Has there actually been a Sunrise scandal – or is this really just a classic example of a tabloid “Gotcha!”?

Reading the emails the Tele published as “evidence”, it appears that the whole “false dawn” thing started as the private crusade of Repatriation Commissioner Bill Rolfe.

It seems Rolfe got a real bee in his bonnet about the “dawn service” and started a war against Adam Boland at Sunrise. When he couldn’t force Boland to drop the thing – including after a distressing call to production manager Paula – he emailed Rudd’s secretary.

When you read that email, it is in his capacity as “the recently appointed… Departmental representative at the Dawn Service commemoration at Long Tan in Vietnam”. He talks about the Sunrise production and the Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City getting permits and the “sensitivities involved”.

Only at the end of the email does he mention the 4:00am direct feed to Sunrise:

The service at dawn is a powerful tradition that will be acted out at sites around the world. I am not aware of any other service that would be enacted at a different time to that of tradition to meet a television programming need and I would see some danger in such action of seriously offending veterans and perhaps the wider community.

It’s been confirmed by the RSL that there is no fixed time for the dawn services, nor any concrete relation between the time of the service and the rising of the sun.

There’s been no “RSL outrage” and only token protest from Vietnam veterans. Instead, we’ve seen Rolfe having a private whinge in passing in an official email to Rudd’s secretary about event details.

If he wanted action from Rudd, he went about it the wrong way. He meekly says he sees “some danger” of offending vets and others. He doesn’t complain. All he says is that – as the Departmental rep – he sees “some danger”.

This is a Gotcha email?

Could it be that when they couldn’t get Boland to comply – or Rudd to reply – someone in Veterans’ Affairs leaked the whole thing to the Telegraph?

And now there will be no broadcast from Long Tan. That really helps Vietnam vets.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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