Tasmania’s governor has declared Simpson’s donkey needs less emphasis and peace studies more in the centenary year of World War I.
Governor Peter Underwood has delivered another stinging rebuke of Anzac Day’s “sentimental myths”, saying Australia needs to understand the truth of its involvement in war.
He has called for peace studies centres to be funded and for the centenary to be a designated “Year of Peace”.
“We should spend less time studying Simpson’s donkey and more time looking at why we were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for so long,” Mr Underwood told the large crowd gathered for Hobart’s official Anzac ceremony.
Australia should establish an Anzac centre to study the causes of conflict as recommended by the Rudd government’s commission on the centenary, he said.
“If that can’t be done, perhaps in the Year of Peace it might be possible to divert some of the millions of dollars that will be spent on the ‘Anzac Festival’ to provide proper support for (university peace studies),” Mr Underwood said.
The governor is renowned for his strongly worded anti-war Anzac Day addresses, and last year implored Australians to avoid glorifying the centenary.
He says the nation should remember those who have been to war but shy away from “the mythical tall, lean, bronzed and laconic Anzac”.
Attending the ceremony, federal government minister and Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz said Australia could walk both paths.
“Simpson and his donkey is a wonderful story of selfless service, putting yourself in the line of fire and ultimately dying for your mates,” he told reporters.
“It is part and parcel of Australia’s history and it should continue to be taught and talked about every single Anzac Day, indeed every day of the year.”
Senator Abetz said peace efforts were important but nations also needed to be ready to defend themselves.
“Let’s discuss and study every possible way to achieve peace but at the end of the day there are certain people such as Hitler, such as Stalin, with whom one cannot bargain,” he said.
Tasmania’s RSL welcomed the speech, saying no service person wanted conflict.
“If there are conflicts like we are seeing now with Russia and Ukraine, if only we could get the parties to sit down and discuss it,” deputy state president Terry Roe told AAP.
“It’s got to be a better outcome than the legacy of what happens if they do go to war or a conflict.”
More than 6000 attended Hobart’s dawn service while 7000 in Launceston didn’t let near-freezing temperatures deter them, the numbers pleasing the RSL.