Libs reignite culture wars over Anzac Day teaching
DateApril 23, 2013 47 reading now
Mark Kenny, Josephine Tovey
Zoom in on this story. Explore all there is to know.
submit to reddit
Reprints & permissions
History wars: Christopher Pyne reopens debate. Photo: Andrew Meares
Retired top soldier Peter Cosgrove has emerged as the man most likely to replace Australia’s first female governor-general under a future Coalition government intent on putting the Anzac tradition above indigenous history.
General Cosgrove’s name has emerged from a phantom political row over Australia’s next head of state after Opposition Leader Tony Abbott first demanded the government not appoint a successor to Quentin Bryce, before then ruling out a recall to public service of former prime minister John Howard.
The vice-regal stoush came as opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne appeared to re-open the so-called ”history wars” which raged during the Howard years, by attacking the school curriculum for putting Aboriginal and multicultural commemoration days on the same level as Anzac Day.
The national curriculum would be reviewed under a Coalition government, he said. ”The Coalition believes that, on balance, Australia’s history is a cause for celebration,” he said.
”It is because of our history that we are a confident and positive nation. We must not allow a confidence-sapping ‘black armband’ view of our history to take hold.
”That history, while inclusive of indigenous history, must highlight the pivotal role of the political and legal institutions from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.”
In the new curriculum Anzac Day is studied in year 3 as one of a number of days of national significance. The Gallipoli campaign is studied in year 9.
Mr Pyne criticised the fact that Anzac Day is ”locked in with NAIDOC Week, Reconciliation Day and Harmony Day” in the national curriculum.
Mr Pyne’s sentiment was similar to that expressed by former prime minister John Howard, who last year accused the government of purging British history from the curriculum.
Anne Martin, co-chairwoman of the national NAIDOC committee, said she was disappointed by Mr Pyne’s comments regarding the ”black armband” view of history. ”I thought we had moved beyond all that,” she said. She said she hoped there would be widespread, open consultation before any changes to the curriculum.
A government insider described Mr Pyne’s comments as nonsense. ”You can’t grow up in this country and not know about the Anzacs. To suggest it is not being taught properly is just nonsense,” the source said.
But Australia’s military tradition looks set for another boost in any event if the Coalition is elected. Mr Abbott dismissed the suggestion of appointing his former boss to be governor-general with Coalition insiders admitting General Cosgrove probably was favourite.
”I have enormous respect for John Howard,” Mr Abbott said in Perth on Tuesday. ”But he served almost 12 years in a very difficult and demanding job and I think he’s really enjoying his retirement.”
Mr Abbott, who is favoured to become the next prime minister, refused to be drawn on the existence of a Coalition shortlist of candidates for the five-year post.
”I’m on the record as saying that I think former military personnel and former judges, by and large, make the best vice-regal appointments,” he said.
The exchange over a replacement for Ms Bryce, whose term has already been extended by six months to avoid a clash with the election in September, deepened on Monday after a stern letter from Mr Abbott to Prime Minister Julia Gillard in which he argued strongly against any appointment being made before the poll.
As reported on Monday, Mr Abbott criticised recent high-level appointments to public service positions. ”There is no way that a decent, honest government, would be making appointments now, to take effect in a year’s time,” he said.
”There’s no way that a government facing an election should be attempting to manipulate our country from beyond the political grave.”
A Liberal source said that despite its lead in opinion polls, the opposition did not want to be seen to be ”getting ahead of itself” by discussing personnel decisions, while acknowledging that the name of General Cosgrove, 65, who was chief of defence forces from 2002 to 2005, headed the list.
But a government spokesman said there were no plans to name a replacement for Ms Bryce.
”In relation to the office of the governor-general, the Prime Minister recommended to the Queen that the current Governor-General’s term be extended beyond the election period to avoid questions of her re-appointment becoming subject to partisan debate.”
A poll released on Tuesday shows that Labor’s vote has stabilised but the government remains a long way behind the opposition.
The government’s primary vote sits at 32 per cent, while the opposition dropped two points to 46 per cent, according to a Newspoll conducted at the weekend and published in The Australian.
Support for the Greens fell one point to 10 per cent.
The Coalition still commands a massive two-party preferred lead of 55 to 45 per cent, the same level as a fortnight ago, and would win the September 14 election in a landslide if the numbers are repeated.
Julia Gillard slipped two points to 35 per cent in the preferred prime minister stakes, five points behind Tony Abbott, who was steady at 40 per cent.
Follow the National Times on Twitter
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/libs-reignite-culture-wars-over-anzac-day-teaching-20130422-2iaro.html#ixzz2RGsXa1qJ