7 August 2019

Abbott wrong fit for War Memorial Council, says campaigner opposing AWM expansion

| David Stephens
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Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott is being touted as a likely Australian War Memorial Council member. Photo: file

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott is being touted as a likely Australian War Memorial Council member. Photo: Official Facebook page of Tony Abbott.

Tony Abbott is the wrong choice for the Council of the Australian War Memorial, but not just because his appointment would be “jobs for the boys.”

More important are the attitudes Abbott would bring to the Council. He is also a leading member of the Anzackery “club,” spruiking an overblown, sentimental version of the Anzac legend.

We need to do commemoration differently. Abbott would deliver more of the same sentiment that has characterised that place under the six-year stewardship of Director Brendan Nelson. Of course, war is important in Australian history, but that is not so much because of what Australians have done in war, but what war has done to Australia and Australians. The War Memorial is good on how well we fight but not on matters, like why we fought our wars and whether they were worth it.

The Memorial could also say more about the effects of wars on people who are not white Australians. That could include the Indigenous casualties of the Frontier Wars, plus the men, women and children bombed in German and Japanese cities in 1943-45, where civilian deaths far exceeded Australian service deaths in all our overseas wars.

Broadening the Memorial’s focus would be helped by fundamental changes to its Council. On the current Council there are eight current or former members of the Australian Defence Force, including the heads of the three services ex officio, a Major General in the Army Reserve who is also National President of the RSL, two retired colonels, a retired wing commander, and a retired corporal, who has a Victoria Cross.

There is also a business tycoon with a military history hobby (Chairman Kerry Stokes), two businesswomen, and a serviceman’s widow. As a military history buff, Abbott would fit in well.

Appointing Abbott would also follow an established pattern. One Council member was aide-de-camp to Director Nelson when he was Defence Minister, another is Chief Operating Officer of Stokes’ private company, another is married to a former Federal President of the Liberal Party.

A country whose forces in the major wars were representative of the whole nation has a very narrowly-based group running its premier commemorative institution. I have suggested elsewhere that the present Council looks like the governing body of an ex-service club and that future vacancies should be filled through public advertising to produce a different mix.

Abbott, if appointed to the Council, would be just one of 13 members. But Chairman Stokes’ term expires in August next year. Might we see Abbott take Stokes’ place?

Even before that, Nelson’s term as Director expires on 31 December this year. Might Abbott succeed him?

A board or council member becoming chief executive is not unprecedented: David Hill moved from chair of the ABC in 1987 to become managing director.

If Abbott were to join the Council or take Nelson’s job, the latter’s grandiose expansion plans (if they go ahead) could hardly be in better hands. The Memorial would look even more like the commemorative arm of an increasingly militarised state, its broad spaces filled with decommissioned military equipment, its visitors able to watch direct video feeds from the Defence Department, its ceremonial occasions marked by florid speeches, its excesses tolerated, even encouraged.

Nelson has paved the way for Abbott, another failed politician, to oversee an institution which has been able to largely ignore criticism. Abbott would love that.

David Stephens is editor of the Honest History website (honesthistory.net.au) and coordinator of Heritage Guardians, a community campaign against the proposed $498m extensions to the Australian War Memorial.

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Capital Retro10:23 pm 08 Aug 19

“Self conscientious objector and National Service Act defaulter Vietnam War.”

That’s nothing to be proud of David. I was drafted for National Service in 1966 – that ruined my career and other things but I didn’t do a runner. I then lost a good friend in Vietnam. If he was alive to day we would both call you a squib.

Jobs for the boy.

Capital Retro8:17 am 09 Aug 19

He’s a very fit boy. That takes a lot of commitment and discipline as you would know.

TwainAndHume8:31 am 08 Aug 19

Abbott in such a public and often sensitive spot … don’t think so. I was hoping after the recent election (one of the high points of which was T.A.’s ejection from Parliament) that he would just fade away and not be in the public spotlight again. It was too much to hope for. It is to be expected that an LNP standard bearer (flagellant?) such as T.A. would not find his Parliamentary retirement salary sufficient. He is bound to pop up somewhere again, and in some damaging, public and well-paid “jobs for the LNP boys/girls” slot, if not the AWM, as some frontperson for some 19th century vision of “back-to-the-future” …

Capital Retro8:14 am 08 Aug 19

“Abbott was not born 8n Australia nor served in any of The Services.”

