Yet more baubles

Every Australian veteran has one overwhelming desire – to get another bauble from the Government commemorating the veteran’s services.

Well, that’s not exactly true but it seems to be the belief of successive Australian Governments.

The latest is a commemorative medallion marking 50 years since the end of the Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. It marks the launch of commemorative activities throughout 2023 culminating in a national commemorative service on Vietnam Veterans’ Day 18 August 2023.

The medallions will go not only to veterans but also widows of veterans and other family members of veterans.

Anthony Albanese, in announcing the ‘award’, said: “This year, as we mark 50 years since the role of Australian troops in the hostilities in Vietnam came to a close, let us acknowledge you service and sacrifice.”

“Your experiences during and after the war are a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made by those who served our country and the debt and gratitude we owe to each and every one of you. These medallions are a small but meaningful way to honour your service – to recognise the sacrifice of those who never returned home, and of those who did, and endure the scars of service.”

Veterans Affairs Minister, Matt Keogh said: “This was a war that was times contentious at home, and for some veterans their service not recognised as it should have been.”

Deconstructing this waffle leads into endless areas of history, defence policy, our subservient relationship with the US and many of other things.

For a start, ‘contentious’, has to be about the most euphemistic expression possible to describe world-wide protests and huge anti-war marches in the streets of every Australian capital city.

No mention is made of why we went to Vietnam, the lies and the senseless destruction and loss of life – not only as the US carpet bombed North and South Vietnam but also allowed pilots to offload surplus bombs over Laos and Cambodia. The Plain of Jars destruction in Laos is a prime example, along with the Laotians who lost limbs or life stepping on unexploded bombs.

The bauble issue comes just after the Joint Standing Committee inquiry into war powers report which was undermined from the beginning by the Labor Government’s decision to pre-empt the inquiry’s findings and announce its continuing commitment to the executive having full power to send Australia to war.

Given the track record of Executive decisions on Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan the Albanese and future governments will need to start planning for more baubles for more veterans and traumatised Australian soldiers and their grieving families.

…and it’s not as if Vietnam veterans have too few medals. After returning to Australia the blog got two. Then it got another two. And now it has yet another one. Having only attended one Anzac Day ceremony since return from Vietnam (as the guest speaker) the blog would be reluctant to go to another just in case the clanking of medals deafened people nearby.

By the way, if anyone is offended by the description of some medals as ‘baubles’ it is interesting to note just how the Australian War Memorial treats military artefacts.

Jommy Tee (Michael West Media 15/4) reports on “how the Governor General’s man, army generals, a former MP and rowing promoter worked to get artefacts from the Australian War Memorial to melt down for trophies at the Henley Regatta 2019 King’s Cup event celebrating the centenary of the military rowing race at the 1919 Peace Regatta.”

The raw material for the trophies came from the original 1941 metal door and brass locks from when the AWM was first opened and a Roll of Honour bronze plate.

The AWM has now claimed that the contribution came “from non-collection items.” But there is some dispute about what was actually melted down.

Documents released through the FOI requests from Tee and Ronni Salt suggest AWM staff were concerned about the items.

Initially the ‘non collection items’ characterisation would have been valid as the AWM originally offered items of no cultural significance such as “female relative badges, silver war badges, aluminium or tin items like mess tins as well as medals or next of kins plaques.”

Interesting that AWM staff found stuff for female relatives and next of kin of no cultural significance but nevertheless.

Moreover, the non-collection items description is in conflict with how Nelson described them when he “made a particular note of the inherent cultural and heritage value of the items” and told a Rowing Australia representative that “both these items are of course significant.”

The organisers of all this was Chris Hartley, the man who convinced the Governor-General and his office “to prod Scott Morrison into granting $18 million to a mysterious foundation Hartley established.” The Albanese Government has since rescinded the grant.

Before the event there were various knees ups; official farewells featuring Ministers, Nelson and Generals; thousands spent on official uniforms (sourced under a limited tender); events and formal dinners.

It is also interesting to contrast the AWM’s enthusiasm for a boat race in the UK with its persistent reluctance to provide comprehensive coverage of the wars that broke out after the arrival of some other boats in the waters now called Sydney Harbour.