Australians have courage. Especially under fire

The small Gallipoli peninsula lies quietly on the western edge of Turkey, facing the blue Mediterranean sea. A hundred years ago it staged one of the most bloody and cruel massacres of the first world war. At Churchill’s orders, the largest amphibious landing in history took place, with orders to stand and fight, no matter what the consequences. The fact that the Turks were brave soldiers, fighting for their country was ignored. The allied troops were poorly equipped. One of the landing beaches, Anzac cove, was lined by steep cliffs. The Turks held all the high ground and had dug trenches.

What followed was nine months of gruelling warfare and bad British leadership. The result was 60,000 Turks, 40,000 British soldiers and officers and 8,000 Australians left dead, their bodies strewn across sandy beaches, scrubby hills and in the trenches of this small strip of land. ‘It smells like a cemetery’ complained one Australian soldier.

If a legend is like a new born child struggling to take it’s first breath of air, then the reporter must be its midwife, bringing forth new life amid blood, pain and shit. When the young reporter Keith Murdoch arrived in Gallipoli in September 1915, he was shocked by the incompetence of the British officers and the senseless loss of young Australian’s life. Murdoch agreed to take a secret letter written by a war correspondent who based in Gallipoli and smuggle it into Britain. When the British commander General Hamilton heard about the plan, he had Murdoch detained in France and the letter  destroyed. Foolishly, he allowed Murdoch to continue on to London. The young journalist then wrote his account of the war disaster and showed it to the owner of the Times newspaper, Lord Northcliffe. Northcliffe then passed the letter on to the British prime minister Herbert Henry Asquith.

The 8,000-word letter was published as a British state paper. “The enemy in our midst is not the honourable Turk..” Murdoch wrote, “but our incompetent leadership.” General Hamilton was fired. The Gallipoli peninsula was evacuated, saving thousands more people from senseless slaughter. Winston Churchill was sacked from his position as first Lord of the Admiralty.
The impact of Gallipoli echoed across the new and the old world.  Mustafa Kemal Ataturk a young Turkish officer, went on to become the founder of modern Turkey’s Republic.

Australia found it’s nationhood, in courage under fire. The colonial outpost became on to become an independent nation.
100 years later another independent thinking Australian, Julian Assange created a not for profit whistleblowing website called Wikileaks. Wikileaks has since published exposes of international banking fraud, corrupt politicians, diplomatic deals, the cover-up of war crimes, widespread government surveillance and international property rights deals. Assange requested political asylum from Ecuador in June 2012. He has remained in the embassy since then, fearing extradition to Sweden and then the United States.

Much like the military, the health industry has its rules, culture and hierarchy. Problems in aged care are published by personal blogs but brushed over by health departments and the international investment funds that trade in profitable aged care homes. Doctors who reveal dangerous work practices, face ruined careers and being ostracised by their peers. Nurses who go to the media after hospital administrators repeatedly ignore bad practices, are usually sacked and unable to obtain new employment. Like the military, hospitals punish those who speak out about incompetence, corruption and unnecessary death.


New Zealand troops Gallipoli Joseph_Mcbride Wikipedia

New Zealand troops Gallipoli Joseph_Mcbride Wikipedia

The untold story of Toni Hoffman

Dr Mohamed Khadra, the Sydney urologist and author, has written several books about the Australian health system from the point of view of both a doctor and a patient. In his book ‘Terminal Decline’, that ‘Revolution, not evolution is indeed what is needed to prevent our health system from going into a terminal decline’. His books discuss how some patients have expensive treatments they do not need, while others miss out on treatments that they do need and suffer. His book ‘The Patient’  includes a blunt appraisal of private medical greed and the poor clinical standards in some private hospitals.

Is is about more money?

So how does Australia today compare to the country that produced the Anzac legend, courage under fire and the refusal to accept censorship, incompetence and unnecessary tragedy?
In 2014 a non-political British newspapers published embarrassing details of the rich and famous, with the title ‘Selling off the NHS for profit, full list of MP’s with links to private healthcare firms’. Australian newspapers remain silent about political conflict of interests, despite the fact that one-third of Australian hospitals are now private. The USA routinely publishes a yearly list of the best and worst hospitals in the country, along with medical specialists opinions about whether they would allow their relatives to be treated in various hospitals. Australian doctors are silent on the wide variations in quality across our fragmented public/private health system.

The fact that no Australian private hospital is legally required to report it’s error rates does not even rate a mention in the papers. US citizens have numerous websites and apps, discussing the prices of hospital treatments. Australian web developers and health startups remain silent about out of pocket costs. This is despite the fact that Australia is now third highest in the world for out of pocket medical costs, triggering a Senate Enquiry in 2014.
Modern Australia is slipping backwards. What was once a country of fearless soldiers and rebellious reporters, is now a country of silence, a colonial inferiority complex and retreat from the modern world. Our industries have gone offshore, driven by outdated unions, high taxes, restrictive red tape and political indifference to the reality of running a small business. Internet-based industries are being ignored while mining and agriculture are held up as the only way to earn money and be successful.

Let’s return to our roots. And learn who we are, from our courageous citizens. Australians who broke the rules when the rules were wrong, and made society a better place in the process.


Selling off the NHS for profit – The mirror 2014
Nurse whistle blowers in Australian hospitals – Sonja Cleary 2014
Julian Assange interview 60 minutes – 2013
Toni Hoffman – Wikipedia

© Wikihospitals January 2015.