Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Kevin Rudd sorry for 'Kokoda survivor' gaffe

Source: AAP , News Limited

Two Australian veterans who fought in Papua New Guinea during World War II have slammed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's throwaway comment that he is a "survivor" of the Kokoda Track.
Mr Rudd walked the Track in 2006 with opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey as part of a television segment for Channel Seven.
At a joint press conference with PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill in Port Moresby yesterday, Mr Rudd acknowledged the 30,000 diggers who fought pitched battles against Japanese troops in horrendous conditions along the 100km Track in 1942.
Australian forces suffered more than 2200 casualties, including 625 deaths, with a further 4000 falling victim to tropical diseases.
Mr Rudd also acknowledged that more than 3000 Australian tourists each year follow in the soldiers' footsteps.
Kevin Rudd is greeted by locals at the Port Moresby airport. (AAP)
Kevin Rudd is greeted by locals at the Port Moresby airport. (AAP)

"I was one of them way back then and I am a survivor of the Kokoda Track," Mr Rudd said at his Moresby press conference.
Some felt those words were poorly chosen.
"It was a stupid thing to say, he wasn't there," 93-year-old veteran Bede Tongs, who won a Military Medal for single-handedly taking out a Japanese machine gun post at Templeton's Crossing in September 1942, told News Limited.
"Instead of saying stupid things he should spend more money on health and education for our friends in PNG.''
Len Griffiths, a former infantry Sergeant with the 3rd Militia Battalion, reportedly described Mr Rudd's comment as "disrespectful'' and "a bit dicey''.
The 91-year-old and his fellow diggers forced the Japanese troops' final retreat off PNG before raising the Australian flag in the village of Kokoda.
"He was lucky wasn't he," said Mr Griffiths when told about the PM's claim that he "survived" Kokoda.
But Mr Rudd has since apologised, saying that he meant no offence.
He said that his comments were referring to walking the gruelling trek.
"In my speech I said that 3000 Australians walked the Kokoda Track every year and that I had done the same and survived. That is actually what I meant," he said on Tuesday.
"If people have taken that a different way then of course I'm sorry about any misinterpretation."

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