Australia’s Treasurer Joe Hockey’s authorized biography has attracted much interest, including a peak into Cabinet relationships, the budget, and future leadership contenders.
Yet there is one issue that has snuck firmly under the radar, and goes to Australia’s moral fabric: the denial of the first genocide of the 20th century.
The Armenian Genocide, which started on the eve of Anzac Day 1915, resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million people. The Turkish government denies the genocide; at the same time Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan falsely labels the recent tragic strikes on Gaza as “systematic genocide.”
The hidden truth goes to Hockey’s position on the Armenian Genocide, which is in direct contradiction to Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who recently asserted, “We do not, however, recognize these events as ‘genocide.’”
Previous foreign ministers have also caved under political pressure in an effort not to offend Turkey, including Bob Carr who, as NSW premier, formally recognized the genocide.
Hockey admirably has been a long-time advocate for recognition, and has kept his position consistent. He has visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan and described it one of the most emotional experiences in his public life.
Hockey, unable to attend this year’s Armenian Genocide commemoration, said in his message: “Back in 1915, the word genocide did not exist, as the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was only adopted in 1948 in the aftermath of the Holocaust. But there is simply no other word for what happened to the Armenian people of Ottoman Turkey.”
Australia’s position is even weaker than that of the United States, which has an even greater strategic relationship with Turkey as a NATO ally. President Barack Obama, addressing the Turkish Parliament in 2009, said his views on the events in 1915 had not changed (as Senator he had recognized the genocide). This may not be recognition; however, it is not blatant denial.
Why does this matter to Australia?
Hundreds if not thousands of Australians were involved in the humanitarian relief effort of the Armenian Genocide, in particular helping orphans from the humanitarian disaster. Some included notable Australians who went on to become cabinet ministers (Thomas White), philanthropists, public servants, and many others.
Despite the connection between Gallipoli and the Armenian Genocide happening around the same place and time, according to Robert Manne, “not one Australian historian has devoted more than a passing page or paragraph to the relationship, or even the mere coincidence, of the two events.”
It seems with the politics associated with Australia hosting the G20 (of which Turkey is a member) and the approaching 100th anniversary of Gallipoli, nothing will get in the way of realpolitik.