An Australian war veteran has blasted Greens leader Adam Bandt for getting paid more than $314,000-a-year by taxpayers but ‘hating our flag’.
Michael von Berg, a Military Cross recipient who served as a combat soldier in the Vietnam War, said he was ‘very angry’ after Bandt’s staff removed the flag from behind their leader before a press conference in Sydney on Monday.
Speaking to Daily Mail Australia, Mr von Berg said his phone had been ‘running hot’ after Bandt’s comments, which have triggered PTSD among angry and frustrated diggers.
‘We are all proud to have served under the flag,’ Mr von Berg said. ‘Many have fought for the flag and when they die they are buried under the flag. It was totally unacceptable what he did and said.
‘I think he should be kicked out of parliament, yes. It’s just so hypocritical, to be receiving a salary and benefits but hate our country and our flag. If he feels so badly about it, why is he even in parliament?
‘It annoyed me personally but my phone has been running hot ever since. People are very, very annoyed. You have to understand, anger and resentment can trigger PTSD and comments like that have made a lot of people very angry. In this time of mental health struggles, they aren’t helpful at all.’
Bandt will earn $314,737 as the leader of a minority party with more than 10 representatives in parliament.
Michael von Berg (left), a Military Cross recipient who served as a combat soldier in the Vietnam War, slammed Bandt for removing the Australia flag before a press conference. Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt triggered fury after a member of his staff removed Australia’s flag before his press conference on Monday
The war veteran’s comments come after outspoken Greens senator Lidia Thorpe – a key Bandt ally – claimed Australia’s Parliament has no permission to be here
‘For many Australians, this flag represents dispossession and the lingering pains of colonisation,’ Bandt said on Monday.
‘Through Treaty with First Nations’ Peoples and by moving to a Republic, we can have a flag that represents all of us.’
His comments triggered fury across the political spectrum with Mr von Berg, who served alongside Aboriginal soldiers on his first tour of Vietnam in 1966-67, accusing the Greens leader of insulting the nation in a scathing open letter. He also branded Bandt a ‘bloody idiot’ while talking to Daily Mail Australia.
‘I watched it live and I saw the flag missing. I was surprised at first and then I thought it was a mistake. When I saw it off to the side I realised that it was a stunt and I thought ‘you idiot’,’ he said.
‘I think him and his mob see the flag as a rag, as just a piece of bunting to wave around. They don’t understand how important it is to us. The flag unites us all as a serving force. We salute the flag, we present arms to the flag and him and the left just treat it so cheaply. It’s unforgivable.
‘I served with an indigenous corporal in Vietnam in 1966 and we lost him. That’s why Bandt’s comments are so hard to take. I got a military cross for a four hour action on a very steep mountain but we lost him. He was a great bloke, a great soldier and it makes me emotional.
‘He’s a bloody idiot. The Greens have done nothing for indigenous people and instead they’re doing this tokenism. Moving a flag and thinking that’s something. This is all he’s got. Division, division, division.
‘This is just to raise his profile, not the issue. All everyone’s doing is talking about him. This isn’t going to help the indigenous.’
In the letter addressed to Bandt, the war hero said his actions were an insult to the nation and ‘every serviceman and woman who has proudly served this country under our flag in war and peace.’
The veteran wrote: ‘Symbols and pranks do nothing in supporting our Indigenous and Torres Strait Island brothers and sisters, where many of us in the ADF, have had the great honour of serving with, and in some cases, fighting alongside of, and sadly burying.’
Senator Thorpe (pictured on Tuesday night) said her decision to enter the ‘colonial project’ was due to her aspirations to ‘renew the nation’ and be a voice that questioned
‘If your action and objective was to divide the nation, that objective has failed, in particular within our ADF and veterans’ community where the Australian National Flag under which we have all proudly and bravely served, is the glue that binds and defines us.’
Speaking to Sky News, he also revealed he was watching the press conference live and was left ‘surprised’ and ‘very angry’ from the ‘stunt’.
‘I actually watched it live and personally, I thought, it was a mistake,’ Mr von Berg said.
‘When they showed just the Aboriginal flag and Torres Strait flag, I thought, ‘that’s odd’.
‘Then I saw it off to one side and of course when he came and spoke, I thought this was a deliberate stunt. I was surprised and very angry.’
Mr von Berg’s comments come after outspoken Greens senator Lidia Thorpe – a key Bandt ally – claimed Australia’s Parliament has no permission to be here – and says she’s only a member so she can ‘infiltrate’ the institution.
The senator said her entry into the ‘colonial project’ was due to her aspirations to ‘renew the nation’ and be a voice and spokesperson for First Nations people.
Appearing on The Project on Tuesday, senator Thorpe said she also removes the Australian national flag during press conferences.
‘The Australian flag does not represent me or my people,’ she told the panel.
‘It represents the colonisation of these lands, and it has no permission to be here, there’s been no consent, there’s been no treaty, so that flag does not represent me.’
Panellist Waleed Aly asked the senator if her argument could also apply to the Australian Parliament in which she serves.
‘Absolutely, I’m here to infiltrate,’ she replied emphatically.
‘I signed up to become a senator in the colonial project, and that wasn’t an easy decision for me personally, and it wasn’t an easy decision for my family either to support me in this,’ she continued.
‘However, we need voices like this to question the illegitimate occupation of the colonial system in this country.’
AUSTRALIAN WAR VETERAN’S LETTER TO THE GREENS
Dear Mr Bandt,
Reference: THE DISHONOURING OF THE AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL FLAG AS A FORM OF PROTEST AND PROVOCATIVE SYMBOLISM
On behalf of our membership, and the veteran’s community and their families, your poor and pathetic publicity stunt of dishonouring our Australian national flag, is a disgrace and deserves condemnation.
Not only is it an insult to the nation broadly, but to every serviceman and woman who has proudly served this country under our flag in war and peace, but the many who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, and laid to rest with the Australian national flag draped on their coffin.
Symbols and pranks do nothing in supporting our Indigenous and Torres Strait Island brothers and sisters, where many of us in the ADF, have had the great honour of serving with, and in some cases, fighting alongside of, and sadly burying.
The members of the ADF are colour blind and we have done more than many other segments of society in the integration, acceptance and working together at times, in the most extreme and stressful circumstances based on mateship, mutual respect, digger humour and good old-fashioned Australian values.
Mr. Bandt, we all make mistakes, and, in this case, it would not be remiss to admit that you have overreached and that you apologise to the nation but in particular to those that have and are still serving in the ADF.
For your conscience, as a servant of the crown there appears to be some conflict and considerable hypocrisy in your actions, and lack of respect for our Australian national flag, in continuing to draw your parliamentary salary and benefits.
If your action and objective was to divide the nation, that objective has failed, in particular within our ADF and veterans’ community where the Australian National Flag under which we have all proudly and bravely served, is the glue that binds and defines us.
We demand your public apology.