Saturday, June 07, 2003
Excerpts from the MAIDEN SPEECH BY The Hon. DAVID CLARKE M.L.C., Tuesday 27 May 2003, In the Legislative Council of New South Wales, the oldest House of Parliament in Australia
I start from the premise that philosophically I am a conservative. I believe in conservative principles. I believe in preserving and building upon institutions and concepts that have evolved over time through trial and error based on virtues and ethical foundations that link together.
I have never understood the inconsistency of those who call for a republic with the erroneous claim that it will in some way enhance our independence and yet find these same elements leading the charge to hand over Australian sovereign power to the United Nations organisation. I oppose the centralisation of power as an article of faith. Never were truer words spoken than when Lord Acton said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I believe in the independence of the judiciary to interpret and apply the law. But the judiciary is not there to override the Legislature and write new law through judicial adventurism. The job of writing laws belongs to the people of Australia through Parliament; it does not belong to judges. For judges to go down that path is a dangerous attack on the fundamental doctrine of the separation of powers. It is a usurping of parliamentary democracy.
I look back on our history with great pride. I honour those who came to our shores in those early years from the British Isles. They came here as settlers, not as invaders as revisionists would try and have us believe. They overcame great adversity and they laid the foundations, starting here in Sydney, for our State and our nation. They sanctified our nation through their efforts, achievements and sacrifice. It is a monumental besmirching of their memory and a falsification of history to claim otherwise. God can give a vocation not only to individuals but also to nations. Great Britain had a vocation that brought great humanitarian advances to many parts of the world, and certainly to Australia.
As new settlers come from other parts of the world, our nation is being enhanced and perfected. It has been enhanced by those who fled communist dictatorship and tyranny imposed under its boot. It has been enhanced by those seeking religious and economic freedom and a better and safer life for their families. Whether they were Polish, Croatian, Coptic or Chilean, they have blended in with what was here already. They have done that by virtue of their collective understanding and acceptance and collective support of the values upon which our country was founded. They have joined a great continent nation on the edge of Asia, but not part of Asia because we have our own unique identity.
As we survey the world around us, we can surely see that getting our immigration policy right is so vital for the peace, prosperity and cohesion of our society. Our policy must be decided by Australians themselves and by what is in the best interests of Australia. It should not be dictated by interfering dubious committees of the United Nations or self-appointed and unrepresentative fringe groups. I want to say what a great service the Howard Government has done by protecting our borders from those who would break the rules and arrive here illegally and uninvited. On this vital matter the Howard Government speaks for the overwhelming majority of the Australian people.
There is a growing feeling that future settlers need to have an understanding of and respect for core concepts of our nation and to work within those concepts. It is a nation steeped in Western and Christian values and ethics, a respect for the religious views and freedom of others, a respect for women and their equality, and therefore a belief in the institution of monogamous marriage and, above all, a track record of law-abiding conduct. We need to be not a continent of tribal groups striving to be partitioned off and in conflict with each other because of diametrically opposed values, but a society united in accepting our fabric of existing values—values with which no-one could reasonably take offence.
Internationally we are part of the Western alliance. Britain and the United States are our natural allies. The threat to humanity posed by communism would not have been confronted and defeated were it not for a strong and motivated United States led by a strong President, Ronald Reagan, and backed by Great Britain led by a strong Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.
I now want to say something about the family. I believe in the institution of the family—the traditional family unit that has come down to us through the ages. It is the foundation stone for a prosperous and stable nation. It is a God-given institution devised for the proper functioning of mankind. No success by our society in other areas can ever compensate for failure to enhance and exalt the family. By encouraging families we build stability and unity. They are the first line of defence in the fight against drug abuse, suicide, crime and other social ills. Family life makes good economic sense because a reduction in problems arising from broken homes and dysfunctional families correlates with a reduction in resources required to repair those problems. As a member of this Parliament I will always support legislation designed to enhance the family and its central nobility in our society.
