Speech to the Parliament of New South Wales by The Hon Charlie Lynn MLC on 4 May 2006
Debate resumed from 2 May 2006.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN [4.32 p.m.]: The acknowledgment of traditional owners of the land seems to have been introduced around the time of the republican and reconciliation debates during the Keating Labor Government era. Left-wing academics, inner-city urban dwellers and doctors’ wives were among the comfortable middle-class voices calling for changes to our flag and our system of parliamentary democracy. They also wanted us to say sorry for historical wrongs over which we had no influence. As it turned out, the only thing that changed was the Government.
I would hope that these ideological warriors of the Left will come to understand that the wider Australian community will accept such changes to our systems, symbols and institutions only when they are treated as equals in the debate, not as a group of uneducated westies or rednecks. My view is that concentrating on so-called progressive issues for our indigenous people has done them more harm than good. The “feelgood” factor for the chattering classes in comfortable inner-city environments does not translate into worthwhile sustainable benefits for indigenous people in remote and isolated areas. It has taken the emergence of indigenous leaders such as Noel Pearson and Warren Mundine to get some balance back into the debate and to earn the respect of the wider community in the process.
The election of one of the ideological relics of the Left to the presidency of this House brought with it some radical but predictable change. Firstly, our ex-service men and women were insulted when representatives of some of the most repressive communist regimes in the world were invited as official guests to the opening of the House, while our former and current allies whom we had spilled blood with in conflict with these regimes were ignored. The next to go was the portrait of the Queen from the public area of the Parliament. The recital of the prayer was delegated to the Clerk, and the acknowledgement of traditional owners was introduced without consultation. These types of insults in countries such as North Korea, North Vietnam and Cuba would have resulted in a lengthy stint in remote re-education camps, but here the insults have been ignored—a testimony to the tolerance of our parliamentary democracy that has served us so well since Federation. I personally have no issue with an acknowledgement of traditional owners of the land. However, I believe it would have been better accepted if there had been some consultation with members before it was introduced. I would hope that in the longer term the ideas developed by respected indigenous leaders such as Noel Pearson and Warren Mundine will give the meaning of such acknowledgements more significance.
There is one other group within our community that should be acknowledged also by our parliaments, local councils and educational institutions, and that is our service men and women who sacrificed their lives in defence of the freedom, peace and prosperity we have in this great country today. Among these, of course, are some of our finest soldiers, such as Aboriginal brothers Reg and Harry Saunders, who fought in the Middle East and New Guinea during World War II. Their father fought in the First World War, as did their uncle, Reg Rawlings, who was awarded the Military Medal, and who was later killed in action. Following in this military tradition, Reg and his brother Harry enlisted for service in the Second World War. Harry was later killed in New Guinea.
Reg Saunders proved a natural soldier, and he found less discrimination in the army than in the wider community. He became a popular non-commissioned officer in the 2/7th Battalion. The unit saw action in North Africa before joining the Greek campaign. When the British evacuated Crete in May 1941, Reg was one of the many men left behind. He spent an adventurous year hiding out, aided by the locals, before he was finally evacuated by sea. After he returned to Australia he rejoined his battalion and served in New Guinea. In late 1944 he attended an officer training unit, was commissioned lieutenant and went back to the 2/7th Battalion. The Korean War provided further opportunity for soldiering and Reg led a company—C Company, 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment—through fierce fighting, including the battle at Kapyong in April 1951. He remained in the army for a year after the war. However, his life became unsettled and he had difficulty re-establishing himself as a civilian. Tough years followed, but he overcame them. Meanwhile, he found he was increasingly expected to be a spokesperson for indigenous Australians. In 1969 Reg Saunders was selected to be among the first Aboriginal liaison officers for the Office of Aboriginal Affairs, which became the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Devoted to those he had served with, he was a man of dignity and good humour, who remained committed to the advancement of his people.
In respect of our acknowledgement of past service and sacrifice, it is worth reflecting on the achievements of our troops in World War I under the command of General Sir John Monash, the greatest leader we have ever produced—and arguably the greatest Australian of all time. He was, as pointed out by his biographer, Roland Perry, the “outsider who won the war”.
It is worth noting that Monash commanded an army more than two and half times the size of the British Army under the Duke of Wellington or the French army under Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo. In his army corps he had an artillery that was more than six times bigger and 100 times more powerful than that commanded by the Duke of Wellington. It is surely an indictment on our education system and our arts industry that Australians know more about the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte than they do about General Sir John Monash.
