CANBERRA: Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has escaped Returned and Services League of Australia censure after appearing at a media conference here dressed as World War I hero John Simpson Kirkpatrick.
In an at-times emotional defence of Australia’s military since federation, Mr Albanese told a media call outside Parliament House this morning that he had dressed as the Gallipoli stretcher bearer known simply as Simpson because “this man epitomises the gallantry, heroism and decency of almost all men and women who have proudly served Australia abroad in all branches of our military”.
John Simspon Kirkpatrick was a stretcher bearer with the 3rd Australian Field Ambulance brigade during the Gallipoli campaign as the Allies attempted to capture Constantinople, capital of the Ottoman Empire. His rescue of wounded Diggers became the stuff of legend.
Pausing to present a snappy salute – longest way up, shortest way down – to one of the 12 Australian flags behind and to both his flanks – Mr Albanese said no-one had more faith and belief in Australia’s defence force personnel than himself and the Australian Labor Party that “he was proud to currently lead”.
“I will not let that faith and total respect be diluted in any way by the very small number of troops that may have brought us shame in Afghanistan should any alleged war crimes eventually be proven.”
Pausing briefly to sing the opening stanzas of I Still Call Australia Home while kissing and hugging one of the flags, Mr Albanese said he could not believe the findings of the Brereton inquiry into alleged war crimes in the Middle East.
“At every theatre of war in Australia’s history, our servicemen and women have performed their duties to the highest of standards and have always obey the rules of war to the letter.
“In our years in Vietnam, for example, each and every North Vietnamese soldier injured in action was treated humanly, rushed as quickly as possible to an allied military hospital and given the very best of care.
“Many of those soldiers are now in the twilight of happy and fulfilling lives as proud Australians living in Sunnybank in Brisbane and in Cabramatta in Sydney although not all of their children have become successful lawyers, surgeons, dentists or restaurateurs.”
Mr Albanese concluded: “While I concur completely with Prime Minister Morrison’s outrage over that disgusting fake photo, seeking an apology doesn’t go anywhere near far enough.”
Mr Albanese concluded his comments with the suggestion that “maybe the bullying Chinese might do with a little taste of some good old fashioned Aussie steel”, executing a near-perfect bayonet drill with an imaginary .303 rifle – in, twist, out, en garde! – before breaking into the final refrains from I Still Call Australia Home, tears streaming down his patriotic face.
National RSL president Major General Greg Melick said Mr Albanese had clearly not tried to impersonate a past or serving soldier, nor wear any active service medals to which he was not entitled.
“In fact the RSL applauds Mr Albanese for his from-the-heart, patriotic and unqualified support for all but a very few among our membership who have not yet been found guilty of any crime, to be fair.
“He’d be weclome to enter any RSL sub branch around the nation dressed as Simpson but he’ll have to ditch the donkey he used earlier today at his media call, okay.”