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Australian opposition leader in dawn service strife


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By Rob Taylor Reuters - Monday, April 16CANBERRA (Reuters) -

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/rtrs/20070416/tpl...al-39349ed.html

A plan to stage a fake Australian remembrance day service to fit in with television scheduling has outraged veterans and embarrassed the country's popular opposition leader. One of Australia's biggest television networks had asked veterans to hold a dawn service on Vietnam battlefields an hour early to suit morning programming during Anzac Day commemorations on April 25.

Anzac Day marks the first major engagement of Australian and New Zealand forces in World War One and is important for many who see it as the true birth of nationhood through bloodshed and catastrophic loss.

The service at Long Tan in Vietnam, where 18 Australian soldiers died in 1966, was to be attended by Labor opposition leader Kevin Rudd, who has been surging ahead of Prime Minister John Howard in polls with an election due later in the year.

But Rudd was forced to back out of the service and counsel a staff member for helping arrange it after at first denying either he or his office had known of the plan.

Paul Murphy, vice-president of the Australian Veterans' Vietnam Reconstruction Group Inc in Long Tan, said the service plan was a "bloody joke".

"There is only one dawn, you know," he told papers.

Howard, behind Rudd as preferred leader in recent polls with 36 percent support against 49 percent for his opponent, seized on the "Sunrise fiasco" as Australian newspapers have called it, warning it would upset voters.

"I think it will leave a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of people," Howard told a radio station on Monday. "It doesn't look as though Mr Rudd's original protestations were correct."

Anzac Day was a sacred occasion, Howard said, and nobody should be trying to give it a political spin.

In a television interview Rudd denied he would ever lie to save his political skin or shore up Labor's strong 22-point lead over the decade-long conservative government.

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Kevin in Deva :cheers:

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