It is interesting to note that at the height of his command the only enemies that caused him concern were a newspaper reporter, Keith Murdoch; a historian, Mr Bean; and a politician who happened to be the Prime Minister at the time, Billy Hughes. Some things never change. After the battle of Hamel in April 1918, the French Premier Georges Clemenceau paid a great tribute to the Australian troops about the cause of freedom in Australia, England, France and Italy when he addressed them. Speaking about freedom he said:
‘That is what made you come. That is what made us greet you when you came. We knew you would fight a real fight, but we did not know that from the very beginning you would astonish the whole continent with your valour.
He went on:
‘I shall go back to Paris tomorrow and say to my countrymen; “I have seen the Australians; I have looked into their eyes. I know that they, men who have fought great battles in the cause of freedom, will fight on alongside us, till the freedom for which we are fighting is guaranteed for us and our future”.
A couple of months later, as the Australians prepared for another epic battle at Amiens, Monash sent a message to all of the 166,000 Australian troops in his corps:
‘For the first time in the history of this Corps, all five Australian Divisions will tomorrow engage in the largest and most important battle operation ever undertaken by the Corps.
‘They will be supported by an exceptionally powerful Artillery, and by Tanks and Aeroplanes on a scale never previously attempted. The full resources of our sister Dominion, the Canadian Corps, will also operate on our right, while two British Divisions will guard our left flank.
‘The many successful offensives which the Brigades and Battalions of this Corps have so brilliantly executed during the past four months have been the prelude to, and the preparation for, this greatest culminating effort.
‘Because of the completeness of our plans and dispositions, of the magnitude of the operations, of the number of troops employed, and of the depth to which we intend to over-run the enemy’s positions, this battle will be one of the most memorable of the whole war; and there can be no doubt that, by capturing our objectives, we will inflict blows upon the enemy which will make him stagger, and will bring the end appreciably nearer.
‘I entertain no sort of doubt that every Australian soldier will worthily rise to so great an occasion, and that every man, imbued with the spirit of victory, will, in spite of every difficulty that may confront him, be animated by no other resolve than grim determination so see through to a clean finish, whatever his task may be.
‘The work to be done tomorrow will perhaps make heavy demands upon the endurance and staying powers of many of you; but I am confident, in spite of excitement, fatigue, and physical strain, every man will carry on to the utmost of his powers until his goal is won; for the sake of Australia, the Empire and our cause.
‘I earnestly wish every soldier of the Corps the best of good fortune, and glorious and decisive victory, the story of which will echo throughout the world, and will live forever in the history of our homeland’.
Approximately 12 hours after the start of the battle it was all over. The Australians lost approximately 1,200 men out of an assault force of more than 100,000 under Monash’s command. They captured more than 6,000 Germans, 100 field artillery pieces, a complete train and hundreds of vehicles. It was a decisive victory attributed to Monash’s leadership and the fighting qualities of his Australian troops. Monash’s biographer, Roland Perry, recorded that by the time he ordered the last of his divisions out of the front line, leaving no Australians in the war, their job was done. Over the previous six months they had taken 29,144 prisoners and liberated 116 towns and villages over an area of 660 square kilometres. No-one knows precisely how many enemy were killed but 60,000 would be a conservative figure.
In that same period Australia lost 5,500 dead and had 24,000 casualties.
They had taken on 39 German divisions and beaten every one of them, from the crack Prussian Guards, who fought to the last, to cobbled-together forces that ran when attacked. Long before the great German offensive of 21 March 1918 the Germans knew where the strength in the allied armies lay.
They were careful not to attack where Australian forces were in the front line. Indeed, one of the captured German documents advised that if they had known the Australians were their opponents they would not have defended Montbrehain. It was one of scores of such comments recorded by the end of this frantic period of annihilation for the Germans.
They thought that the Australian style of fighting, whereby one rogue soldier, for reasons of bravado, courage, showmanship, competitiveness or just plain insanity after so long in combat, was nigh on impossible to counter. Man for man, the enemy was just as courageous as the Australians. But this element of apparent craziness, or even near-suicidal intent, defied the tenets of rigid German discipline and usually caught them off guard.
The initiative and courage of Lieutenant George Ingram was typical of these acts. During the Battle of Montbrehain on 5 October 1918, Ingram led a thrust against a German strongpoint and captured nine machine guns and 42 prisoners. He then led an attack against a position defended by 100 Germans armed with 42 machine guns. After capturing this position, he then went alone into Montbrehain in search of a sniper who had caused havoc among the British 139th brigade in its failed attempt to take the town the previous day. British soldiers had told Ingram that a sniper had picked off about 20 of their men as they advanced on some ruins in the town.
