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Jun 2, 2014

The Prime Minister goes on manoeuvres for D-Day

Shenanigans in the Prime Minister's Office over D-Day illustrate an intriguingly reductive mindset.


At 5.14 yesterday afternoon, subscribers to the Prime Minister’s media distribution list received a media release marked “A message from the Prime Minister — 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings”. The email included a video of the PM delivering the statement, explaining that he’d be joining in the commemoration of the D-Day landings with seven Australian participants.

All well and good, except the reference to D-Day was almost perfunctory — barely 60 words — before the PM changed gear, with all the subtlety of a semi-trailer struggling up a steep gradient:

“Following the D-day commemorations, I will be travelling to Canada and the United States — and will be joined by Australian business leaders. My message to overseas investors is that Australia is open for business.”

There followed another 160 words lauding the government’s economic achievements, with Abbott concluding on what he and his media advisers must have believed would be a proud note that would resound through the ages:

“The United States, Canada and France are long-standing friends. We stood together at D-Day, we trade every day, and we have always shared a commitment to democracy, to enterprise and to people’s right to be free.”

Apart from the confusing omission of the Brits from D-Day –- especially given we weren’t there – and the fact that the “D-Day, we trade every day” line sounds like an effort by a 12-year-old rapper — the overall effect was clumsy at best and possibly offensive in its effort to link the liberation of Europe with the Coalition’s policies and the suggestion the troops stormed the beaches at Normandy for the sake of free enterprise. Presumably Abbott won’t be showing up at any Russian WW II commemorative events, where his suggestion that 10 million Russian troops might have died for “enterprise” would probably go down like a deflating barrage balloon.

Within an hour social media had, inevitably, gone, erm, ballistic, and the Prime Minister’s Office, perhaps feeling like a German machine gunner in a beachside bunker, dumped the media release from the site and replaced it with another release that dwelled at length on the D-Day commemoration and only mentioned the trade delegation in passing. It also misspelled Pearl Harbor, but what’s a superfluous “u” when you’re under heavy bombardment?

This morning, the original release reappeared suddenly, but minus its misleading title and still dated yesterday. Now it was just “A message from the Prime Minister”. Alas, not merely had the initial media release been sent to thousands of inboxes, but the PMO had gone to the trouble of recording the accompanying video, which remains available online, which is presumably why the silliness of pretending it hadn’t been issued was abandoned.

Apart from clumsiness and stupidity of such word games, the otherwise-trifling incident reflects a fascinating mindset of determinism almost Marxian in its rigour. That Allied troops stormed ashore spurred by a commitment to “enterprise” isn’t self-evidently silly if you seriously believe economic liberalism is hard-wired into humans and only stifled by government. The complexities of the war — the vast government structures established in democracies during the war that have remained in place ever since, the role of the Soviet Union in doing the heavy lifting in the European theatre, the obsession of the British and French with preserving their empires, the decidedly illiberal economic policies pursued by Britain and France after the war — all vanish into a reductive world view of freedom-good/other stuff-bad.

Once upon a time, the Diggers died for the flag, or king and country, or to fight tyranny, but in the deregulated marketplace of ideas even that conservative complexity has been stripped away in favour of the austere glory of free-market economics.


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31 thoughts on “The Prime Minister goes on manoeuvres for D-Day

  1. Jimmy

    And so starts another wonderful week of govt with the grown ups in charge! Thank God they told us there would be no surprises and no excuses!

    I suppose the A l an Jo nes’ and Andrew B lots will be out calling this yet another storm in a tea cup (if Bl ot can drag himself away from his feud with Turnbull) which is hillarious given it doesn’t take much imagination to conjure up the foaming mouht outrage this “attack on our diggers” would have caused if it had come from the mouth of Ms Gill ard (not to mention the $15k in camera equipment spent so TOny can make his weekly announcements).

  2. wayne robinson

    Well, according to Nicholas Wade’s recent book ‘A Troublesome Inheritance’, free enterprise is genetically determined, under strong selection pressure and has rapidly evolved in West Europeans since the 14th century.

