their downfall.  Remember the old proverb – the bigger they are, the bigger they fall.

I have survived all these years, simply because I knew how far I could go and how much I could and should say.

I can only give advice, the future is in your hands, but learn from one who knows.

You may consider that I have repeated myself on occasions.  I have done this deliberately so that it will sink it.

Reflection on Christmas 2020

Christmas 2020.  We finally got here, despite the traumas which we have experienced during the year.  Christmas survives. It is a different Christmas to last year and certainty a very different Christmas to past years.

Christmas has changed over the decades in regards to its traditional meaning and its observance. Commercialism, secularism and political correctness have taken its toll. As an example of the latter, for some it is “happy holiday” rather than “Merry Christmas”.  This was highlighted with the Obama American Presidency, when he sent out cards with similar words.

Tasmania has seen great changes as well.

For the vast majority of Christians, including of those who are nominal, it heralds the birth of Jesus Christ and provides a Message of Hope for mankind. For the staunch Christian fundamentalist, Christmas is not honoured as they believe December 25th was observed by early European pagans who celebrated the changing of the seasons on that day. Later the Church put a Christmas meaning to it. Various sects contend that it not scriptural, so the day should be ignored.  

Historically, the first Christmas was not observed until more than three hundred years after the birth of Christ. Therefore, originally, there was no Christmas.  For Tasmania, the first Christmas came with Lt John Bowen RN who settled at Risdon Cove.  He held the first one, December 25, 1803. The following year came Colonel David Collins and with him the Rev Robert (Bobby) Knopwood and the first Christmas in Hobart was held December 25, 1804.

In the north of the State, Colonel William Paterson arrived in 1804 with 181 settlers and although I cannot find any documentation of the observance of Christmas, I have no doubt it was held.

In Australia the first ever recorded Christmas (referred to as Yuletide) took place in Governor’s Phillip’s modest residence at Sydney Cove, December 25, 1788,

Christmas 2020 will again be a day of family visiting, wonderful meals, gifts, watching the delights of children, picnics and for some, religious observances. Yet there will also be businesses operating and mass entertainment aired as though it was is just another day.

It was very different once – and not so long ago.  When black and white television was introduced into Tasmania for a number of years on this special day, only religious programmes were presented.  It was the same for the wireless (radio) until a certain hour in the evening, only religious and Christmas music was aired.  Businesses were closed for the day.  Everyone enjoyed themselves, rested and had the time to catch up with family. Churches were full with many who rarely went to church making this day a particular reason to attend.

In short there was more reverence, more respect and a more relaxed day. Christmas has always been commercial, but the sense and belief that it had a spiritual significance was recognised.

We live in a very secular society. The meaning of Christmas may be still there, but it has faded into the back ground. It is now no longer fully acknowledged.  Perhaps we have become too embarrassed over its meaning?  After all, don’t we live in a multi-cultural society, one of many faiths and cultures?  We certainly do not want to offend anyone. Yet in all my years (and I am now matured) I have never, ever, met a person (outside Ebenezer Scrooge) who wanted Christmas or even its meaning, banned.  I stress no atheist have I met, agnostic or those of a different faith or culture have expressed a desire to do so. They are content to enjoy Christmas Day in their own way and while they may not observe its religious significance, they are not the ones complaining.  Are we being therefore, socially manipulated and non-Christians being used as an excuse?

I personally think we have lost some of the quality of Christmas.  For me I thoroughly enjoy the carols, Christmas cards, the lights, the goodwill, the food, the fun, the family, the visiting.  Perhaps we should regain some of that something that made Christmas a day of uniqueness, specialness with a spiritual meaning. A child-like expectation.

Times are grim enough and those who wish to see the end of Christmas, I say “Bah Humbug”. Let’s continue to enjoy ourselves and observe Christmas for many years to come.  And yes,

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL

The Tasmanian Flag is 45 years old

Tasmanian Flag

December 3rd 2020 is the 45th anniversary of the Tasmanian flag. Indeed Tasmania was the first state to proclaim its own state flag.

The history of flags in Tasmania goes back to November 1642 when the explorer Abel Tasman raised the Dutch flag at Blackman Bay near Dunalley.  In September 1803 Lt John Bowen RN raised the Union Jack at Risdon Cove, the site of the first British settlement of Tasmania.

Tasmanian received a bi-cameral system and Responsible Government in 1856 together with a name change from Van Diemen’s Land to Tasmania. On August 7 of 1869, Queen Victoria ordered colonial governors to fly the Union Jack with the arms or badge of the colony emblazoned in the centre, following the suggestion of Tasmanian Colonial Secretary, Thomas Reiby.

He stated, “The distinguishing flag or ensign of the colony for vessels belonging to or permanently employed by the Government of Tasmania shall be a Blue Ensign with a Lion Passant red on a white shield in the fly”.

It was not, however, until September 25th, 1876 by proclamation from the governor, Frederick Aloysius Weld, did the colony receive a flag.  Then there were three official flags, they being the Governor’s flag, the Tasmanian vessel flag and a Tasmanian merchant flag.  Up until 1856 the Union flag and the British Ensign was primarily used on state occasions.

Between the years 1876 and 1975 the blue ensign flag containing the Union Flag (better known as the Union Jack) in the left top corner with a Lion Passant (sideways walking past) red on white shield on the fly, was used when representing the state.  This was, as we have learnt, the original Tasmanian Government vessel flag.

On December 3rd, 1975, the Governor Stanley Burbury issued another proclamation officially recognising the Blue Ensign with a Lion Passant red on a white shield on the fly as the State Flag.  The Labor Premier, Mr William (Bill) Neilson endorsed it.  As said, Tasmania was the first state to officially recognise its flag.  It was also the first state to authorise the flag for general use.

The proclamation read: “Governor in and over the State of Tasmania and its Dependencies in the Commonwealth of Australia acting with the advice of the Executive Council of the said State do by this my Proclamation declare that the Blue Ensign with a lion Passant red on a white shield in the fly thereof being the flag or ensign more particularly described in the Schedule hereto shall be the distinguishing flag or ensign of the State of Tasmania and shall be known as the Tasmanian Flag.” It was dated 3rd December 1975.

Consequently it only has been of recent times that Tasmania has had its own official state flag which can be flown by all, including individual burgesses.

The Union Flag of course, tells of the origin of our state as a British colony.  The Lion Passant represents the connection and loyalty to the Crown, Tasmania being a Constitutional Monarchy as recognised in the Tasmanian Constitutional Act of 1934, an Act which had its origins back in 1854. Indeed Tasmania was the first colony to adopt its own Constitution.

The Lion Passant has strong heraldic meaning, at least going back more than a thousand years to William the Conqueror, possibly a great deal more. For instance the Lion Passant was a symbol of the ancient House of Judah.

Our state flag can be flown on state government buildings, municipality flag poles and by businesses, clubs, societies and by private individuals. If the Australian National Flag is flown as well as the state flag, then the national flag takes precedence over all other flags, including other national flags.  The national flag must be flown on the left of the observer facing the flag or if three flags are flown, the national flag should be flown in the centre.  All flags, however, are to be flown at the same height.

Tasmania has led the nation in many instances end being the first state to proclaim its own flag is just one example.  It may be that some Tasmanians do not even know we have our own flag, so perhaps it should be flown more than what it is.