Lieutenant Ingram went alone, as he wanted the element of surprise. He stalked his way into the town’s narrow streets around sharp, blind corners, waiting for fire that was aimed in the direction of his brigade. One location began to betray itself. The shots were not coming from an elevated position, which is where the unlucky forces had been looking.
After an hour of stealthy movement among the ruins, Ingram spotted the source. A machine gun was aimed out of a house’s cellar ventilator. Ingram crawled from the side of the cellar while firing was coming from it. When he was within a metre of it he stood up and fired his revolver into the ventilator, killing the sniper. Hearing other shocked German voices in the cellar, he dashed around to the back of the house, booted down the back door and bailed up 30 of the enemy. Ingram then waited coolly until his men entered the town. For this bravery he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Monash’s strategies delineated the Australians from the rest of the allies. They marked a change in the way that war was conducted from a nineteenth century mentality whereby men were cannon fodder. Monash’s detailed command of the equipment, weaponry and all the technological accoutrements of war put his thinking perhaps a half a century ahead of his contemporaries. The other important difference was that he could put theory into practice, and he did it to devastating effect. On 5 August 1918 Prince Max von Baden, on behalf of the German Government, asked for an immediate armistice on land and water and in the air. It was the beginning of the end of the war and soon after Monash departed for a well-earned break in London.
When one reviews the outstanding achievements of our Diggers against the Germans it is perhaps easier to understand why the odd Australian of German descent would harbour such a benign hatred of our troops generations later.
Between the two world wars our political leaders failed us by demobilising and allowing our forces to run down to unsustainable levels. They relied on our relationship with Britain to bail us out if we got into trouble. Even when the war tocsin began to sound with Hitler’s rise in Nazi Germany and warnings of Japan’s expansionist aims were apparent as early as 1933 they continued in denial.
In 1933 General Sturdee warned: Japan would pose the major threat to Australian security. He predicted:
‘The Japanese would act quickly, they would all be regulars, fully trained and equipped for the operations, and fanatics who liked dying in battle, whilst our troops would consist mainly of civilians, hastily thrown together on mobilisation, with very little training, short of artillery and possibly of gun ammunition’.
That is exactly what happened six years later. The Head of Strategic Studies at the Australian National University, Professor David Horner, recently wrote:
‘It is now generally agreed that the Australian defence policy between the wars and until the fall of Singapore was, at the best, naively optimistic, and at the worst, some might say, close to treason’.
Whilst our political leaders may have neglected their national insurance policy, at that time our Diggers answered the call—and the challenge. When war finally broke out in 1939 we were totally unprepared and dispatched an expeditionary force to Europe and the Middle East to make our contribution to Empire defence in the vain hope that they would come to our aid if Japan entered the war in the Pacific region.
We now know that Churchill had other ideas, and the defence of Australia was not his priority. Our sycophantic political representatives were out of their league in trying to deal with Churchill and it took another great army leader, Monash’s former chief of staff, the much-maligned General Thomas Blamey, to stand up against him. Blamey would not allow Australian soldiers to fight piecemeal under British command, as Churchill wanted; he would only allow them to fight as Australian units under Australian command.
As a result of Blamey’s strong stand, Australia’s fighting reputation, established on the beaches of Gallipoli and the fields of France, was re-established at places such as Tobruk and El Alamein. It was the Australians at Tobruk who inflicted the first land defeat on one of the great German Commanders, General Erwin Rommel, which probably further reinforced the feeling of hatred that the odd Australian of German descent has against our troops. When Japan entered the war with the bombing of Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941 we were at our most vulnerable, with all of our regular forces still stationed in Europe and the Middle East. The Japanese were deemed to be invincible.
In eight weeks the overpowering Japanese invasion forces had destroyed the United States Navy in Pearl Harbour and sunk the British battleships in the China Sea. The Japanese had captured Hong Kong and half of China and forced the British Navy to abandon Singapore. They defeated the United States Army in the Philippines and the British Army in Malaya. They had occupied Indonesia and sunk the Dutch fleet in the Java Sea. Australians experienced that terrible fear of imminent invasion. We faced the loss of our homes and our country. Many had turned to prayer as a last resort for their safety. Only the 8th Division AIF and two cruisers stood between the Japanese invaders and Australia. Australia needed three months to bring her fighting men from the Middle East and organise the assistance of two divisions of United States of America Marines to enable us to meet the advancing Japanese. The 8th Australian Division gave Australia those three months!
