Dr. Brendan Nelson, Director of the Australian War Memorial delivered his National Press Club Address at the Australian War Memorial, a first for a NPC address. Dr Nelson’s address was titled ‘We’re all Australians now: 1918 and the War that changed us’.
During the question and answer session that followed Michael Keating asked Dr. Nelson a question. Below is a transcript, above is a video with the question. Photos from the event are also below.
Michael Keating: Michael Keating from Keating Media, Dr. Nelson.
Do you think enough is being done by the media in venerating our modern war heroes and do you think that sometimes the media can be overly critical of those heroes who stand up to participate in public life?
Dr. Brendan Nelson, Director of the Australian War Memorial: It’s a very important question.
Look it’s it’s easy to be critical of the media, I hesitate to do so at the National Press Club of course, because I might want to get invited back one day, but look I think as Australians generally we hold high regard and respect for men and women who wear a uniform who have been deployed repeatedly over the last 20 years into peacekeeping, humanitarian disaster relief and war on our behalf.
I think one of the problems is that it’s our comfortable lives breeds easy indifference to sacrifices that being made in our name. Not only by those who are in the uniform but by their families and those who love and support them.
We also tend to forget that the reason we are free enjoying the freedoms that we have is because we have basically given the responsibility to risk being killed and killing where necessary to other people and context is everything. Judgements that are being made about elements of the commandos and the SAS and what they have done in Afghanistan are being made without a lack of context.
We have repeatedly sent these highly trained principally but not only young men to Afghanistan and other places we’ve given them lists of people to kill or capture and now we risk making judgments about what they may have done or may have not done through the confines of a world where we can’t possibly understand what they have been through. I’ve got to say I am I’m very disturbed about some of the media commentary which attacks one of our most highly decorated Australian soldiers Ben Roberts-Smith.
There is a quasi-judicial process which is looking at a whole range of issues we I wish they’d get on with it but let’s just wait till that’s done, but I say to Australians, I’d say this to you, on the fourth of June last year there was a terrorist attack on the London Bridge. Hundreds of people were fleeing in panic fearful of from what was happening. A 28-year-old young Australian woman Kirsty Boden, she’s running in the opposite direction, she’s running into it and she’s killed.
You ask yourself what, what creates an environment where a person just amongst us an everyday person does that. it’s family, school, it’s a social milieu but there are a hundred Victoria Cross recipients, Dan Keighran here, he is one of them.
A hundred Victoria Cross recipients in that Hall of Valour here at the Australian War Memorial, amongst them the good and the not so good every one of those men and they are men did extraordinary things. One in three were killed in the process of doing it.
Very few of us have within us what those men have and had, but we aspire to be a nation populated by people who do so. Where I ask where is the national interest in tearing these people down Where? So you and I will have an enjoyable discussion over beer Michael and when I heard Keating I was a little bit restless but… and I should further add in 2013 I was defending Paul Keating and I said Paul you inspired me to go into politics and now I’m defending you.
I’d say I think the greatest speech given by any Australian Prime Minister on anything is the eulogy of the unknown Australian soldier which Paul delivered to our nation in 1993, so just for balance.
Sabra Lane: Everybody please join me in thanking Dr. Brendan Nelson.