With the PM handing out medals to ever digger who ever got out of bed, the big question is whether they will all vote him come election time?

Raw Yank recruits not yet battle-baptised let alone battle-worn would often sport a chestful of awards covering everything from arms proficiency to getting up in the morning.

Consistent with the British tradition the Australian military was positively miserly with medals even though Maggie Thatcher and the military broke the tradition in the Falklands – awarding more decorations per combatant than any engagement since the battle with the Zulus at Rorke’s Drift in the 19th century.

Now the Australian PM seems to be going the same way. The PM would be the first to oppose the concept of prizes for all in education as more erosion of standards at the behest of some left politically correct conspiracy.

But medals for all – the inflation of glory assets – is apparently something else again. The Howard philosophy seems to be a medal for everyone – perhaps in the hope that the recipients will end up voting for him.

The latest initiative – medals for all Australia’s national servicemen – whether or not they only washed bottles at Kapooka or played sport for the regiment. This latter being an important priority for regimental commanders lucky enough to inherit sporting star conscripts. Indeed, over the past few years more and more categories of people are getting special medals struck – not only driven by Howard but also by Hawke and Keating who initiated similar medals for various categories.

Admittedly during the Vietnam years being a nasho was pretty dangerous. In most years of the conflict you more likely to be killed on the roads in Australia than in combat in Nam.

Needless to say this was well received by Government, Opposition and the media in the orgy of “reflection and remembrance” which Anzac Day has become. Strangely, in all this reflection no-one ever seems to mention that more British troops were killed at Gallipoli than Australians and New Zealanders combined. (Editor’s note: as the son of a Pom this is a line I loved dropping in history debates at school but the Aussies loved to overlook it.)

Who knows where it will end?

Bruce Ruxton once claimed he would rather see the Anzac Day march end than have children and relatives marching. This year, seemingly having forgotten the pledge, he busily embraced young children at the Shrine. The RSL now admits anyone – as long as they shove money down the poker machines.

So, perhaps every pokie player could get a special medallion for services to gaming companies and reducing the national debt.

Howard and Nugent

The death of any MP – however slack, corrupt or stupid – always provokes heart-felt tributes from other MPs of all parties.

After all, if you say nice things about Bloggs, the Hansard reporter in the sky might pass on the nice things that get said about you when your time comes.

But the poor old PM, of course, never seems to get it right when it comes to sudden deaths. The tone and content of his initial comments on Princess Di were about as bad as the first efforts by the Royal Family. (Ed’s note: Howard absolutely hated Di.)

Now his first hack at a tribute to Peter Nugent got as far as “valued and capable”. For heavens sake even Kim Beazley and Barry Jones managed to be more effusive. Now Kim is often effusive and Barry is often effulgent but you would think your own party leader could be a bit more emotionally-moved than your opponents at a time like this.

But there’s the rub. Poor old Nugent – decent, liberal, tolerant, compassionate – hardly the qualities which would inspire the PM.

Peter Fray

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