Business and politics merge a bit too often but we all have to live with each other. Nevertheless you will recall that last week we cheekily suggested that the Prime Minister should travel to Indonesia for lunch one Saturday with his counterpart. Just the week before I had seen the Indonesian ambassador to Australia, Pak Nadjib in Jakarta, so while our column isn't all that powerful, we were delighted that Tony Abbott did pay a surprise visit to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Wednesday on his way to visit France, Canada and the US. The next stop on his itinerary following Indonesia were the beaches of Normandy, where he is joining French President Francois Hollande to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. I have a long-standing interest in French leaders, particularly Napoleon. A few years ago I gave the then premier of Victoria, Ted Baillieu a copy of the book Napoleon as a General with some text underlined that seemed to say a lot about leadership. Given the current troubles in the ranks in Victoria, I'd better send another copy up to Spring Street. Occasionally Napoleon would kill one of his own generals to keep everything in order but he was much harder on his enemies. In 1813 he court-martialled the good senators of Hamburg and ordered five of the chief dissenters to be shot. He was much less humane in Cairo in 1798 when his instructions were to ''decapitate all prisoners taken with arms in their hands … and their headless bodies be thrown into the river''. If you want to shore up control, knock off a general. The brutality of war knows few bounds and Abbott is doing the right thing in visiting Sword beach, Ouistreham, to honour D-Day. He will also pay tribute to the 295,000 Australians who served on the Western Front between 1916 and 1918 and honour the 46,000 who lost their lives with a visit to the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux and Pozieres. I've had close ties with France over many years through involvement with Vincent Bollore who was key to the advertising business Aegis, with which I was associated, and his own company of Havas. Our close ties to France should continue, although it does have its problems. As Charlie says, the land of Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite (Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood) is struggling at present relative to Australia. Real GDP growth was zero in 2012, .03 per cent in 2013 and the year to date is predicted to be 1 per cent. But this isn't the moment to get deeply into economics - it's a time to recognise the immense sacrifice that Australian families made for the freedom of Europe. We have never limited our concerns to our own backyard and I hope we never will. And along with great sacrifice comes extreme courage. Australia has awarded the Victoria Cross to 100 true heroes - 20 in WWII but 64 in WWI when we lost more than 50,000 troops, many in the area that the PM is visiting this weekend. I'd like to leave you with the story of Alby Lowerson who received the Victoria Cross in 1919. Alby enlisted in July 1915. Two months later he embarked for Europe. He entered the dreaded Battle of the Somme the following year and was in the thick of it fighting for Pozieres. He was wounded in September 1916 but rejoined his battalion as corporal on November 1. He was wounded again in April the following year during the second battle of Bullecourt. Six months later he return to his battalion for a third time, this time as sergeant. Alby won the Victoria Cross for his actions on September 1, 1918, during the capture of Mont St Quentin when he single-handedly captured 12 German machineguns and took 30 German prisoners. Once again he was shot, this time in the thigh, but he refused to leave until the prisoners had been sent to the rear and his men had their positions consolidated. Alby resumed duties on September 17 and was wounded for the fourth time in October. Twenty-one years later on July 5, 1940, he re-enlisted for WWII. Albert David Lowerson was my cousin.