The Hidden Truth in Hockey’s Book

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.

Cover of Australia’s Treasurer Joe Hockey’s authorized biography
Cover of Australia’s Treasurer Joe Hockey’s authorized biography

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.

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Sassoon Grigorian

Sassoon Grigorian is a corporate affairs professional and has worked in leading global technology companies. Grigorian formerly worked in the New South Wales (NSW) state government as an adviser to a former NSW Premier. He serves on the Boards of the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) and the National Center for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (NCAPEC), and is co-founder of the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association’s (AIMIA) Digital Policy Group.

3 Comments

  1. Australia will be one of the last countries to recognise the genocide in spite of always being selectively vocal on moral and justice issues. Can you imagine the courage a sitting Australian government has to have to face an angry public when the Turks bar ordinary Australians from visiting Gallipoli as a retaliatory measure because their government has chosen to recognize a genocide on people they haven’t even heard of.

  2. In reading the article above be mindful that all aspects of this history are disputed … here are Australians celebrating their version of Gallipoli, a 100 years on, to the exclusion of others. How far away we are from the real horrors of going into wars wearing blinkers (i.e. Iraq). One thing is sure, you will not hear the current Australian Treasurer, Joe Hockey, talking of the Armenian genocide on ABC TV even though his family were Armenian (and Palestinian). Joe Hockey’s fellow cabinet members just do not want to know about what happened despite his attempts to reveal the nature of the genocide in his autobiography. Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop recently asserted, “We do not, however, recognize these events as ‘genocide.’” Their heads are firmly in the sand despite the atrocities on the beaches at ANZAC cove. They will not even recognise the ongoing stolen generation and want to advance the colonial project even further out to aboriginal communities in WA, SA and the NT.

  3. Yet again, our government chooses political expediency over the moral imperative. Bishop’s position (and one must believe, that of her leader Abbot and the appatchiks of DFAT, is hypocritical and deceiptful. So, of course, is Obama’s in not being willing to re-state his earlier-stated convictions. And politicians wonder why the populace at large holds them in such contempt? Hockey, no idealist certainly (as his insensitive and hierarchical budget shows), here has a very personal reason for sticking to his guns. He does deserve credit for going against his party’s public line, but that credit must be mitigated by the knowledge that it is born of personal investment in history, not our of honour or idealism. What we need in this country is very simple, some politicians who will stand up publicly and state the truth about matters, the Armenian genocide among them. NOT because it is fashionable, or politically or economically expedient, but just because it is TRUE and cannot be denied by any honourable person.

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