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Key offended by Aussie "bludgers" comment

17:20 Mon Apr 23 2012
Poppies rest next to the names of the deceased during an Australian Memorial Service at the Lone Pine Memorial in Gallipoli, Turkey last year (Getty)
Poppies rest next to the names of the deceased during an Australian Memorial Service at the Lone Pine Memorial in Gallipoli, Turkey last year (Getty)

Prime Minister John Key has spoken out against "offensive" comments by a Kiwi journalist who labelled Australian World War I soldiers as bludgers and thieves.

The comments, by journalist Jock Anderson, were made during a Radio New Zealand panel discussion about a new book by former Australian Army officer and Department of Veterans Affairs historian Graham Wilson.

In Bully Beef and Balderdash, Wilson questions myths surrounding Australia's all-volunteer forces who fought in World War I and World War II - including the legend of the Australian bushman who transformed into natural warrior on the battlefield.

Anderson said that was absolutely a myth.

"The Aussies have been reluctant soldiers at the best of times, and they've been essentially lazy bludgers, some of them - excellent black-marketeers, scavengers, poachers and thieves," he said.

"Occasionally, they've actually been quite good soldiers, but there was no way that they can hold a candle, in my opinion, to the Kiwis."

Mr Key says Anderson's comments are a black mark on the Anzac spirit, just days out from commemorations on Wednesday.

"While I have enormous respect for the New Zealand forces and support one point that [Anderson] put forward, which is that our forces have and continue to be magnificent in the work that they carry out, denigrating the Australians as part of that analysis I don't think is appropriate," Mr Key said.

He had seen the Australian forces during visits to Afghanistan and Gallipoli, and believed they did a good job.

"The spirit of the Anzac tradition is alive and well. That was a tradition forged on the battlegrounds in Gallipoli, and to take away from their efforts I personally find quite offensive," Mr Key says.

Queensland Returned and Services League chief executive Chris McHugh, a former Royal Australian Air Force navigator, said he was offended by Anderson's comments.

However, "Australians have thick skins" and he didn't think anyone would be really hurt by the opinions of one man, Mr McHugh told Paul Henry on Network Ten's Breakfast programme on Monday.

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