Brisbane Courier Mail newspaper article, Australia,23739,24814541-27197,00.html

Holiday hypocrisy

by Sasha Uzunov
December 17, 2008 11:00pm

UNION protest at dropping the long weekend rankles with Vietnam War veterans stung by past anti-war action.

For some of Queensland’s Vietnam veterans who watched this week as the Queensland Council of Unions jumped on the Anzac legend bandwagon to keep a public holiday next year, painful memories have been dredged up.

Anzac Day falls on a Saturday in 2009 and the Queensland Government will not be giving either the Friday before or Monday after in lieu of April 25 as a public holiday.

As one veteran quipped on a website: “After striking during the Vietnam War and withholding supplies destined for troops, the unions now want to benefit from their shame, I think not.”
Keith Tennent, a Rockhampton veteran and editor of influential website,, added his thoughts on the issue by writing:

“Anzac Day is a day of solemn remembrance, not an excuse for a barbecue and a beer.”

Not all trade unions are the same and cannot be blamed for the past actions of other unions. But you can understand Vietnam veterans’ anger at the hypocrisy of those who opposed our involvement in the Vietnam War, and now all of a sudden are flag-waving super-patriots when it suits them.

Paul Ham, in his excellent book, Vietnam –The Australian War, reveals:

“In November 1969, the Sydney branch of the Waterside Workers Federation refused to load the Jeparit, the military supply ship that shuttled between Sydney and Vung Tau (Vietnam). This time the ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Unions) did nothing to restrain them . . . vital supplies were delayed. The postal unions urged their members to take industrial action.”

A staunch supporter of the massive national anti-Vietnam War moratorium protests in 1970 was the Queensland Trades and Labor Council.

Bob Hawke was the ACTU president at the time of the fierce opposition to the Vietnam War. That didn’t stop him, as prime minister, from basking in the limelight at the welcome-home parade for Vietnam veterans in 1987.

Now, having said all that, I understand that allowing an Anzac Day long weekend for many would be great.

We are constantly bombarded, by social scientists and other experts, with the fact that we Australians work longer hours than ever before and are dedicated to our careers.

We are made to feel guilty about not spending quality time with our family or loved ones because of work. Marriages and relationships are put under strain.

Doctors and psychologists warn us constantly of stress that could damage our physical and mental health because of over-work in trying to keep up with mortgage repayments and paying the bills.

Time off would be great, but is it really so bad if we miss one public holiday on a rare occasion when it falls on a weekend. It’s not the end of the world, but missing an arm or a leg because of a war wound is close.

The Queensland Council of Unions needs to put things into perspective.

If we want to pay our respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in war then let us honour April 25, Anzac Day, on whatever day it falls.

Sasha Uzunov is a journalist who has worked in Iraq and Afghanistan and a former Australian soldier who served two tours of duty in East Timor.