Riverina ANZAC snub raised in Parliament

The ANZAC Day snub of Temora, Tumbarumba and West Wyalong as far as defence force presence is concerned was today raised in Federal Parliament by Nationals’ Member for Riverina Michael McCormack.

Mr McCormack read a letter from Tumbarumba Shire Council general manager Kay Whitehead who said her community was upset that due to budget cutbacks no military personnel was able to attend the town’s 25 April commemoration.
“Many people in the community expressed disappointment and disgust about the perceived ‘misguided penny-pinching’ to councillors and it was discussed at the council meeting held on 26 April,” Mrs Whitehead wrote.
Mr McCormack has written to both to Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Defence Minister Stephen Smith to ensure regional communities receive an adequate and appropriate ADF presence at ANZAC Day services in 2013 and beyond.
In a speech in Parliament this morning, Mr McCormack said the Tumbarumba community had every reason to feel angry and cheated.
“Tumbarumba and district gave mightily to Australia’s war efforts and lost many good men,” Mr McCormack said.
“Only last November I took part in a moving ceremony at the town’s Memorial Park and was privileged to unveil a splendid monument honouring three brave locals, Prisoners of War who died as a result of the Sandakan death marches in 1945.
“They, like many others from this region gave their lives for our freedom, deserved better than the shabby treatment this Government dished out to Riverina towns this ANZAC Day.
“Temora and West Wyalong also missed out on Australian Defence Force representation this ANZAC Day.
“The West Wyalong RSL sub-branch, when it queried as to why the usual catafalque party could not and would not be provided, was told cutbacks to personnel attending district services had been made because of budget constraints.
 “A new rule stating that only towns within a 100-kilometre radius of the nearest military base would now be eligible for ADF support.
“Tumbarumba and West Wyalong are more than 100km from Wagga Wagga where the Air Force, Army and Navy all have bases.
“Military members have always been keen to make themselves available to support local communities on ANZAC Day.
For recruits, this is an essential and important part of their training.
“Now, because the Government is trying to cut costs, especially in regional areas, to bring about an illusionary budget surplus, these towns have had to unfairly miss out.
In the case of West Wyalong this is an insult to a town which lost 22 of its best and bravest in World War I during which the ANZAC legend dawned and to a town which counts among its favourite sons 1945 Victoria Cross recipient Reg Rattey.
“It is particularly disappointing because for the past two years I have run an electorate-wide writing competition for schoolchildren and for the past two years the towns with the most entries and winning entries have been Temora, Tumbarumba and West Wyalong.
“ANZAC Day is our most important national day and it is very important to the people of West Wyalong, especially the schoolchildren.
“Let’s not forget either this was the same Labor Government which recently spent $370,000 of taxpayers’ money on a politically correct focus group which wanted Gallipoli centenary commemorations in 2015 toned down for fear of creating divisiveness because of multiculturalism.
“This is the same Labor Government which unjustly stripped $5.5 billion from defence spending in Tuesday’s Budget.”

Cristy Houghton