Monday 19 November, 2007 – 04:12 by Swannie rambling about what if the ADF would do iof it found you had to fight in your own country, too.
It all depends on perspective. Some people think my life has been exciting. I think it has been boring. Admittedly, I have died a few times, spent years playing with high explosives, made and lost several fortunes, and even made many trips overseas. I would have called it a little exciting if I had succumbed to the urge of either bungee or parachute jumping, but I managed to take a rest until those urges disappeared.
Occasionally, an event reported in the news will make you think about events in your history. For example, Paul Keating became involved in the 2007 Federal Election campaigns. This erudite collector of French antique clocks said something, but what I remembered most was his description: the former PM who had once characterised Australia as a "banana republic".
Keating made this comment while trying to explain away some economic disasters. I thought that it was uncharacteristic of him to so denigrate his leadership, in spite of his penchant for vitriol. I thought he was referring to the problems of governing the country as a whole, and "banana republic" (especially since we were a monarchy) connotes a matter far removed from economic management.
Late in 1974, the Whitlan Labor government was busily deconstructing the Australian Defence Force, as all Trotskiest governments were expected to. The ADF didn’t like this at all. There was a sudden about face by Whitlam, but by that time Fraser had decided to block the money bills in the senate and force an election (which Labor would lose). Of all the options open to Whitlam, he did nothing at all. This surprised the media commentators no end. Finally, Fraser became "Kerr’s cur" and Whitlam spat the dummy.
What A Night!
Many years later, and the anniversary of that 1975 occasion took place. I was privy to a conversation by Defence officers about events prior to that date, and I wasn’t at all surprised. The officers spoke of a "Night of the Colonels" (sounded like a good movie title, too).
Because of the structure of the ADF, most influence falls on the shoulders of military division commanders such as colonels and captains and group commanders. These people occupy a position where they still enjoy the direct support of their enlisted personnel, but need to pay attention to their political masters if they wish further promotion. They are also fairly immune to charges of mutiny, and other charges would have to be heard in public court.
After the latest stage of the emasculation of the ADF, a number of colonels supposedly discussed in private the idea of a coup d’etat. In a monarchy, where the government did not enjoy the support of the people, such a possibility was neither outlandish nor illegal. In Australia, since ADF personnel swore allegiance to the monarch, not to the government, all it would take is a word (or rather, the absence of a word: "no").
Apparently, rumours of the ADF discontent reached Whitlam, hence the hurried back down on further Defence cuts, and Whitlam’s unwillingness to try to have the Queen tell Fraser to pass Supply. Of course, Fraser continued the emasculation of the ADF capabilities, but in such ways as would not be noticed. The structure of the ADF was altered just enough to hinder plans of a future coup (this backfired on Fraser when the called out the troops in the wake of the Hilton bombing at APEC: all those weapons, and not a single bullet available)!
When Labor returned to power under Hawke, then Keating, the emasculation of the ADF continued, but at a slower rate. Labor, well versed in the use of violence in politics, was afraid its government might become a victim. Thus we have Keating making a public comment, so well-misconstrued, about how he had to chafe under the demands of Australians (no one really knew he was commenting on the military).
Die by Bullet or Bug?
I wonder how the ADF would react if it was well known that the government was hiding the existence of MRSA and its effects, especially since members of the ADF would be proportionately more exposed to its hazards (about 50 soldiers have been wounded by enemy action overseas in the past three years, with injuries requiring repatriation to Australia. I can’t think of any civilians who have been so put at risk)?
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