Bill's Transcripts

Radio 2UE: GALLIPOLI - Centenary of ANZACS; Bali Nine







SUBJECT/S: Centenary of ANZACS; Bali Nine


JUSTIN SMITH: Mr Shorten thanks for your time.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s amazing to be here Justin.


SMITH: Isn’t it, how did you go getting through security? It’s reasonably full on but quite rightly so.


SHORTEN: I think the Turkish Government’s taking it incredibly seriously and I think for people who are worried about Australian family members here at the 100th Centenary they should rest assured. I get the impression, all things being equal, the security here is very intense.


SMITH: Have you been here before?


SHORTEN: I haven’t been to Gallipoli before no, this is my first time.


SMITH: Well tell me, you’ve driven that same road that I drove a couple of hours ago. Tell me how did you feel when you were doing that? Your first time here, you understand history, you’re a good student of history, what did you feel?


SHORTEN: When you drive around the bend and you see Anzac Cove you just wonder how on earth our men could have climbed the steep ravines. When you look at it from sea level it’s a serious, there were three big ridge lines, imagine three sets of rolling waves, that’s what the Australian diggers had to climb over for their target and its physically difficult and in conflict with bullets and enemy shooting at you it would have taken an immense amount of bravery I think.


SMITH: And it would have been something that, I’ve been thinking about this a lot obviously as everyone in Australia has, that it would have been an unimaginable task. Sitting on the boat they wouldn’t have had any clue of the horror they were about to face or the challenges that they would have been coming up against.


SHORTEN: You couldn’t have imagined attacking people in entrenched positions, a determined, well-armed enemy, well-entrenched. Our men were very brave. You would have to be brave to get out of the boat, no other word captures it at all. But also driving down from Istanbul, which is the largest city in Turkey, we come, as you said, we come down through the hinterland of Turkey, lots of Turkish villages, farmers, driving down here. You can see shepherds still guiding sheep on the side of the road. It’s an advanced economy but it’s obviously got a lot of rural and agrarian in its lifestyle. This is someone’s home that we landed in.


SMITH: Yeah.


SHORTEN: So what I hadn’t fully appreciated until I’ve come here and you see it for yourself, feet on the ground, is on one hand how brave our men were just the physical challenge and the fighting an entrenched, well-armed enemy. But also, that First World War was so far away from Australia.




SHORTEN: And we’re in someone else’s country and it’s just totally different I think to what our young men would have expected.


SMITH: Do you think, were getting it right aren’t we the way that Australians have, we’ve learnt how to do this, we’ve conditioned ourselves how to honour these men. We’ve got it about right haven’t we?


SHORTEN: It’s pretty impressive from successive governments from the Howard and Labor Governments and now the Abbott Government have all really put their shoulder to the wheel to make sure that this Centenary is a real recognition. I mean, the people who fought at Anzac have passed away, those who waited for them to come back in many cases have passed away. It’s been really moving talking to some of the older Australians whose parents were Anzacs –


SMITH: Yeah.


SHORTEN: Or war widows. That is one degree of separation and then you talk to those young, well their not young now, but when they were kids and their dads came back from the war trying to understand the impact of the war on the survivors, much less those who passed away. In what I can only view as a remarkable coincidence I was at a christening at, for my cousins’ children, in Melbourne last Sunday and one of the older chaps there, a distant relevant an uncle in the family, said that his two uncles died here at Gallipoli. Now I didn’t know this story and I’ve got their names.


One of them, William Burgess died on the 26th of April at Lone Pine, he’s buried in Lone Pine, he was 23 and his younger brother Nathaniel Burgess was 21 when he died on November the 5th just a month before the retreat or the evacuation. And what I’ve realised this Anzac Day is that there’s so many of us who’ve got families who’ve served in the First and Second World War and we shouldn’t leave it too late to try and dig back into your family history and you realise the people who came before were very modest, a lot of them didn’t talk about the wars when they came home but there’s a big tradition of service right across Australia and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.


SMITH: Yeah, absolutely and we, talking to Les Carlyon, you know Les Carlyon about it a few days ago, and you go back to the 60s and 70s, and even when you and I were in primary school, we didn’t get it did we? We needed a little kick along, thankfully we’ve got it.


SHORTEN: Well it’s that sense of history. You know you said in the opening, introducing me, I like history, I do like history. I’m fascinated by who’s done what, where and history’s not just about kings and queens and very famous people, it’s about a lot of ordinary, modest people who when called upon step up. But back then, you’re right, in the 1970s there were Anzacs still alive. Now I was only at primary school so it wouldn’t have occurred to me necessarily to capture that history but we’ve got veterans from the Second World War with us now, we’ve got many people who have fought in Korea, Malayan, right through to Vietnam and we’ve got of course the most recent round of veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and been peace keepers.