They were volunteer soldiers, equipped only with small arms. They manned Australia’s foremost defences, a thinly held line stretching from Malacca in the west to Rabaul in the east. With only a rifle and bayonet they faced the heavy artillery, the dive bombers and the large tanks of the invasion armies. They fought to the finish in Johore and Singapore, in Ambon, Timor and New Britain. They fought desperately, with one thought in mind: that these Japanese must never be allowed to land in Australia. Despite the gallant efforts of the 8th Division the Japanese continued with their operations and landed on Australian territory in New Guinea in July 1942.
They had been turned back on two invasions attempts, in the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway, and then tried an overland invasion over the Kokoda Trail. During the Kokoda campaign the Australians met the Japanese. Our soldiers were outnumbered, outgunned, out-trained—but they absorbed everything the Japanese could throw at them. They were pushed right back to the last line of defence, where they rallied and then forced the Japanese back across the track. That was the only time in our history that our territory has been invaded. Our soldiers recaptured Kokoda and raised the Australian flag on 3 November 1942. There were no British, no Americans, no Kiwis; it was purely an Australian operation. Some of the reports that have come out recently give one the feeling of what they went through and the sacrifices they made along the track. Lieutenant Doug McLean said:
‘The Japs were in deep dugouts protected with thick logs at ground level separated by other logs just to allow the weapons to protrude … providing a field of fire for the one hundred and eighty degrees facing the scrub. Now our troops as they attacked were hit in the lower leg and body … and I later found some of my boys lying against enemy positions with unexploded grenades in their hands. They were riddled with wounds but struggled as they died to get to the enemy … if ever blokes had earned a decoration … one lad was shot twice in the same action … flesh wounds … “Sir”, he said crying, “Every time I move some bastard shoots me!” … he was only eighteen’.
Major Steward, the regimental doctor of the 2/16th Battalion at Brigade Hill, said:
‘My saddest sight, at Butcher’s Hill was that of a 23 year old former golf professional. He had a ghastly, gaping wound of the throat, and although my eyes could only see darkness and death, his saw light and hope. They were asking me something with all the mute urgency that eyes can convey. Eyes, the windows of the soul, show every facet of the inner feelings—love, joy, hope, fear, guilt, pity, hatred, and even bodily sickness or health. Looking as dispassionately as possible at that man’s throat, I hoped he couldn’t sense the lump in mine. Emotion clouds calm clinical judgement, but the hardest thing is not to flinch from the gaze of the man you know is going to die’.
Laurie Howson of the 39th Battalion said:
‘The days go on. You are trying to survive, shirt torn, arse out of your pants, whiskers a mile long, hungry and a continuous line of stretchers with wounded carried by “Fuzzy-Wuzzies” doing a marvellous job. Some days you carry your boots because there’s no skin on your feet. But when I look around at some of the others, hell! They look crook! Then I have seen the time when you dig a number of holes in the ground and bury your dead. Nothing would be said, but you think “maybe it will be my turn next.”
Captain Katekar of the 2/27th Battalion wrote:
‘The wounded, God only knows, were in purgatory, hungry and in great pain. Some of our natives began to desert, meaning that our men had to replace them as bearers. “Doc” Viner-Smith allowed the maggots to remain on the wound in order to eat the rotting flesh and so prevent gangrene. That night we were still short of Nauro. I found it a great mental strain and so did the Commander and other officers, with that great responsibility of not only saving our wounded but of saving ourselves from starvation’.
Chester Wilmot, a war correspondent on the Kokoda Track, said:
‘They must be going through hell on this track—specially those with leg wounds. Some have been hit in the foot and they can’t even get a boot on, but they’re walking back over root and rock and through mud in bare feet, protected only by their bandages. Here’s a steep pinch and a wounded digger’s trying to climb it. You need both hands and both feet, but he’s been hit in the arm and thigh.
Two of his cobbers are helping him along. One goes ahead, hauling himself up by root and branch. The wounded digger clings to the belt of the man in front with his good hand, while his other cobber gets underneath and pushes him up. I say to this fellow he ought to be a stretcher case, but he replies “I can get along. There’s blokes here lots worse than me and if we don’t walk they’ll never get out.”
They are some examples of the selfless sacrifice that was made by ordinary soldiers on our behalf during our campaigns. When we turned the Japanese back at the battles of Milne Bay and Kokoda, Sir William Slim of Burma wrote:
‘Some of us may forget that of all the Allies it was the Australian soldiers who first broke the spell of the invincibility of the Japanese Army; those of us who were in Burma have cause to remember’.