    Apparently the Russians and Chinese don’t have it…

    D-Day wasn’t exactly a runaway success. It took the Allies about a month to break out of Normandy. Perhaps the breakout might possibly have been due to in some small way to the start of Operation Bagration by the Soviets on June 22, 1945, which destroyed Army Group Middle (around 500,000 killed, wounded and captured).

  3. Luke Hellboy

    That’s right Tony, the Gallipoli campaign was about opening markets in the Ottoman empire. On a genuine note, isn’t that one of the real reasons that we went to Iraq and Afghanistan?

  4. Yclept

    C’mon Tony, stop threatening a double dissolution, just do it!

  5. klewso

    Of course there’ll be cameras and the rest of the media there to capture the moment for posterity and PR?

  6. Raaraa

    Here’s a screenshot of the original press release, found on the imgur:


  7. wayne robinson


    Operation Bagration started on June 22, 1944! Though the Soviet high command had plans in 1944 to continue the invasion of Western Europe with their 450 battle hardened army divisions, but perhaps Stalin was dissuaded by spies in the Manhattan project who kept him informed of the success of the development of the Bomb.

  8. paddy

    It seems that barely a day goes by, let alone a week, without Tony Abbott pulling off another “media coup”.

    I suspect it really *is* beginning to dawn on the forces that elected him, that the man’s just not up to the job.

  9. Jimmy

    Paddy – “I suspect it really *is* beginning to dawn on the forces that elected him, that the man’s just not up to the job.” I suspect that is 1 of the reasons for Mr Blot’s attack on Turnbull today – trying to rally the forces behind his man.

  10. The Pedanticist

    June 22 being the anniversary of Barbarossa… Without the Soviets destroying 70% of the German armed forces D-Day could never have happened.

    That aside, it’s hugely offensive that the PM disgracefully turns what should be a solemn commemorative occasion into a party political broadcast.

  11. zut alors

    The Abbott govt deserves ten out of ten for consistent bad judgement.

    And finally Blot has run out of LNP good news stories & is nervous for fresh copy – he’s on the turn. Honeymoons never last.

  12. DiddyWrote

    The more Abbott blows his own trumpet, the more he reveals he has tin ear.

    How bad are things inside the PM office, that no one thought this would come across as nothing more than crass, tasteless and irreverent to those that fought and in many cases lost their lives during WW2.

    Abbott and his media team are certainly digging but not to victory I think.

  13. klewso

    Of course Blot doesn’t have Turnbull’s ear like he has Toady’s either – he wouldn’t be nearly as influential if that spill came to pass.
    His fortunes fall with Abbott’s.

  14. BSA Bob

    Howard, who got so much out of the slouch hat mythology, would’ve been way way too smart to’ve done this. And in a rare moment of goodwill toward him I’m inclined to think he wouldn’t have been tempted to try. Only Abbott,… & perhaps a couple of his droogs?

  15. klewso

    Of course the big question has to be “Does “Tarzan” Credlin know how Cheeta got out?”

  16. Jimmy

    Klewso- The interesting hting I find is that Blot essentially rose from fringe dwelling HOward cheerleader to the “most read columnist” under the ALP, where a lot of his riht wing propaganda and his ill informed and factually incorrect arguments were lapped up by the unthinking swinging voter who didn’t bel ieve in climate change and just wanted to pay lower taxes, get better services and have a surplus, all of which could be done by simply ending govt waste and stopping the carbon tax.

    Now that this new govt has broken numerous promises and the reality of Abbo tt’s magic pudding policies have been demonstrated Mr Blot has a lot at risk, these policies and failings are as much his as the govts, the li es are as much his as the govts and you would have to think all but his most ardent fans would now be quesitoning his credibility.

  17. Scott Grant

    ” . . . the decidedly illiberal economic policies pursued by Britain and France after the war ”. Oz, too.

