Australian PM snubs NZ at Gallipoli

The Australian Prime Minister John Howard has snubbed the New Zealand remembrance service at Gallipoli tomorrow, preferring instead to have a barbecue on the beach.

Traditionally the Prime Ministers of New Zealand and Australia each go to the services for the other nations’ fallen.

Mr Howard will instead go to a barbecue with Australian soldiers on Anzac Cove, the beach where thousands of Anzac soldiers landed on April 25, 90 years ago and headed to their deaths as part of the costly and fruitless campaign to take the Dardanelles and open a sea lane to southern Russia.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said she was not sure why Mr Howard choose to miss the NZ service but said she would still attend the Australian service at Lone Pine at 10.30am tomorrow and a Turkish service an hour later before attending the New Zealand national service at Chunuk Bair at 12.30pm.

Helen Clark said at Gallipoli today it was Mr Howard’s decision.

"That is entirely a matter for him. I have my programme which sees me going from the Anzac Day service at dawn right through the morning."

However, Helen Clark said she did not see it as a snub and because the New Zealand service was at the end of a series of services, it was not practical for her not to go to all of them.

"Once we get moving in the cavalcade it is just not possible to be in and out of this and that" she said.


Newstalk ZB political editor Barry Soper said senior military people had said to him "is this the end of Anzac because traditionally the Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers have gone to each others commemorative services."

Barry Soper said it would be the first time an Australian Prime Minister has missed the NZ service.

National’s Defence spokesman John Carter is in Gallipoli and said the only way to read Mr Howard’s decision is a snub and he wants to know why.

Mr Carter said Anzac Day is the one time New Zealand and Australian politicians always come together.

Helen Clark also today refused to comment on an Employment Court ruling which saw the chief of the New Zealand defence force, Air Marshal Bruce Ferguson fined $25,000 for intimidating a witness in a personnel grievance case.

"I wouldn’t comment on a case at home and I won’t comment on it here. It is always possible there is further litigation around an issue like this and that wouldn’t be helped by a comment from me," she said.

Air Marshal Ferguson said he had yet to read the ruling and would not comment.

He was leading a mission to Gallipoli to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the landing on April 25, 1915.

He said Gallipoli was the military foundation of New Zealand as a nation.

"This was the British Empire calling to arms and New Zealand without question responding to that as it did in those days. It was very much a colonial mentality and if Britain asked or required, New Zealand did," he said.

He said the campaign was a disaster from start to finish -- "a tragedy of poor leadership at the highest levels and some inspired leadership at the lower levels but nonetheless a huge tragedy for all concerned, both sides."

He said it was an emotional time and Gallipoli was becoming a right of passage for young people, particularly those going there for the first time.

"If they learn something from it, great, and I hope they do. But I suggest many if most going there will not really realise the true significance of what actually occurred there at Gallipoli and what our men actually faced," he said.

- Newstalk ZB and NZPA

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