The attitude of the men of Kokoda was summed up by another journalist and author, Osmar White, who was at Eora Creek during the evacuation of the wounded. Australian forces that could fight were desperately trying to hold the Japanese off so that our wounded could crawl into the jungle and get back over the feature to their rear. White wrote:
‘I saw a 20 year old redheaded boy with shrapnel in his stomach. He kept muttering to himself about not being able to see the blasted Japs. When Eora was to be evacuated, he knew he had very little chance of being shifted back up the line. He called to me, confidentially: “Hey dig, bend down a minute. Listen … I think us blokes are going to be left when they pull out. Will you do us a favour? Scrounge us a tommy gun from somewhere will you?”
‘It was not bravado. You could see that by looking in his eyes. He just wanted to see a Jap before he died. That was all. Such things should have been appalling. They were not appalling. One accepted them calmly. This was jungle war—the most merciless war of all.
In his great tribute to ordinary Australians he wrote:
‘I was convinced for all time of the dignity and nobility of common men. I was convinced for all time that common men have a pure and shining courage when they fight for what they believe to be a just and shining cause.
‘That which was fine in these men outweighed and made trivial all that was horrible in their plight. I cannot explain it except to say that they were at all times cheerful and helped one another. They never gave up the fight. They never admitted defeat. They never asked for help.
‘I felt proud to be of their race and cause, bitterly ashamed to be so nagged by the trivial ills of my own flesh. I wondered if all men, when they had endured so much that exhausted nerves would no longer give response, were creatures of the spirit, eternal and indestructible as stars.
‘The men of Kokoda fought a terrible battle against overwhelming odds, yet they were not overwhelmed. They suffered huge casualties at Isurava and in the fighting back through Templeton’s Crossing, Mission Ridge and Brigade Hill. They fought in the worst conditions imaginable, the climate and incredibly difficult terrain adding to their burden. Ultimately, they fought the enemy to a standstill and saw him turn at Iorabaiwa and retreat back over the Kokoda Track. Extraordinarily disciplined and well led, their efforts were not initially understood and appreciated by the higher command. However, the verdict of history and of the Australian people is different’.
History records that these men made a tremendous victory possible. They stopped a downward thrust that if successful would have exposed the entire Australian mainland to invasion. So significant was their achievement that the historians now unanimously agree that the battles of the Kokoda Track saw the turning of the tide—a tide that could well have engulfed a young nation. Theirs was a victory not only of the jungle battlefield but a victory of sacrifice and selflessness, a victory of mateship, a victory of courage, a victory of endurance. In linking the spirit of Anzac with the spirit of Kokoda, it has been said that Anzac created a nation but Kokoda saved a nation.
Since the end of World War II we have engaged in other conflicts in defence of the free world. We have fought in Malaya and Vietnam, and we have served as peacekeepers throughout the free world. We are what we are today because of the selfless sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of Australians, young and old, male and female, black, white and brindle in two world wars and in numerous other conflicts in support of a free world.
Through their mateship and courage, and because of their initiative and endurance, they carved a special place in our history and they should never be forgotten. Colonel Phil Roden, who died a couple of years ago, was the commander of the 2/14th Battalion at the Battle of Isurava. In a speech he made a couple of years ago he said that “the death of the brave is never in vain”. When the unknown soldier was brought home Paul Keating paid this great tribute. He said:
‘We do not know his rank or his battalion. We do not know where he was born, or precisely how and when he died. We do not know where in Australia he has made his home or when he left it for the battlefields of Europe. We do not know his age or his circumstances—whether he was from the city or the bush; what occupation he left to become a soldier; what religion, if he had a religion; if he was married or single. We do not know who loved him or whom he loved. If he had children we do not know who they were. His family is lost to us as he was lost to them.
‘We will never know who this Australian was. Yet he has always been among those we have honoured. We know that he was one of the 25,000 Australians who died on the Western Front. One of the 416,000 Australians who volunteered for service in the First World War. One of the 324,000 Australians who served overseas in that war; and one of the 60,000 Australians who died on foreign soil. One of the 100,000 Australians who have died in wars this century.
‘He is all of them. And he is one of us.’
Recently I was honoured to give an Anzac address to a group of students aged from five to about 16 years at a small girls school in Castle Hill. During my speech I said that if I had been giving the address 50 years ago most of them would not have had a father to go home to because of the sacrifice made by our fathers and grandfathers, but that we are fortunate that they have fathers to go home to today. Let us hope that that continues. We must never forget the sacrifice that has been made for the freedom and prosperity we enjoy in Australia today. Their sacrifice is our heritage. They deserve, more than any other group in our society, to be acknowledged in Parliament as a constant reminder of that sacrifice. I commend the motion to the House. Lest we forget.
