Speech - Anzac Dawn Service Remarks




"Anzac Dawn Service Remarks"




Being here in Washington on ANZAC Day is becoming something of a tradition for me.

Last year I had the very great honour of addressing the ANZAC Day service at the National Cathedral.

It's a tradition I'm very happy to have begun, especially alongside a number of great allies of Australia—not just our hosts, the Americans, but the New Zealanders and Turks as well.

That's in part because—as is the case with Ambassador Beazley and many of you here—the military links between our countries has a very personal dimension for me, one that reaches back into my family's history.

After the evacuation of Gallipoli, despite being already 37 years old, a husband and father, my grandfather was one of the people who answered the call to fill the ranks the fighting there had left depleted. As part of General Monash's 3rd Division, he saw some of the worst fighting on the Western Front—at Messines Ridge, and later at Broodeseinde and during the German Spring Offensive of 1918.

He had the mud of Flanders on his boots, and the horror of it on his mind. Gassed, wounded repeatedly and a victim of influenza, he missed the breaking of the Hindenburg Line, during which his comrades fought alongside the Americans under Monash's command. Twenty-five years later, though, my father made up for this by fighting alongside Americans in the Pacific.

The effects of that fighting broke my grandfather, who died partly of war-related ill-health at a younger age than I am now. And it affected my father—in a good way. Little good can come of war, but it gave him a sense of purpose in his life that he never forgot, looking after the welfare of his comrades and their widows and children as a leader of the local RSL.

On this day every year we ask ourselves that great question: why did they fight? And why are our young men and women still fighting together, side by side, in new battlegrounds in countries like Afghanistan?

Over the centuries naivety, glory and adventure have all been part of the answer. Conscription too. But there's something more. It wasn't to build empires. In most cases they fought because they were stirred by principles. Simple principles you don't need to be a philosopher to understand—but principles that happen to stretch back to the birth of western civilization.

The principle of justice. The principle that nations which trample on the rights of others must be opposed and that decency must triumph. And the principle that our state's dealings with others must embody the idea of honourable behaviour. These are the same principles upon which all the nations represented here today base their foreign policy.

We don't put our young men and women in harm's way unless it can be justified by more than self-interest, empire, or gain. They're fighting not just for us, but for all people. For universal principles.

Wherever they go, freedom follows. Honour is restored. And as with our grandfathers and fathers, we give the men and women serving us today our unqualified praise and the full measure of our support.

Thank you.