Neither was another former Australian PM namely Julia Gillard born in Australia nor did she serve in the Military but this hasn’t stopped her earning millions on the global lefty talk circuit so, what is your point?:

Hardly the same Capital Retro and you know it.

That article you links to says Gillard’s focus in her post politics (primarily speaking based) career is on: education, women’s leadership and mental health. Quite clearly qualified to talk about the first 2 from her time in politics. And mental health was central to her agenda when Prime Minister as well.

The talk about Abbott is for a specified role within a governing body, for which beyond a general catch all of “I was PM’ he has limited relevant experience or skills to bring to the table. Unless they need someone to dispose of some onions or go swimming in Lake Burley Griffin.

Capital Retro10:13 pm 08 Aug 19

Hard to say Gillard is “qualified to talk about education and women’s leadership” when she was only prime minister for a very short time.

In contrast, Abbott was a Rhodes scholar so I think he knows a bit more about education. Being PM in a governing body is a “specified role” too.

Comments about onions and swimming belong on a different forum I think.

Is this a joke? if so, it’s pretty bloody sick. Abbott is one of the most destructive and divisive people in the country. And some clown wants to put him in charge of one of our nation’s premier institutions?

Mr Abbott who said ”statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth are those carefully prepared, scripted remarks”? Further, he did tell the ABC voters should not believe every pledge he makes ”unless it is written down as the gospel truth”.

‘Climate change is absolute crap’

‘Gillard won’t lie down and die’

‘What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up, every year…’

‘I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons’

‘Bad bosses, like bad fathers and husbands, should be tolerated because they do more good than harm’

‘Jesus knew that there was a place for everything and it’s not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia.’

This is the bloke who said “no sniping” and then set about destroying his successor.

No thanks, we don’t want Abbott back in Canberra.

Capital Retro2:14 pm 07 Aug 19

I don’t recall those quotes being attributed to Tony Abbott.

Could you please send links or sound bytes to corroborate what you claim?

TwainAndHume8:24 am 08 Aug 19

Anyone who doesn’t remember these Abbott quotes must have been living far, far outside the country (in one way or another) for last ten to fifteen years.

Capital Retro10:57 am 08 Aug 19

Well, I have to concede that I was unaware that so many people hate him. This must be a relief to another former Liberal PM John Howard who held the mantle for so long.

In fact, even the Liberals hate him now: https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2019/07/the-political-euthanising-of-tony-abbott/

At the end of the day I can understand why the left probably hate him and this would be that while leader of the opposition against a Labor government (sometimes minority government) he saw off three Labor PMs and won an election with a record majority which is an achievement which will probably never be repeated. The Liberal party rewarded him in a strange way which is probably why so many have left that party.

Clementine Ford’s famous T shirt message was indeed prophetic.

Capital Retro6:09 pm 08 Aug 19

I specifically said I didn’t recall the quotes attributed to Tony Abbott that were in the original post but when I checked “brainyquote” as suggested by 7-11 I saw mainly the great quotes from Tony Abbott as well. So, next time you want to call someone out read the whole thread first and perhaps comment on some of the points I have raised as well.

Name me a PM from any party that didn’t say a few dumb things and for the record, I have lived in left dominated Canberra for the last 40 years and I haven’t noted anything in the local media that bags Abbott like those articles quoted in the links.

Capital Retro7:44 am 09 Aug 19

Like the first two quotes you alluded to, I have never seen the “latest” ones you have offered either. I am not denying that they are out there though and your dossier of hate seems inexhaustble .

I checked the riotACT link and given that it was in 2013 when Abbott was PM I think the following post pretty well reflects my feelings:

Tony4PM 5:13 pm 26 Sep 13
The best thing about Tony Abbott being PM is seeing all the writhing and gnashing of teeth of the lefties who loudly proclaimed that he would never be PM and was unelectable. You have brightened my day with your empty nonsense. Good stuff. And an even better brightener was hearing that the blow in Sheikh has conceded. Happy days. Hope he goes straight back to wherever it is he blew in from.

If I were Dr Phil, I would say “you need help”.

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