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE [4.59 p.m.]: I support the motion moved by the Hon. Charlie Lynn and congratulate him on his outstanding speech on the traditions of Anzac, making special reference to both the First World War and the Second World War. He has suggested that after the prayers are read in this House at the beginning of each sitting day members recite the following words:
‘I acknowledge the supreme sacrifice made by the service men and women who gave their lives on active service in defence of the freedom we enjoy in New South Wales today.’
Our Procedure Committee would have to make such a recommendation before that could be done, but it would be unique—such words are not spoken in any other parliament. It would be a way of constantly reminding ourselves of our servicemen and servicewomen, just as we do on Anzac Day when we recite the words “Lest we forget.”
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted. The House continued to sit.
Debate resumed from 4 May 2006.
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE [11.33 a.m.]: I support the motion moved by the Hon. Charlie Lynn, which states:
‘That in recognition of the year of the ninetieth anniversary of the Australian landing at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli and the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the Pacific War, this House calls on the President to acknowledge the sacrifice made by Australian servicemen and women who gave their lives in defence of the freedom we enjoy today after the prayer at the beginning of each sitting week in the following terms:
“I acknowledge the supreme sacrifice made by the servicemen and women who gave their lives on active service in defence of the freedom we enjoy in New South Wales today.”
In support of the motion, I refer particularly to one of the individuals who played a major role in the defence of our freedom for the people of New South Wales and Australia, particularly in World War II and especially with regard to the war in the Middle East and the war in New Guinea. I pay tribute to a person who is probably the last surviving officer who held the field command to end the New Guinea campaign of World War II, Major General Paul Cullen, AC, CBE, DSO and Bar, ED, FCA, whom honourable members would have seen on the television coverage of the Anzac Day march on 25 April this year. He wore his old slouch hat and marched proudly and actively by himself at the age of 97 years—he was not driven in a taxi.
Major General Paul Cullen is also a former student of the Cleveland Street High School, where I was a student. I note that when General Peter Cosgrove was head of the Australian Defence Force he wrote a tribute to Paul Cullen in a new book which was released in 2005, written by Kevin Baker, and titled Paul Cullen—Citizen and Soldier. The cover of the book describes Major General Cullen as a distinguished soldier in North Africa, Greece and Crete, and on the Kokoda Track. In the foreword of the publication, which I commend to honourable members—I suggest that they borrow it from the Parliamentary Library—because I am sure they would find it both informative and inspiring, General Peter Cosgrove wrote in 2004:
Major General Paul Cullen may be 96 years old, but he still displays the tenacity, frankness and dignity he showed as an eminent military commander in the Second World War. He was a gallant wartime leader who got the job done, but he never spared himself to look after his men.
He continued his dedication to the military after the war, when he served as a citizen soldier. He rose to the rank of Major General, and in effect also became the most senior Citizen Military Force officer in Australia at the time. He continues his work today as a great proponent of the wonderful citizen soldiers—a legacy that will live on.
The book covers Major General Cullen’s military baptism of fire in Egypt, Libya, Greece and Crete. It tells of his and his troops’ struggle for survival on the Kokoda Track and the fighting in New Guinea. General Peter Cosgrove also wrote:
Major General Cullen’s obstinate nature is shown when he had the choice of going to Turkey, a neutral country in the war, or Crete, where a battle was not yet joined [but was anticipated]. Unsurprising to those who know him, he chose the battle. And his leadership skills are demonstrated by his actions on the Kokoda Track and his courageous conduct at Sanananda. He emerged from the war mightily acknowledged as one of our best performed and most highly decorated infantry commanders.
Major General Cullen is a fierce and proud man, but he also displays compassion and selflessness. He is a dignified and highly respected opinion leader in the community. He has made outstanding contributions to the refugee cause and was recognized by the United Nations for this work in 1981. He continues his work with the underprivileged and in community services, both of which have won him high acclaim.
They were the concluding remarks by General Peter Cosgrove about Major General Paul Cullen. The book I have mentioned contains a brief summary of what is described as the “citizen soldier”, a unique feature of our Australian Defence Forces. Major General Cullen was a member of the citizens forces that, like many others, volunteered to join the Australian Imperial Force and go into active combat during World War II. Australia has had a long tradition of looking to the citizen soldier, or militia, units for its defence: first the militia, the Citizen Military Forces [CMF] and today’s reserve forces. The first such units were raised when the colony of Botany Bay was barely 12 years old. Free citizens were recruited on a part-time basis in September 1800, and they were not just playing at soldiers. The men who received training in those units saw active service in a number of conflicts later in the nineteenth century across the Tasman in the Maori wars of the 1860s and in the Sudan in 1885.