I respect the right of individuals to live their lives as they choose, unmolested and without harassment and persecution, provided they do not bring harm to others or to institutions and concepts that protect others. Accordingly, I cannot agree with key elements of an agenda that seeks to institutionalise homosexual concepts and elevate them to the same level as the family. I believe this is a process contrary to the natural law as perceived by virtually all civilisations, cultures and religious faiths down through the ages. If legally enshrined, it would seriously devalue the concept of the family and its ability to act as an anchor for society.
In practical terms, what does this mean for me as a member of this Parliament? It means that I will not support legalisation of same-sex marriages, I will not support the reduction of the age of consent for males to 16, I will not support the legalisation of infant adoption by homosexual couples and I will not agree with the use of taxpayers' money to fund IVF procedures for homosexual couples. I believe in a culture of life, in the sanctity life and that there is no greater right than the right to life itself. I therefore express absolute and unchangeable opposition to the culture of abortion. The use of abortion to terminate the life of an unborn child for reasons of birth control convenience or other dubious reasons is a tragedy made all the more abhorrent because it occurs in a society that considers itself enlightened. In a similar vein, I cannot support the legalisation of euthanasia. To do so would be to open a floodgate for abuse. The Hippocratic oath would become an oath without meaning.
I support the democratic right of parents to choose to send their children to a government school or an independent school. The fact that parents, at great financial sacrifice, are sending their children in ever-increasing proportions to independent schools must surely show that there are deep concerns about some aspects of public education standards, discipline and what children are being taught in some areas.
The full text of this speech is available here.
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Friday, June 06, 2003
FOUR YEAR TERMS FOR AUSTRALIAN PARLIAMENTS?
The nineteenth century reformist zeal in Britain produced the Chartists, who although very diverse in their aims and methods, did manage in 1838 to agree upon a six point petition to put to Parliament listing six core demands:
1. Universal suffrage for all men over 21 years of age
2. Secret ballots for elections
3. Equal electoral districts
4. Removal of the property qualification for MPs so working men could stand for Parliament
5. Payment of MPs, also to enable working class men to stand for Parliament, and
6. Annual elections
In several respects these demands have been transcended in the modern environment in Australia and elsewhere. Women and men are treated equally in terms of the right to vote and the right to enter Parliament, parliamentarians are paid, eighteen-year-olds vote and property qualifications for parliamentarians are a distant memory. In the Australian experience, strict insistence upon equal electoral districts has contributed, at least in part, to the disadvantage and depopulation of rural areas.
The Chartist were united in the noble cause of opposing institutionalised incumbency and the corruption which flows from institutionalised incumbency. Note that the Chartists did not seek compulsory voting; nor did they contemplate public funding of political parties. The only demand of the Chartists which has not found modern favour is annual elections, which would clearly be impractical.
The framers of our Constitution settled upon three years as a suitable maximum period between general elections for the House of Representatives.
THE CONSTITUTION - CHAPTER I SECT 28
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a four-year maximum term, with the House of Commons maximum term being five years. Where caution is required is the unmeritorious idea (as in New South Wales) that four years should be a minimum period as well as a maximum period.
A fixed parliamentary term can be very convenient for politicians, especially those who applaud the Whitlamesqe approach: “If you have the numbers, you should be able to get away with anything until the next election.” Fixed terms, whether for four years or any other period, offer no benefits to the poor voters who pay the taxes and endure the regulations. A Prime Minister or Premier must reserve the right to go to the people on an important issue. Moreover, the people deserve the protection of knowing that if a government performs badly or corruptly, then a general election can be triggered by adverse by-elections or by defections from the government ranks.
A constitutional change providing for four-year terms should not automatically lead to an increase in the terms of Senators from six years to eight. Governments perform better when they are faced with the discipline of half-Senate elections, and bicameral systems function better when the two houses are elected, not only on a different basis, but also at different times. So the present system of three-year half-Senate elections should be retained in preference to four-year half-Senate elections, with the important proviso that a Prime Minister’s right to call a Double Dissolution must be preserved.
However, the best option for electing the Senate is to allow each State (and Territory) to elect half its own senators in conjunction with its own General Election.
Let’s consider possible improvements to the way we elect our politicians, and the best way to approach the question is from the Chartist viewpoint of abolishing institutionalised incumbency. That must include the abolition of public funding of political parties.
