Dennis Shanahan, Political editor | November 01, 2008
KEVIN Rudd, who has walked the Kokoda Track but not visited Anzac Cove, has rejected Paul Keating's claim that the Gallipoli campaign was not part of the creation of the national identity.
"On the question of Gallipoli, can I say, for me, it is absolutely fundamental to the Australian national identity," the Prime Minister said yesterday.
Mr Keating caused an uproar with his comments on Thursday suggesting Australians' faith in the role of Gallipoli in forming national identity was misguided. For years Mr Keating, who famously knelt to kiss a memorial on the Kokoda Track in 1992, has argued the fight against the Japanese in New Guinea, as the Battle for Australia, has more bearing on the national character.
"The truth is that Gallipoli was shocking for us," the former prime minister said. "Dragged into service by the imperial government in an ill-conceived and poorly executed campaign, we were cut to ribbons and dispatched -- and none of it in the defence of Australia.
"Without seeking to simplify the then bonds of empire and the implicit sense of obligation, or to diminish the bravery of our own men, we still go on as though the nation was born again or even was redeemed there -- an utter and complete nonsense.
"For these reasons, I have never been to Gallipoli and I never will."
Mr Keating's remarks came as Governor-General Quentin Bryce prepared to represent Australia at three World War I battlefields in France to mark the 90th anniversary of the Armistice on November 11.
Mr Rudd, who walked the Kokoda Track while in Opposition and who has visited the war cemetery in Port Moresby since he was elected, said Gallipoli "was such a searing national experience at the time and thousands upon thousands upon thousands of brave Australians lost their lives".
"That's part of our national consciousness, it's part of our national psyche, it's part of our national identity, and I, for one, as Prime Minister of the country, am absolutely proud of it," he told Sydney radio 2UE yesterday. "I think Paul is completely wrong on that."
Mr Rudd said servicemen and women who risked their lives for Australia and lost their lives for Australia, no matter where, were a source of pride.
Mr Keating has previously said the Gallipoli campaign was an exercise in nationalism, while Kokoda was more patriotic, with Australians fighting for Australian ideals, not for the empire.