When the Boer War broke out New South Wales and other colonies sent a total of 16,000 men to South Africa. When the Federation of the colonies formed Australia as a nation in 1901, its land-based defence was put in the hands of part-time and voluntary reserve units. Major General Paul Cullen joined the militia in 1927. He has an honourable and lengthy record of service for our nation. He took his small place in Australia’s combat-ready defence force. He saw the organisation of citizen soldiers become the Citizen Military Forces in 1948-49, which was reorganised into the Army Reserve in 1972.
I was privileged to join the Citizen Military Forces Regimental Cadets in 1948, when the CMF was first formed. I undertook national service as a volunteer and continued to serve in the CMF. I was finally commissioned in 1955 and later I became a company commander. I served for 22 years in the CMF Army Reserve, until 1972. It is an honour to be able to put on record the achievements of Major General Paul Cullen. The motion refers to World War II, particularly the events in New Guinea and on the Kokoda Track. That conflict is summarised in the book, which states:
The frontline of the Australian defences was mainly held by citizen soldiers.
That was at the beginning of World War II. The book continues:
The northernmost Australian troops in Papua were units of the 39th Militia Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel W.T. Owen. Hugely outnumbered by their opponents, this Victorian battalion, made up very largely of untrained eighteen-year-olds, made a fighting withdrawal that earned it an honoured place in Australia’s military history. B Company of the 39th had advanced along a narrow track that crossed the Owen Stanley mountains to a small settlement and air strip named Kokoda, in the midst of the range. There the 95 men of the company under Captain Sam Templeton stopped and waited for the remainder of the battalion to move up the track and reinforce them.
I highlight the tremendous difference in numbers between the Australian forces—the Citizen Military Forces, with very limited training—who were facing the Japanese advance force that consisted of most experienced Japanese soldiers who had been involved in many conflicts. They were battle-tested troops. The Japanese advance force consisted of the 144th Regiment of the South Seas Force and marines of the Naval Landing Force, and numbered more than 1,500 men. Earlier I referred to 95 Australian men; they were moving up to face conflict with 1,500 men. The first clash with Australian troops occurred on 29 July 1942, when the Japanese forward units, about 500 strong, attacked B Company.
That company consisted of only 95 men: the normal strength of a company was 100. The Japanese had superior forces and captured Kokoda within hours. Unfortunately Lieutenant Colonel Owen was among the dead. However, the strength of the Japanese numbers and their vigorous attack suddenly woke up General MacArthur and General Blamey, who seemed to have regarded that conflict as minor, and had not given it the priority it needed. From then on the Australians were always behind the eight ball, trying to catch up and dealing with the superior Japanese forces. The remainder of the 39th Battalion reinforced the 95 men in B Company. I repeat, they were all militia troops with limited training.
As Australia sent additional companies to that battalion, the Japanese reinforced and strengthened their numbers. Japanese Major General Horii arrived and his force soon totalled 13,500 soldiers, with their own mountain artillery and engineer units. To my knowledge no artillery was available to the Australian troops, which had only small arms such as rifles and Bren guns. Major General Horii detailed 6,000 men as the fighting force to capture Moresby. At that time they were opposed by about 600 Australian militia who were endeavouring to stop the Japanese advance. Later, two battalions of the 21st Brigade of the Seventh Division joined them. That is when Major General Paul Cullen became involved in the conflict. He was an officer in one of the experienced reinforcing battalions that had served in the Middle East and fought the Germans. They also were battle-tested troops and they were more than a match for the experienced Japanese soldiers.
However, we must pay tribute to the 39th Battalion of militia, who were the first soldiers to meet the Japanese and delay them. In the ongoing battle on the Kokoda Track at one point Paul Cullen was with the 2/1st Battalion, which, as part of the 16th Brigade, was moving toward the front. General MacArthur saw Paul Cullen and said:
Cullen, by some act of God your battalion—of which he was the commanding officer—has been chosen for this job. The eyes of the Western world are upon you. I have every confidence in you and your men. Good luck. And don’t stop.
Without hesitation, they moved forward to confront the superior and more experienced Japanese soldiers. Paul Cullen writes the following about one of his companies in an engagement:
The Japs counterattacked. Sanderson of A Company was killed surrounded by a ring of dead Japs. The casualties were awful. If only I had been permitted to take the battalion around to the high ground. It would have saved many casualties and a week, and maybe Tubby Allen, commander of the Seventh Division, from being removed.