Reform should include the elimination of the unwise 1977 constitutional amendment on Senate Casual Vacancies, which compromised the Constitution by mentioning political parties, and which gave political parties the right to flick-pass Senate seats among party hacks without having to face any kind of electoral process. The same system, adopted in New South Wales, makes it theoretically possible for a majority of Upper House members to sit in the Legislative Council by courtesy of their respective party machines.
The Robson Rotation system of ballot paper production eliminates the unfair effects of the “donkey” vote, and is worthy of consideration for elections nationwide. See: http://www.prsa.org.au/viclc/submission/sub/node15.html (Robson Rotation)
Further, Australia has no need for optional voting, a source of puzzlement for the residents of other civilised countries. Compulsory voting has the effect of discouraging party membership, and can only impair the performance of parliamentarians, who need not even bother to impress their own supporters. Public funding of political parties and compulsory voting are the two modern arms of the institutionalised incumbency pincer.
Let’s consider maximum four year terms, as part of a wider reform package.
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Thursday, June 05, 2003
ON GOVERNMENT CULLING OF WILD HORSES
Mail From: Martin Ljubic
Horses have no rights therefore the concept of 'murder' does not apply to a horse or any other animal for that matter. Only a human being has rights. A human can be the owner of an animal and therefore an animal can be 'property'. To kill an animal that belongs to a human is to destroy property.
Certain animals, especially horses and dogs, have a special symbiotic relationship with humans. Horses have played a vital and perhaps essential role in human progress. The bond between humans and horses is very special. Your letter might stimulate comment from my many readers who have been very close to horses.
Mail from Jacques Delporte
Mankind is on a journey where respect, understanding, compassion and forgiveness have a very large role to play.
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Wednesday, June 04, 2003
U.N. investigators and relief agencies say they are finally trying to stop recurrence of sexual abuse against West African refugee children by U.N. "peacekeepers" and aid workers. The scale of allegations, partly revealed Feb. 26, 2002 sent shock waves through the "international aid community" and led to calls from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and governments for an urgent investigation in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Calls were raised for measures to ensure that refugee children were protected worldwide from abuse.
About a half-dozen investigators from the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services in New York, plus investigators from the office of the inspector-general of the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugee, were still examining the allegations, senior U.N. officials told United Press International. The U.N. investigating team also includes a medical doctor, the same sources said. It was unclear how long the investigation will last. "We're all waiting for the results of the inquiry to take action," said an official from one of the agencies under investigation.
Not Much Progress
The U.N.'s investigating arm, however, also came under heavy criticism by senior Western diplomats for the slow pace of its work on the ground in the three countries. The limited number of investigators at the oversight office, less than 20, partly explains for the grinding pace of the inquiry.
Brendan Paddy, a spokesman for Save the Children-UK, told UPI on Sunday that the agency has conducted its own investigation and sacked one staff member in Guinea and stopped two community volunteers from participating in its aid work.
In the meantime, U.N. agencies and many of the NGOs were busy at work putting in place new checks and balances in the field to prevent sexual abuse of refugee children. Some of the measures have included beefing up staff by more than 35 in areas such as UNHCR emergency, protection, community services in the three countries, including 12 solely to respond to sexual exploitation. Rotation of staff to different camps has also been expanded.
Moreover, the U.N. World Food Program has increased the number of female monitors and held meetings with all staff and NGOs to highlight the agency's "zero tolerance" policy over sexual abuse, said WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume.
U.N. Knew of Atrocities
However, the United Nations has not always been that proactive on this issue. A full copy of the joint study sponsored by the UNHCR and SC-UK, obtained by UPI, notes that during debriefing sessions in all three countries:
"UNHCR staff, government representatives and the agency staff, including senior managers, acknowledged that they knew such practices happened. Regrettably, even in situations where such information had been brought to their attention in the past, no action had been taken to monitor or redress the situation." The number of allegations documented "is a critical indicator of the scale of this problem," it said.
U.N. Workers Among 'Worst Sexual Exploiters of Children'
"Agency workers from the international and local NGOs as well as U.N. agencies were ranked as among the worst sex exploiters of children, often using the very humanitarian aid and services intended to benefit the refugee population as a tool of exploitation." The assessment team listed sexual allegations and called for further investigation against workers from 42 agencies and 67 individuals. "The details of these allegations were submitted to UNHCR in confidential lists as the mission was ongoing," the report said.
