Sorry, Sorry, Sorry, Oi, Oi, Oi

The Hon. Charlie Lynn – Member of the Legislative Council

Another Australia Day has just passed with the usual bleatings from the chattering class about what it means to be Australian. They want a new flag. They want a republic. They want boat people, aborigines and immigrants to have entitlements to everything – except a pad in their inner city neighbourhoods. Fortunately Post Code apartheid will protect them from such an incursion and besides, there’s plenty of room in Western Sydney anyway.

They were obviously spawned from left-wing unionists who refused to load our ships with urgent supplies as our diggers fought the Japanese along the Kokoda Trail. Or the ‘white feather brigade’ who campaigned against austerity measure whilst our troops were dying on our doorstep in New Guinea? Or their sons who refused to load ships or deliver our mail during the Vietnam War? Or the quislings who attacked and denigrated our Vietnam Veterans after they returned home?

But for those who grew up in the bush, or those who call Western Sydney home, it’s not that complicated. It’s about a secure environment for raising a family. It’s about keeping family and relatives together. It’s about giving your children the best education you can provide for. It’s about access to a modern health system. It’s about sport. It’s about mates. It’s about choice. It’s about opportunity. It’s about freedom.

It’s not about intellectual masturbation over our identity.

A couple of years ago I stopped by a small service at the Cenotaph in Martin Place. The speaker, a former army sergeant in Malaya in World War II summarised the actions of his beloved Eight Australian Division which was captured after the fall of Singapore. He spoke about their gallantry against the advancing Japanese war machine. As people paused, then scurried on in the bustle of the city, he spoke of their fate and their legacy:

“Many died’ he said. ‘They sold their lives dearly at great cost to the enemy. They inflicted so much damage to the Japanese 25th Army that it was unable to continue past Singapore. This Army had planned to occupy Brisbane and Sydney.

“Those who did not die in battle died later as Prisoners of War and many died from the effects of privations after the war was over.

“And we honour them. They gave Australia the time to gather together her fighting men and drive away the depleted Japanese invaders when they finally attacked.

“You widows and other relatives here today, we sympathise with you, and regret their death.

‘We regret that they still lie in cemeteries at Kranji and Kankuri, but, you must feel only pride in your men and women who lie in those places. You know that Australia owes them a debt that none of us can ever repay.

“Their death was a major contribution to us keeping Australia for Australians. We can never repay them. We owe them all we have and our future as well.

“I say to all you people were today. To you who are responsible for governing this country, to all you who hold positions of leadership in the community, to all Australians. It is from the men we honour today that you inherited this land.

“These were the men who helped build this nation. They were the ones associated with building of our harbours and our bridges. They sealed the roads across the black soil planes, and they built the railways across Australia. Then they fought off the Japanese invasion so that you could inherit this country.

“You now have the fruits of our labours. The cities and the harbours and the plains are yours. We few survivors are aged and can only look on with pride and wish you success in the future.

“But we do charge you, to accept the responsibility of your inheritance and nourish and guard them with care.

“And remember always, the men of the Eighth Australian Division and the two ships who stood between the Japanese invasion and Australia. They paid the price of your future. Only they know the real cost.

“And remember – remember – we solemnly promised God that we would never forget!

I felt proud and sad. I asked him if I could have a copy of his speech which he handed to me – handwritten on crumpled paper. His name was Sergeant Stan Bryant. Sadly he has since passed on but his message still resonates with me.

Stan was of a generation that didn’t need symbols to mask their personal insecurities. They didn’t need a medal for every good deed they did. They didn’t do group hugs, sing Kumbaya or say sorry for anything they didn’t do.

They respected our Westminster system of government, our national symbols and the monarchy.

Corporal Les Cook fought in the Kokoda campaign in 1942 and trekked it with me 50 years later. He recently observed that ‘the character of a people is developed and tempered in the fire of adversity. History shows only too clearly that this strength of character can diminish or indeed change altogether in times of peace and plenty such as we now enjoy, when it may no longer seem necessary to aspire to the high ideals on which it was built.’

One can only feel sorry for those who still can’t work it all out. Perhaps they should leave Australia Day to those who respect the anniversary and develop their own national ‘Kumbaya Day’ with their own flag, perhaps one with a wine glass on a yellow background, and their own chant ‘Sorry, Sorry, Sorry, Oi Oi Oi’.

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