    Remember Ben Chifley? (who took over from John Curtin). He tried to introduce a national health scheme, got knocked back (I forget why) and gave us the PBS us a compromise. He tried to nationalise the banks, got knocked back (I think it was a High Court decision, but I am not sure), and introduced tighter regulation instead (Commonwealth Bank Act and Banking Act of 1945). Unemployment benefits and Sickness benefits were introduced in introduced in 1945. There was actually a referendum in 1946 to allow the federal government to legislate for “social services”. That is just a few things off the top of my head, with minimal research.

    There is one theory around ( I cannot quote any sources ) that governments of western industrialised nations, generally, became more “socialist” ( or “illiberal” to use Bernard’s term) in the post war years out of a concern for maintaining social stability in a society which now contained a large number of trained killers (ie ex-servicemen) whose recent experiences made them less amenable to more traditional means of social control.

  18. Andrew McIntosh

    Uh..er..uh..stop the boats.

  19. Observation

    A right wing train crash happening before our eyes with the ignorant and arrogant driver at the wheel. I just hope the ineptitude of this fool doesn’t create a lazy alternative come election time.

  20. AR

    I’m pretty sure that Germany is a far more important trading partner than France but…ah fuggit, pass the popcorn.

  21. katas

    Tacky Tony. He really is an ignoramus.

  22. Andrew Twiss

    The fact that the US, France, Canada were mentioned but not Great Britain and also the statement “we stood together” rather makes me think that this part of the message at least has just been cut and pasted without thinking from a source originating from Britain.

  23. Liamj

    “..pasted without thinking from a source originating from Britain”
    That would be ten-pound-pom Tony. Got to admire the audacity of the guy, to ride on the diggers backs whilst thieving from the pensioners. Whoever wrote that press releases is hilariously incompetent.

  24. Jaybuoy

    Surely these old men have suffered enough…

  25. beachcomber

    Abbott failed to include reference to the fascinating chat he will have with Obama about legislation to reduce carbon emissions. He’ll be able to tell him Australia is CLOSED for the business of carbon credits trading, innovation, renewable energy, and other industries of the new century, as well as manufacturing, agriculture and industries of the last century. Closing down education remains a work in progress, but closing down the economy is proceeding well.

  26. klewso

    Did this “Abbott cock-up” really happen?
    If it did, our “Left-biased ABC” TV news seems to have missed it – or else they’re so shit-scared of upsetting Murdoch’s Limited News bully-boy media behemoth, that they didn’t think it had “public interest” appeal?

  27. klewso

    Blot = “Murdoch’s Talking Head Job”?

  28. MJPC

    Beachcomber@25, I am with you. Obama is telling West Point Graduating officers of the changed role they will have in relief operations as a result of climate change and then he meets ‘Carbon’ Tony peddling Australia open for business digging up as much coal as can be burned to destroy the planets biosphere, that will be some conversation!

  29. Dez Paul

    Fair dinkum, men and women didn’t fight and die so a pillock like Abbott could become PM and sh*t on their descendants.

    @paddy “It seems that barely a day goes by, let alone a week, without Tony Abbott pulling off…” ’nuff said.

  30. The Pav

    My father, god rest his soul, who fought from day one ( over 70 operations in Europe, Mid East and Far East) and voted coalition except once for Whitlam would be spinning in his grave.

    He would be scathing of this “announcement” and about the kindest thing he would have called would be “line shooting”

    He would also assure me that he never went to war to protect and serve the Coalition but democracy.

    He would also state in the strongest tyerms that he would have expected a much higher standard from the PM and how disappointed and hurt that his and his comrades sacrifices were cheapened by this crass politicisation of the war.

    Then to drown his sorrows he would seek out my best scotch and do damage to the bottle.

    For the fist time since he passed away I am glad he is no longer with me.

  31. green-orange

    Canada did not stand together with Australia at all – they left us to the Japanese…

    BTW, why is there such a big deal about D-Day ? 70 years is not a significant number.
    Reminds me of the declining years of the USSR, when the military parades got bigger and more frequent…

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