BBC Exposes the Cover-up
It was only after British Broadcasting Corp. revealed the contents of the assessment mission that UNHCR and Save the Children group revealed some of report's findings and recommendations.
Sickening Double Standard
So let's see: Senior U.N. officials knew of the widespread paedophilia. Not only did they not take action against the perpetrators, they covered up the atrocities. And even after the scandal comes to light, most media give this major news event little or no coverage.
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Tuesday, June 03, 2003
THE STORY OF LANLORY
(forwarded by Eddie Cross)
This letter serves to give insight into the final days of Lanlory farm.... the bittersweet emotions that goes with this are sometimes difficult to express. I am a firm believer in the forces of human nature and that our life events occur, often for reasons unknown even to ourselves. I am fully aware that this does not justify the actions of evil, but we have taken great lessons from the events of the past three years and we wish to give outsiders an insight into a week in our lives, the last week of a 42 year relationship with a piece of land called Lanlory ... There are thousands of lives that have and are still to be affected by this evolution that dominates our every living moment trying to survive in Zimbabwe...... this was our goodbye to Lanlory..... to our heritage... it is not the process that we are against but the injustice and manner in which it is being carried out...............
TUESDAY 19 MARCH 2002:
1. At approximately 6.45pm a group of about 100 ZanuPf squatters lead by Temba Mupanedengu and other squatters ransacked, looted our compound beating up and hospitalising a total of 15 of our labour, including women.
2. The labour were severely beaten with bicycle chains, batons and axes.
3. Due to the deteriation of the situation, my parents and I fled to my brothers neighbouring farm 12km away. Our cook managed to radio and make us aware that the workers were in need of medical attention. Our gardener hadmanaged to get a message that he was bleeding in the bush.
4. There was an average of 7 squatters beating 1 of our farm labour.
5. I was able to pick up 6 policeman with 2 dogs, but by the time we reached the homestead, the squatters were gone.
6. We took the following injured workers to hospital
a. Rushion who suffered chest and head wounds from being hit by an axe
b. Herbert who suffered back wounds from being beaten with a fan belt.
c. James who had leg wounds from being beaten with a bicycle chain.
d. Christoper who had head wounds from being beaten with a bicycle chain.
e. Tawanda who had bruised ribs from being hit with a fan belt.
f. Phinias who had bruises around his back and waist from a baton.
g. Luckson had back and arm injuries from beatings with a bicycle chain.
h. Brandina, a lady who had back wounds from a bicycle chain.
i. Daisy, also a lady who had eye and shoulder wounds from a baton.
j. Innocent had his whole body battered and suffered a head wound from a bicycle chain.
6. There were several people unaccounted for that evening
WEDNEDSDAY 20 MARCH 2002:
1. The police did not following up any of the beatings or make any arrests.
2. All the labour were told to leave by Friday 22nd and a threat of further beatings was given.
3. All the workers, their families and their few possessions were moved into the grading shed within the perimeter of the homestead fence.
THURSDAY 21 MARCH 2002:
1. I was able to organise negations with the squatters, that the labour will go on leave on the 22nd, they agreed to let us have seven workers of their choice and we had to dismiss our cook and workshop manager. They threatened us with further violence if we did not co-operate.
2. At about 8pm, the squatters walked past the barns where our workers were staying and started to verbally threaten them that they were going to enter the fence and started stoning the workers through the fence.
3. I managed to position all the labour around the perimeter of the fence in self defence armed with batons, this chased the squatters away and nothing further developed.
FRIDAY 22 MARCH 2002:
1. Further police reports were made, "through the channels", we asked for police protection to protect our tobacco crop and possessions, but were told that they could not be seen to be taking sides and they could not help.
2. We tried to hire armed security guards to protect us but were told that it wasa political situation and they could not help us.
3. We payed our labour leave pay on Friday afternoon, but we had to escort them off the property to the main road as there were threats that they would be beaten when they leave.
