By Andrew Goode
With Anzac Day nearly upon us, it is time to remember the sacrifices made by our defence forces and others who have sacrificed or risked their lives, fighting to protect Australia and its allies from defeat in the World Wars and other conflicts including Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Looking at World War II in particular, Australia was under threat of invasion by the Japanese.
Our defence forces and their allies successfully stopped the Japanese and ensured we retained our democratic rights, as well as an independent judicial system.
One of the most important pillars of our country’s freedom is the independence of the judiciary. We enjoy the right to "take on" our governments through the Courts, knowing that the Judge will make an independent decision without fear of removal if the government does not like the decision. In addition, lawyers do not find themselves subject to arrest for representing an unpopular cause or the loss of their right to practice.
If Australia and its allies had been defeated in World War II our democratic rights to vote out an unpopular government would have been lost, as would an independent judiciary and our human rights.
When you read in the media that potential defence cuts will impact on our national security, it sounds relatively benign until you realise that it might potentially lead to the occupation of our country by a foreign power.
All this may sound pretty far fetched in this modern day, but it probably also did in the late 30’s when we had the might of the British Empire behind us.
Recently I read a book by Paul Ham about the Sandakan death march in Borneo. I read it partly because I like reading history, but also my father’s first cousin Bill Bundey, a country lawyer before the war, was one of those who died in the death march. He died on the 29th April, 1945, just before the end of World War II in Europe, on May 7, and near the end of the Pacific War on August 15, 1945. His death, and that of the other POWs so close to the end of the war, must have made it even harder for their families.
There were 2400 Australian and British prisoners of war imprisoned at Sandakan during the period from 1942 to 1945, and the 1100 survivors, including Bill Bundey, were then marched across Borneo in early 1945. Only six men who escaped survived.
Amongst the others to die was Captain Lionel Matthews, an Adelaide man, who was arrested with others and charged in relation to possession of a secret radio in the prison camp and accused of having links to Philippine guerrillas.
Captain Matthews did not have legal representation at his "trial", and no witnesses for the defence were apparently allowed. Captain Matthews who had also been tortured was duly convicted at his "trial" and then executed, along with other alleged conspirators.
A reading of Paul Ham’s book left me with no illusions as to what would have happened to our human rights if Australia had been occupied by the Japanese.
I think books such as Paul Ham’s should be compulsory reading at school so that young Australians understand what is means when they read that the national security of Australia is under threat. They would realise the vital importance of a strong defence force, the benefits of democracy including an independent judiciary, and remember the sacrifices made by the ANZAC’s, and the continuing ones made by our defence forces.
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Details: Andrew Goode email: firstname.lastname@example.org Ph: 8414 3400
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