Lest we forget indeed — and may we never forget that from a developing nation of less than five million people some 417,000 men and women volunteered to protect our freedom by going to the First World War. Of those, the fittest and best that we had, more than 60,000 were killed in action, many lying yet in unmarked graves.
Another 156,000 were wounded in action and returned home, many as broken men, but proud of what they had done in the service of Australia.
Lest we forget what their sacrifice was for. Among the things for which they fought and died, freedom not only to speak the truth but to expect and demand truth from political leaders who sent them to a foreign war. It seems to this old Bushy that now, more than ever, we need to reaffirm those ideals — ideals enshrined in monuments like the one in my home town of Barellan that bears the names engraved in stone of those locals who gave their very lives’ breath.
The events of recent times demand that we must now speak out in defence of those lofty ideals for which those who were honoured yesterday morning with poppies and bugle fought and died. They defended those ideals in the mud of Flanders and amid the sands of the Middle East but now we see them sullied by professional practitioners of political expediency. To grasp my melancholy words on this morning after Remembrance Day, indulge me to quote this extract from our Constitution. It defines who may stand for parliament and has been very much in the news of late. It reads:
44. Any person who -
(i.) Is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power: or
(ii.) Is attainted of treason, or has been convicted and is under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for any offence punishable under the law of the Commonwealth or of a State by imprisonment for one year or longer: or
(iii.) Is an undischarged bankrupt or insolvent: or
(iv.) Holds any office of profit under the Crown, or any pension payable during the pleasure of the Crown out of any of the revenues of the Commonwealth: or
(v.) Has any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth otherwise than as a member and in common with the other members of an incorporated company consisting of more than twenty-five persons:
To this old bloke from Barellan, it seems that anyone who cannot understand these simple rules or misinterprets their meaning should not be in parliament on the grounds of mental incapacity alone. Recent and ongoing revelations prove that all major parties have members who were elected after signing false declarations. The rules for nominating could not be more clear. Determining eligibility is, or should be, each candidate’s first and most essential step. The citizenship fiasco now unfolding can at best be seen as negligence; at worst, deception. Is it any wonder so many of us no longer have faith in our government?
The leaders of both the Liberal and Labor parties were initially quick to assure us there was no one — not a soul! — in either of their parties who was at odds with the Constitution. Then, when it turned out their parties are riddled with confirmed and suspect cases, they proclaimed ignorance as their excuse. Incompetence, I suppose, is better than bare-faced dishonesty, although in this instance it is very difficult to tell where the former ends and latter begins.
Is this venal pursuit of power what those names on so many Main Street memorials gave their lives to defend? Their sacrifice deserves better, as do we all.