4. Finally at 4.30pm the Chief Inspector........ gave us his personal cellphone number in case the situation flared up again.
SUNDAY 2ND APRIL 2002:
1. Our sheds were broken into and approximately $100 000.00 were stolen from them.
2. Our security guard was chased away as the local war vet Campbell Mmpofu said he would look after the property.
MONDAY 1ST APRIL 2002:
1. I took my security guard as a witness that an empty scotch cart had passed our gate at 11pm and returned at 1pm full of equipment, further evidence was filed with the police.
TUESDAY 2ND APRIL 2002:
1. We made a police report and spent several hours in the police station with two other neighbours that were also looted. Approximately $18 million dollars between the three of us.
2. Our last seven workers were further threatened with death , one ran away under the pressure.
3. They were told that they were supposed to be gone by month end.
4. I tried to talk to several settlers eg: Temba Mupanedengu who refused to talk to me without his committee. They agreed to meet with me on Thursday.
WEDNEDSAY 3RD APRIL
1. I picked up a policeman from Karoi, to come and make an investigation and report on my shed that was broken into.
2. On arriving to check the damage, we saw the settler Cambell Mpofu, leaving the property with two wheelbarrows full of equipment and property.
3. The policeman with me said he was unable to arrest him as this was a political issue not theft.
4. Campbell Mpofu said he had a letter permitting him to remove our property, which was a copy of the government paper stating that property left on the farm was the possessions of the squatters. This was his justification for theft.
THURSDAY 4TH APRIL
1. The squatters had arranged to meet me at 9am. The meeting degenerated as I told them I was not able to meet their demands of $5 000 000.00(compensation they were demanding for their cotton crop from 2 years ago that I had removed after the Courts had said they were planted illegally)
2. By this time a group of about 30 squatters managed to pull down the gates of a ten thousand volt electric fence and a further security fence.
3. They began looting my workers belongings, tractor batteries and further equipment. I managed to get help via the radio from the community and the police were able to dispatch a riot police unit who were there within half an hour.
4. The Police managed to calm the situation temporally and as they were on their way back to Karoi, the squatters managed to cut our security fence on the further side of the property and began looting our back cottage. Beds, tables, mattresses and house contents were looted within minutes.
5. Due to the police and community members being there to react the damage was minimal.
6. At this point we were fearing for our lives, our home, the farming equipment and the tobacco, which was our life investment after 42 years.
7. We were able to organise the tobacco to move to Norton (approx. 400km)away for grading.
8. The community of Karoi stepped in to help move our farm and 20 lorries and labour were organised to move our property the following day.
FRIDAY 5 APRIL
1. The police were able to offer us armed police protection for 6 days, thus we had a short space of time to pack up 42 years and 20 barns of tobacco still hanging in the barn.
2. The miracle of living in a small Zimbabwean farming community are the people. 200 labour and 60 community members arrived to lay to rest an era on Lanlory farm.
3. Two homes took a day and half to pack and move with out our knowing the destination of our belongings, the woman of the community gathered together and completely furnished a house in Karoi town with our furniture - a home to walk into after the trauma of the previous days, proving to be an incredible gesture of humanity.
So that was it.... 130 lorry loads of equipment..... twenty tractor loads of implements...... a 30 ton removal rig and trailer......... seven 30 ton rigs of tobacco. A whole life time - forty two years was gone in seventy two hours........ A week later and the last days on Lanlory farm are still sinking in....... did we do the right thing? Could we have handled it differently? should we have stood our ground as we only had a section five. The hardest emotions to deal with in this story are our parents. This is the only life they have ever known, a life time work, ingenuity and dreams. Lanlory was built when mum and dad bought crown land from the former government in 1960. Not many people would have taken the risk on this land because of the intense amount of lion and tsetse flies. They lived in mud huts for five months and developed their dream through hard work, determination and guts. Around them grew a community who have become their family. Everything that has made them secure and proud of their heritage has been torn away from them without the respect they deserve. In any African community it is the elder that is respected.
