“They had no choice” speech, Remembrance Day, 11 November, 2013

Thus PJ Keating (Prime Minister of Australia 1991-6) on the Australian soldiers of the Great War.

Emotional but wrong — If it feels good, say it, rules a lot of the speechifying on this subject.

Number of Australian conscripted in the War: zero.

There was never conscription in Australia during that war.

There were attempts to introduce conscription, notably two national referendums, both soundly defeated. These were crucial events in Australian history, covered in all the school books. They are even more crucial in the particular histories of the labour movement, the Labor Party, and the Catholic Church in Australia, all three of which strands Mr Keating and his party consider themselves deeply knowledgeable because of a special relevance for themselves.

You can rise very high in a party, and in a country, and know next to nothing about either.




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