In “Rudd’s false dawn,” Luke McIlveen reports that the “Labor leader admits his office knew of fake Anzac service.” The report appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 13 April 2007 and said that Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd was “last night under pressure to explain how much his office knew about a TV stunt to stage a "fake" dawn service at Long Tan.”
Mr Rudd regularly appears with Minister Joe Hockey on the Channel 7 Sunrise Programme. Last year they went on a televised tour of the Second World War Kokoda Track in New Guinea where they both wore Channel 7 t-shirts, and were filmed almost daily for the programme. This attracted some criticism from veterans.
The report said Mr. Rudd had “furiously” denied reports last weekend that he or anyone in his office was involved in the plan to hold a dawn service in Vietnam at 4am local time to capture peak morning ratings in Australia. But Mr. McIlveen said that emails obtained by the Daily Telegraph show Mr Rudd’s personal assistant was directly warned that the plan would offend Vietnam veterans two weeks before the story broke.
The story says that Bill Rolfe, a Vietnam veteran and the Repatriation Commissioner at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, emailed Mr. Rudd’s secretary on 27 March to express his outrage at the “tacky” Sunrise plan to hold a service an hour before dawn.
"In particular, the issue of a 0400 hours service for the purpose of a direct feed to the Sunrise program is relevant," Mr Rolfe said.
"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 actions of seriously offending veterans and perhaps the wider community."
Mr. McIlveen reports that the plan enraged veterans’ groups, who accused Mr Rudd and Sunrise of dishonouring the memories of the fallen in their quest for cheap ratings.
He says that Mr Rudd “went on the attack” after the Sunday Telegraph broke the story about the fake service last week. He slammed suggestions that he or his office was involved in the Sunrise stunt as "absolutely false and without foundation."
Mr. McIlveen says that it now appears Mr. Rudd’s office was intimately aware of the plan – although there is no evidence that Mr Rudd was behind it. But Piers Akerman, writing in the Sunday Telegraph on 15 April,2007, says that this is giving Mr. Rudd the benefit of an “extremely huge doubt.”
Piers Akerman said that when the story first appeared, Mr. Rudd made direct approaches to senior executives at News Limited, the publisher of the Sunday Telegraph, and “presented a list of demands” that he insisted be met.
These included a demand that an apology be published in The Sunday Telegraph – and in every other newspaper that had run the original story. In addition he wanted an agreement about where such an apology would be placed within each newspaper. Mr Akerman says that Mr. Rudd reserved the right to pursue the matter through the courts.
Piers Akerman says that news of Mr. Rudd’s attempts to “bully” the media organisation rapidly spread through the Canberra press gallery as senior executives asked to see the material which supported the original story.
But to Kevin Rudd’s “inevitable embarrassment,” Mr. Akerman says there emerged “a long paper trail of emails showing extensive communication between Rudd’s personal assistant, Mary Mawhinney, Sunrise production manager Paula Crawford, Rudd media adviser Alister Jordan, Sunrise executive producer Adam Boland and Department of Veterans’ Affairs repatriation commissioner Bill Rolfe.” In the same edition the Sunday Telegraph published the emails which are contrasted to public statements made by those involved: “Email trail that led to Rudd”
It became clear that despite the Opposition leader’s vehement denials, his office was deeply involved in all aspects of planning the Vietnam trip and the broadcast.
This story points to one thing which must affect all politicians. That is that they consider the effect of everything they do on the effect it will have on the vote for them or their party. I am not saying this is necessarily a determining factor, especially in relation to policy. If that were so, we would not have a GST. But when it comes to ceremony, a politician would not be human if he or she did not take the vote into account. It would have been an outrage to change the dawn service to fit into television schedules which include the presence of politicians.
This points to one of the serious disadvantages of an elected head of state, whether the election is direct or by parliament, and whether the head of state is also head of government. No such issue arises in our constitutional monarchy. The Crown is above politics, as are the representatives of the Crown.
Whether this is an investiture at Government House, or a Royal or Vice–Regal visit to some distant community in some part of our Commonwealth, all those present are united in greeting their visitor, and are in no doubt that their future vote is not in any way a consideration in the visit.
This is one reason –and there are many others – why we must remain vigilant about politicians’ plans to remove the oldest institution from our constitutional system. You may well wonder why so many politicians are determined to remove the Crown. After all, it provides leadership beyond politics. Perhaps that is what some of them don’t like.