How sad it was yesterday to go back to Lanlory it collect a few final memories out of the homestead garden, a incredible garden grown with love over the years. Only this time to be met at the gates by young male placed there by a government official who would not let us into the property as the "land committee were now the custodians".... how? why?... is this their right? Our dad, being spoken to without the respect he deserves because of the colour of his skin. Kudzai Vakuru! Does this youngster have any idea what Dad has had to go through for him to be standing inside the fence of the property he now "protects". It certainly is this injustice that has torn our hearts apart - we all weep. What we find hard as 3rd generation Zimbabweans is that this is OUR home. It should have nothing to do with the colour of our skin, or from where our ancestors came. Throughout history land and continents have evolved through predecessors before us - If this be the situation: America belongs to the North American Indians, Australia belongs to the Aborigines... it is the past that has given us our identity. As Zimbabweans we need to live in the HERE AND NOW.
Our workers return from there months leave today.... how do we explain the events of the last weeks. How do we tell 50 families that we have no job, accommodation or food for them. Where will they go? These families are another source of worry for us. Our workers have risked their lives for us, they have worked beyond the call of duty. They have been beaten, their possessions looted twice and been threatened that if they return to the area of the farm they will be killed as they are now "sell outs". Many of them do not have places to return to and Lanlory was also their home........
We can only now look ahead, we are builders, makers and achievers.... and it will all be again someday. We are fully aware of the material aspects of all this, but somehow it is not this that we grieve. As with the loss of a close family member, it is the relationship that never again will be. We thank God for the memories.............
Drew and Heather.
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Monday, June 02, 2003
Marines find underground nuke complex
U.S. MARINES have located an underground nuclear complex near Baghdad that apparently went unnoticed by U.N. weapons inspectors. Hidden beneath the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission's Al-Tuwaitha facility, 18 miles south of the capital, is a vast array of warehouses and bombproof offices. "I've never seen anything like it, ever," said Marine Capt. John Seegar. "How did the world miss all of this? Why couldn't they see what was happening here?"
Marine nuclear and intelligence experts say that at least 14 buildings at Al-Tuwaitha indicate high levels of radiation and some show lethal amounts of nuclear residue, according to the Pittsburgh daily. The site was examined numerous times by U.N. weapons inspectors, who found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction.
"They went through that site multiple times, but did they go underground? I never heard anything about that," said physicist David Albright, a former International Atomic Energy Agency inspector in Iraq from 1992 to 1997.
In a 1999 report, Albright said, "Iraq developed procedures to limit access to these buildings by IAEA inspectors who had a right to inspect the fuel fabrication facility."
"On days when the inspectors were scheduled to visit, only the fuel fabrication rooms were open to them," he said in the report, written with Khidhir Hamza, an Iraqi nuclear engineer who defected in 1994. "Usually, employees were told to take to their rooms so that the inspectors did not see an unusually large number of people."
Chief Warrant Officer Darrin Flick, the battalion's nuclear, biological and chemical warfare specialist, said radiation levels were particularly high at a place near the complex where local residents say the "missile water" is stored in mammoth caverns. "It's amazing," Flick said. "I went to the off-site storage buildings, and the rad detector went off the charts. Then I opened the steel door, and there were all these drums, many, many drums, of highly radioactive material."
Noting that the ground in the area is muddy and composed of clay, Hamza was surprised to learn of the Marines' discovery, the Tribune-Review said. He wondered if the Iraqis went to the colossal expense of pumping enough water to build the subterranean complex because no reasonable inspector would think anything might be built underground there. "Nobody would expect it," Hamza said. "Nobody would think twice about going back there."
Michael Levi of the Federation of American Scientists said the Iraqis continued rebuilding the Al-Tuwaitha facility after weapons inspections ended in 1998.
"I do not believe the latest round of inspections included anything underground, so anything you find underground would be very suspicious," said Levi. "It sounds absolutely amazing."
The original article from which the above is excerpted now appears to have been taken down but two summaries here and here are relevant. The full article is reprinted here.
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Sunday, June 01, 2003
ITALY – AUSTRALIA’S WWI ALLY
By: Anthony Roberts MLA
AUSTRALIANS of Italian ancestry have made a giant contribution to this nation, and more than 350,000 Australians are described as Italian speaking. My Lane Cove Electorate is fortunate in having at least its fair share of Australians who are proud of their Italian ancestry..