It’s important we capture their stories because it’s that first link. You know the ABC series was very good I thought recently and Les Carlyon’s book gets it but the chance to talk to people yourself and just hear how they lived. What this distant relative told me at the christening is that the two brothers who died, his uncles, there were two younger sisters, one of them was this chap’s mother and he said that the loss of the two young men wrecked the family for generations –


SMITH: Yeah.


SHORTEN: Because he says his grandparents, the parents of the two boys who perished and the two younger girls, the family split up because that level of grief was just too much pressure on the family. His mother and her sister were fostered out –


SMITH: Yeah.


SHORTEN: Its two generations before the family can sort of regroup again and move forward so when we talk about the 60,000 young men who died, for me it’s also about the survivors and the families.


SMITH: And those things you’re talking about makes it real, it stops it from being body counts and old Churchill said this and he made this speech and they went through the Dardanelles at this time, you know all of that kind of talk. That’s good, we do need that but you’re right, when we put those faces to it and hear about families breaking down. Yesterday I had an Afghanistan veteran call me, he has done three tours and he is now trying to get himself through some pretty awful post-traumatic stress disorder which is impacting on him, impacting on his family and when I was talking to him you could go back one hundred years and talk to one of those young men. They would have been going, there was no name for it, but they could have been going through exactly the same thing.


SHORTEN: Absolutely. Again, I was speaking to one of my uncles about a great uncle who was flyer in the Second World War and, you know, they took great risks, they came back, they settled down but life’s never the same. And again I can only imagine in the First World War talking to the survivors, was what I do wonder though is, you know, they never dealt with post-traumatic stress disorder and things that we’ve now got a good name for –


SMITH: Yeah.


SHORTEN: Or nervous shock or battle shock and I wonder then, what is also important is that the nation then understood without necessarily knowing what the battles were like, this cathartic, giant event that happened and I think sometimes we’ve got to remember with our modern veterans that for a lot of us life goes on. We’re not necessarily aware there’s a conflict or our troops are on the front line. In my day job as the Opposition Leader I get to, you know, I’ve been to Baghdad and I’ve been to Afghanistan. We’ve got to remember the rest of us that we do have a very professional Army and whilst we’re not a war like people we do produce remarkable warriors and we just, I think we can all afford to make sure we do a better job for our veterans when they come home.


SMITH: Yeah, absolutely. What’s your role tomorrow, what are you doing?


SHORTEN: I get to attend a range of events which is just an incredible privilege. I’ll be up very early at 2 or 3am and we’ll come across, there’s an official party, the Prime Minister, ourselves, others. We’ll go to Lone Pine, I think that will be a pretty moving ceremony. We’re going to go see the New Zealanders commemoration. Today I’ll be doing some stuff with the British and the French who of course were in the Gallipoli campaign. The Turks are having an event because this was massive for Turkey, they took 220,000 wounded and dead out of this. They’re very switched on to this commemoration too and I think the experience for the Australian visitors here, people should be aware that the Turkish people are being incredibly hospitable and it shows that even in the most dreadful of conflicts things do improve and the mutual respect here, it’s quite phenomenal to watch the Australian tourists rubbing shoulders with the Turkish locals.


SMITH: Well its good you’re here, I think its politics be dammed we’ve all come together for it. Can I ask you if you don’t mind just one question off that topic, the Bali Nine, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran may very well be told in the next couple of days that this gruesome 72 hour countdown may start. Do we, I know that you and Tony Abbott are at one on this and you’re both absolutely against the death penalty, is there anything else that we can do to push this? Anything we can try and do to stop it?


SHORTEN: Well, we, you’re right the Government and the Opposition are of one mind on this. The death penalty solves nothing, no one’s saying that these two young men haven’t made mistakes but by all accounts they’ve repented, they’ve rehabilitated, the death penalty won’t fix anything here. I know that the Government is still working very hard behind the scenes. I also know the families lawyers and families are absolutely going down to the wire to do what they can. All I can indicate is that the Opposition will keep supporting the Government. We’re in touch with the family’s lawyers, it is a pretty serious set of circumstances though that we’re confronting now as your question indicated.


SMITH: It just feels like there’s been no good news up to this point and that is just not going to change. Sadly it is not going to change.


SHORTEN: It is a pretty grim set of circumstances but again where there’s life there’s hope and I know that everyone who can do something is doing what they can to do something and we’ve got to say our prayers and hope that the worst doesn’t come to be.


SMITH: Good to see you, thank you.


SHORTEN: Thanks Justin.