Thursday, 14 May 2020
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: Anzac Day
I thank the member for Canning for his question and recognise his service to our nation in uniform. Mr Speaker, as you're well aware and every member in this place is well aware, Anzac Day is one of the most important days on our national calendar. Typically, we gather in large numbers to commemorate the service, the sacrifice, the courage and the resilience of the original Anzacs. But, this year, unfortunately, we couldn't gather in those sorts of numbers. We were required, through social distancing rules, to pay our own respects in our own private way. I've got to say, just like the original Anzacs, Australians proved incredibly innovative on Anzac Day this year. It brought us all great joy to see our fellow countrymen gather on their front doorsteps, in their driveways and at the front of paddocks, some of them playing the Last Post on bugles. I heard the Last Post played on electric guitar for the first time, in my own community. It was incredible to see the way the Australian People still wanted to commemorate the fallen on Anzac Day this year.
The national service, as televised from the Australian War Memorial this year, attracted a viewing audience in excess of 1.8 million people. I want to thank the Prime Minister, the Governor-General, the opposition leader, Wing Commander Sharon Brown, Repatriation Commissioner Don Spinks, Junior Legatee Stephanie Kindness and all those who were able to attend and show respectful consideration to all those who served, both today and in the past. I also want to thank the Australian War Memorial itself for hosting the event in difficult circumstances and my own department, the Department of Veterans' Affairs, for the way it conducted the commemorative activities.
In just a couple of months time we will gather again for a major commemorative event. This year 15 August marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. We're hoping that the social-distancing rules will allow larger gatherings, but we are working with the veteran community. I'll be keeping members informed of the opportunities to participate in that commemoration as the time draws closer.
On a sadder note, today I would like to pay my respects on behalf of the parliament and acknowledge the passing of a true friend of Australia Dr Patrick Simon AO. As Mayor of Villers-Bretonneux in northern France, which is obviously close to many of the memorial sites that Australians visit, Dr Simon continued the tradition of the annual Anzac Day service in Villers-Bretonneux and was extraordinarily important in the renovation of the Franco-Australian First World War museum in Villers-Bretonneux. He was a strong supporter of and outstanding voice for the establishment of the Sir John Monash Centre. He always provided a very warm, incredibly friendly and hospitable welcome to any travelling Australians in his region. He was a very proud Frenchman but he was also very proud of his Australian links. Dr Simon was awarded the Honorary Order of Australia in 2015. He'll be sadly missed. He fell victim to the coronavirus pandemic. May he rest in peace.
Honourable members: Hear, hear!
If you have a look at the Practice, you'll find that it states very clearly—and I'm not going to detain the House—that the Prime Minister can ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper at any time during question time, including in the middle of someone asking a question. So he's completely in order. Having now done that, it's almost 10 past three.