Italy’s national day of Italy – Republic Day – on Monday 2 June, celebrates the 1946 establishment of the Repubblica Italiana, and the local Italian community will present a huge event at the Circular Quay Overseas Passenger Terminal all day on Sunday 1 June, so it is timely for a discussion of Italy and its relations with Australia.
Italy was proclaimed an independent nation on 17 March 1861 when under King Victor Emmanuel the city-states of the Italian peninsula, plus Sicily and Sardinia were united, as the logical result of the unification movement begun in 1834 by Garibaldi, Mazzini and Cavour. The incorporation of the Venice region in 1866 and the Rome region in 1870 completed the unification process, but at the cost of losing Savoy and Nice to France and Trentino and Trieste to Austria-Hungary.
Most Australians are aware that Italy under the Fascist dictator Mussolini was one of the Axis powers during WWII, but too few Australians are aware that the impetus to the rise of Mussolini lay in the human and material cost of Italy’s very large contribution to the First World War, as an ally of Australia and the British Empire.
Italy’s casualties outnumbered Australia’s ten to one, and Italy suffered five times as many casualties as did the United States of America.
Italy having entered the war on May 23, 1915, the Italian war effort was immense, and succeeded in tying down the large Austro-Hungarian army which would otherwise have been available to support its German Allies on the Western Front.
The Isonzo River flows south into the northern tip of the Gulf of Venice, west of Trieste, and the Isonzo Valley was the scene of twelve significant battles between Italian and Austro-Hungarian troops. The last of these, known as the Battle of Caporetto, began on 24 October 1917 when a major attack was launched by nine Austrian divisions, supported (for the first time) by six German divisions, which had been freed from the Eastern Front by the collapse of Russia and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
The battle proved to be a stunning success for the attackers, forcing the Italians to withdraw to a defensive line along the River Piave, less than a day’s march from Venice.
The Italian people responded courageously to this severe blow, rallying behind the new Government under Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando and supporting the new Army Chief of Staff, Armando Diaz.
With growing assistance from the British and French, Italian resolve strengthened while Austro-Hungarian morale declined, so when the Austro-Hungarians launched on 15 June 1918 an offensive across the Piave River with the aim of capturing Verona and Padua, the Italians flung back the attackers and inflicted such severe casualties that the Austro-Hungarian Army was gravely compromised as a fighting force.
Commencing on 23 October 1918, at the battle of Vittorio Veneto 52 Italian Divisions supported by three British and two French divisions and a single U.S. regiment, delivered the final blow to the Austro-Hungarian forces, crushing military resistance and taking 300,000 prisoners.
The resultant truce on 4 November 1918 was probably decisive in persuading the Germans to accept the Armistice a week later, which brought the world’s most terrible war to an end on 11 November 1918.
Italy also contributed significantly to the Allied war effort in terms of aircraft design. Gianni Caproni, a hugely talented civil and electrical engineer, established the Caproni Company and Flight School in 1911, and by mid 1915 he had begun production of the CA 32 three-engined bomber.
The Caproni CA-32 bomber
These aircraft began bombing operations against Austro-Hungarian forces on August 20, 1915. In September 1916, 22 aircraft successfully attacked the arsenal and seaplane base at Trieste.
Caproni’s CA 33 bomber was mass produced, not only in Italy, but also in England, France, and the United States.
Under the post-WWWI treaties, Italy was promised substantial reparations in the form of future coal deliveries from Germany and was awarded the South Tyrol (Trentino), but Italians deeply resented the status as an independent city-state of Trieste, which they believed should have become part of Italy. Italy’s massive casualty list plus the wartime depletion of the national treasury made possible the rise of Mussolini and his 1922 March on Rome, which put Italy on the slippery slope towards disaster in WWII.
When we join with Australians of Italian origin in celebrating Italy’s Republic Day, , let’s remind ourselves that Italy and Australia were very much allies in the greatest conflict of all time. And on Anzac Day, when we think of our grandfathers who died in the Dardanelles or the Somme, chances are that in the crowd with us are Australian citizens whose Italian grandfathers lost their lives in the same cause at Caporetto in 1917.
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