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Transcript - 24384

Interview with Alan Jones, Radio 2GB

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 21/04/2015

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 24384

Subject(s): Centenary of Anzac

ALAN JONES:

Prime Minister, good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning, Alan.

ALAN JONES:

Hard to digest those figures, isn’t it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, extraordinary – absolutely extraordinary. It’s no wonder that World War One cast a pall over Australia for a generation, because the scale of the sacrifice is almost unimaginable. We had a population of scarcely four million people, more than 400,000 volunteered to serve, 330,000 went overseas, 160,000 were wounded, 61,000 died and of course of those who came back many bore the scars, seen and unseen, for the rest of their days. And something like 50 per cent of men aged between 18 and 42 volunteered for service – an absolutely extraordinary sacrifice on a scale we can scarcely imagine today.

ALAN JONES:

Absolutely – it can’t comprehend. And of course you’ve got to add to that, haven’t you Prime Minister, the fact that we weren’t a fully independent nation. We were an integral part then of the British Empire; we didn’t conduct our foreign policy, we didn’t have our own diplomatic services. Decisions about war and peace were made in London. So, it was an extraordinary decision by this Major General William Throsby Bridges to say “Well look, I know all that but we’re not going to be part of the British Empire in sense of subsuming. We’re going to be an independent entity – the AIF.” Extraordinary!

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, I think Alfred Deakin, our second prime minister, described himself as an independent Australian Briton. And we did have, I think, an incipient sense of nationhood, but we also had a very strong sense of solidarity with the other countries of the British Empire, particularly of course the United Kingdom. So, when war broke out in Europe, it was almost automatic that Australia would join it and of course there was the famous phrase of the then opposition leader, soon to be the prime minister, Andrew Fisher, that Australia would stand behind the motherland to the last man and the last shilling.

ALAN JONES:

Charles Bean wrote of the decision by Bridges to say “Look, we’re not going to be an expeditionary force, we are the AIF, we won’t be subsumed,” and he said it was the first and greatest step – Charles Bean – towards settling the character which the expeditionary force was destined to assume. I mean, an inspired decision grasping that sentiment at the time, you know, the national interest as you just said. It was inevitable we would go; there was never any doubt that we wouldn’t be part of it. 

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, that’s right Alan, because as I said there was this strong sense of solidarity with Britain, there was a strong sense of solidarity with the other countries of the British Empire. And there was also a sense of outrage, Alan, that what Germany and its allies were trying to do was an exercise in brute strength. It was a might is right approach to the world and the Australians of those days, like the Australians of these days, don’t like anything that smacks of might is right.

ALAN JONES:

So, you’ve been – because there are three for Gallipoli – there are three components to this. New Zealand, you’ve been there – just tell us about that. You’ve just come back from New Zealand yesterday

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, that’s right, Alan. It’s the first foreign war memorial in New Zealand. It’s a magnificent memorial. It’s basically columns of Australian stone. It’s right out in front of the main New Zealand war memorial and it was dedicated yesterday by myself and Prime Minister John Key. I believe there are plans to subsequently put a British war memorial, an American war memorial and a Canadian war memorial there in Wellington as a sign of New Zealand’s solidarity with its principal allies.

ALAN JONES:

And now of course you’re going to our own War Memorial. I mean, that is just an extraordinary statement, isn’t it? An extraordinary shrine of remembrance and I’ve spent a lot of time there. You can’t but be moved. You’re heading there in a couple of minutes.

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m on my way there now, Alan. Along with Governor-General Peter Cosgrove and we’ll have a chance to explain to the public what’s happening both at home and abroad over the next few days to commemorate the Centenary of Anzac. But you’re right about the memorial; it’s a shrine, it’s a museum, it’s a place of pilgrimage and every year millions of Australians visit and long may they do so.

ALAN JONES:

Absolutely. Now, then you’ll speak at Gallipoli and of course in all of these things we do remember the contribution or the involvement of the Turks. I mean, they suffered even more than we did at Gallipoli and yet as Turkey remembers us, so we remember them. What will be the theme basically of your speech?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I suppose the ongoing contribution of the Anzac story to the Australian story. Their stories have become our story and while it was 100 years ago, their spirit still moves through our country and it’s important to remember that a nation is not just a group of people, a nation is not just a mass of people inhabiting a particular place. A nation is a place where people have a shared story, a common way of thinking and approaching things and that’s why Anzac and what it means, the sacrifice that our men and women in those days and subsequently, is such an important part of what it means to be an Australian.

ALAN JONES:

I mean, at that War Memorial – and you’ve got to go – but at the War Memorial and you stand by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Hall of Memory and there’s a booklet that they give you when you leave. And I’m sure you’ve seen all this, but it has in the first page the quote from Pericles' Funeral Oration and I quote that, “They gave their lives. For that public gift they received a praise which never ages, and a tomb most glorious – not so much the tomb in which they lie, but that in which their fame survives, to be remembered forever when occasions come for word or deed”. I guess that’s about it.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, you know, we owe a lot to the Athenians. I guess Athenian democracy has been the great gift of Greece to the world and it’s not surprising that that statement of Pericles should still stir us 2,500 years later. 

ALAN JONES:

Alright, good to talk to you and travel safely and we’ll catch up on return.

PRIME MINISTER:

And, Alan, can I just offer this final thought. There are millions of Australians who have never been to an Anzac Day service – don’t let this anniversary pass without attending one.

ALAN JONES:

And we’re safe. I mean, there’s two stories to Melbourne, aren’t there? One is it was a potential terrorist attack. But the second story we should remember is our intelligence and our police are on top of this stuff.

PRIME MINISTER:

Exactly right, and the best thing we can do in the face of those who would do us harm is to go about our normal lives and if we go to an Anzac Day service, we are showing our defiance of those who would do us harm and we’re supporting our countries, our values and our armed forces.

ALAN JONES:

Good on you. Good to talk to you. Travel safely.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks, Alan.

[ends] 

Transcript - 24384