Sanderson was the company commander. General Blamey thought Allen was moving too slowly. He had no idea of the nature of the territory, how impassable it was and how narrow the track. He talked as if the Australians could advance on a wide front, which was impossible in that engagement. Nevertheless, the 2/1st Battalion led by Paul Cullen was able to make an uphill attack against a well-prepared and strongly entrenched Japanese force that outnumbered the attacking force 6:1. No-one would ever adopt battle tactics that sent troops against a force that was six times larger and sitting in trenches in a defensive position, but that is what the Australians did. They attacked that six-times larger force and defeated them. I am very pleased to support this motion.
The publication contains a lot of very valuable information concerning how serious was the Japanese advance and what their long-term plans were. I refer to that because I know there is some controversy in the newspapers at the moment about whether the Australian troops saved Australia in that conflict. Was there any major danger to Australia? Some people say there was no threat to Australia and that it was only a minor battle. However, the Japanese army commander, General Yamashita, had defeated the British in Malaya and captured Singapore with only 30,000 men against 100,000 men who were mainly British but also included a large number of Australians. They were forced to surrender. When he was in Allied custody after the war, General Yamashita talked about the plans to invade Australia. He told his captors that after he had taken Singapore he developed a plan to leave a strong garrison in Malaya and move his army south-east to attack Australia, using the same tactics that had led to success in Malaya. The general planned to make a number of feints and finally amphibious landings near major Australian cities to overrun them one by one. During the interrogation he said of the Australians:
All they could ever hope to do was make a guerrilla resistance in the bush. With even Sydney and Brisbane in my hands, it would have been comparatively simple to subdue Australia.
I believe we should never underestimate what were the intentions of the Japanese military. There is also other evidence to support this contention. We must support this motion and acknowledge the courage and bravery of the young Australian soldiers who defeated the Japanese on the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea and saved Australia from a potential invasion. One of the key men in that victory over the Japanese was Major General Paul Cullen, citizen and soldier.
The Hon. DON HARWIN [11.54 a.m.]: I pay tribute to the Hon. Charlie Lynn, MLC, for moving this motion and for his very interesting remarks. I also thank Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile for his comments. They referred to some of the outstanding contributions that have been made by Australian service men and women in numerous conflicts, but in particular World War 1 and World War 11. My two namesakes, my grandfather Thomas Killiby, and my father’s uncle, Donald Thomas Grant, after whom he was named, served in those wars. Sadly, I did not have the pleasure of knowing either of them. Fortunately my grandfather, who served on the Western Front in World War 1, returned and went on to lead a full life. Donald Thomas Grant died in the defence of Singapore.
Some years ago my sister and I visited the war memorial for Commonwealth soldiers on the northern side of Singapore Island, near the Straits of Johore. It is certainly a very moving place. I think I was 37 or 38 at the time, but my father’s uncle would have been only in his early twenties when he gave his life in the defence of Australia, our way of life and our freedom. This motion is timely because last year was the ninetieth anniversary of the Australian landing at Gallipoli. A very moving ceremony was held at Gallipoli to mark those events. Last year was also the sixtieth anniversary of the ending of the Pacific War. I think the Hon. Charlie Lynn was motivated by both events in moving this motion, which looks for an acknowledgment by this Chamber of the contribution and sacrifice of those service men and women. He has suggested in this private member’s motion the way he thinks the Chamber should proceed to make that acknowledgment. That is what we are debating today.
This is an opportunity for each member to put a view about the appropriate direction we should take, and to give some guidance to those who put together our standing and sessional orders on the terms of the acknowledgment. Other acknowledgments are made without the sanction of standing and sessional orders. At the beginning of each week the President acknowledges our indigenous origins and that is recorded in Hansard. This is an opportunity for us to put our views on how to acknowledge the sacrifices made by Australian service men and women. With the concurrence of the Hon. Charlie Lynn I will move an amendment to his motion so that this is not just a private member’s day debate, but so that it leads to a review by the Procedure Committee about the proper direction we should take. I move:
That the question be amended by omitting all words after “Pacific War” and inserting instead:
This House acknowledges the sacrifice made by Australian service men and women who gave their lives in defence of the freedom we enjoy today.
(2) That the Procedure Committee inquire into and report on having the President acknowledge this sacrifice after the prayer at the beginning of each sitting week in the following terms:
“I acknowledge the supreme sacrifice made by the service men and women who gave their lives on active service in defence of the freedom we enjoy in New South Wales today.”
(3) That the committee report by Tuesday 29 August 2006.
As I said, I move that amendment with the concurrence of the Hon. Charlie Lynn. The matter will go before the Procedure Committee, upon which I note that Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile—who contributed to this debate—and I serve together with other members in this place. I think that is an appropriate place to consider the matter upon the conclusion of this debate. I commend the motion and the amendment to the House.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.