Senate debates

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Ministerial Statements

Anzac Centenary

9:31 am

Photo of Michael RonaldsonMichael Ronaldson (Victoria, Liberal Party, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—On 2 September this year, the coalition gave a commitment to deliver a ministerial statement in relation to the Centenary of Anzac. This came on the back of my 28 November 2012 shadow ministerial statement on the centenary.

Today, on the third sitting day of this new parliament, the coalition delivers on this commitment. The Centenary of Anzac will be this nation's most defining period of national commemoration. Through this period, when we commemorate a century of service, Australians will be asked to consider three things:

        The Centenary of Anzac is a period for all of us to reflect on past sacrifice, to understand that the nation we have today is the result of the sacrifice of the 102,785 Australians killed in action, the hundreds of thousands wounded in action and the more than one million Australians who have worn the uniforms of the Australian Defence Force. The coalition government is absolutely committed to the commemoration of the Centenary of Anzac, from events in Rabaul and Gallipoli to the Western Front and the Middle East. Since coming to office seven weeks ago, we have worked through the issues left unresolved by the previous government to ensure that the Centenary of Anzac is the success that it must be.


        The government has properly funded the Anzac Interpretive Centre, providing a further $1.35 million for cost overruns for the centre. This additional funding represents a 75 per cent contribution towards these costs, with the balance being provided by the Western Australian government. This government places on record its thanks to the Western Australian government for agreeing to manage the construction of the Anzac Interpretive Centre and for providing additional funding.

        The commemorations in Albany, in November next year, will mark the beginning of Australia's formal Centenary of Anzac commemorations. I look forward to joining the community next year to open the centre and to participate in associated commemorative events. I place on record my personal thanks to Premier Colin Barnett and the Western Australian veterans affairs minister, Joe Francis, for their support and work so far.


        On 25 April 2015, our nation will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the event which, arguably, has come to define our national spirit, our sense of being and our place in the world. The centenary commemoration of the arrival of thousands of Australians and New Zealanders on a beach in faraway Turkey will be an event unparalleled in our nation's history.

        Today I announce the arrangements for the ballot which will be held to determine attendance at the Anzac Day dawn service in Turkey in 2015. A similar announcement will be made shortly in New Zealand by my counterpart, the Hon. Michael Woodhouse MP. The previous government announced that 8,000 places would be available for Australians who wish to be on the Gallipoli peninsula on Anzac Day 2015. This figure, of a total of 10,500 places, had been agreed with the New Zealand and Turkish governments prior to the election of the coalition government. The 8,000 Australian places will be available in four categories:

                Separately, there will be a number of invited guests, which I will come to shortly.

                Australians can begin to register their interest in attending the Anzac Day dawn service at 12.01 am on Saturday, 16 November—this coming Saturday. Importantly, there is no rush to register and the ballot application process will not close until 31 January 2014. Registration is via an online registration form, which can also be downloaded and printed. The registration process is expected to take 15 to 30 minutes to complete, depending on the number of categories an applicant is eligible to apply for. I must stress that, while the number of places is capped, early registration will not provide any greater likelihood of an applicant being successful.

                All Australian citizens aged 18 and over on or before 25 April 2015 are eligible to apply once—once—for the ballot. Successful applicants will be advised before Anzac Day next year.

                If successful in the ballot, Australians will have six months to supply the Department of Veterans' Affairs with verified travel arrangements and their passport for the preparation of named tickets.

                Those who are successful in the ballot will be required to fund their own way to Turkey—the Australian government will provide no financial assistance to successful ticket holders.

                Tickets will be individually named and checked against identification before collection and at entry to the site in April 2015.

                It will not be possible to sell these tickets on eBay—they will effectively be worthless except to the person whose name appears on it.

                I also make this point: the Anzac Commemorative Site in Gallipoli is a unique and very special place for Australians, New Zealanders and Turks alike.

                However, it is remote and there is no permanent infrastructure, such as toilets, at the site.

                Visitors to the dawn service will require a reasonable level of personal fitness to walk often long distances in darkness, up steep roads and on uneven ground, endure sometimes adverse and extreme weather conditions and spend long periods of time waiting during commemorative events.

                Those intending to register for the ballot are encouraged to view the government's YouTube video, available on the Gallipoli 2015 website, which describes the natural environment and gives guidance about what to expect on a visit for Anzac Day.

                Invited guests

                The Australian government as lead managers of the Anzac Day dawn service, will also coordinate invitations for up to 500 guests to the dawn service.

                The official Australian delegation will deliberately be very small, so as to maximise the attendance by Australian citizens at the dawn service.

                I can announce today that the Australian delegation will be led by the Prime Minister.

                I will accompany the Prime Minister in my capacity as the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of Anzac. The Prime Minister will extend a personal invitation to the Leader of the Opposition and I similarly will extend a personal invitation to the shadow minister for veterans' affairs.

                The Chief of the Defence Force will represent current serving personnel at the ceremony.

                Special invitations will also be extended to surviving widows of World War I veterans, together with a nominated carer. The Australian government will extend a personal invitation to those widows and the Australian government will fund their travel to and from Gallipoli. I am personally excited at the thought of those surviving widows attending and I hope as many as possible, with their carer, will be able to make that trip.

                In the tabled statement there is further detail about the case of allocating the invited guests. I note that apart from the four members of parliament already mentioned, all other MPs and senators as well as members of state parliaments and local councils who wish to attend the dawn service will have to apply in the ballot if they wish to attend.

                All Australians who wish to attend the dawn service at Gallipoli on Anzac Day 2015 are encouraged to register their interest.

                Other commemorations

                Throughout 2015 there were a number of iconic battles, such as the Battle of Lone Pine, which are extremely important in Australia's military history.

                The centenary of the Battle of Lone Pine, which began on 6 August 1915, would be an appropriate opportunity to conduct another large-scale commemorative event, specific to Australia, which could involve thousands of Australians paying tribute at the Australian Memorial located at Lone Pine.

                I am continuing to speak to the Turkish government about further and additional ways in which commemoration of the events of 1915 can be undertaken.

                Once the two governments have reached agreement about any future and additional commemorative services I will make a further statement outlining those arrangements.

                Once again, and I stress this, the Australian government is ever grateful for the support of our hosts in Turkey who very generously allow Australians to commemorate events of such significance to both nations on their soil.

                Western Front

                The extraordinary sacrifice, bravery and courage of all Australians who fought on the Western Front will be an equally pivotal part of the government's agenda.

                In concluding this ministerial statement, I want to refer to my recent visit to France and the ministerial council convened by the French government in relation to the centenary of World War I.

                At the invitation of the French Minister for Defence and Veterans, Kader Arif, I visited Paris on 17 and 18 October to participate in a 30-country summit about preparations for the centenary of World War I. I was also honoured to have a personal meeting with Minister Arif and look forward to hosting him in Australia later this month.

                French officials have indicated their willingness and indeed passionate desire to assist in any way with Australian commemorations of World War I, particularly along the Western Front.

                Almost 47,000 Australians were killed in action on the Western Front of a total of 136,188 casualties. The Australian government is determined to ensure that this story is told and better understood during the Centenary of Anzac.

                During my visit, I was also able to visit the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux together with the Victoria School and the marvellous Franco-Australian Museum at Villers-Bretonneux.

                The Victoria School, the local school in Villers-Bretonneux which was rebuilt following the war using funds raised by Victorian school students, is an everlasting reminder of the connection between the communities of northern France with the service and sacrifice of Australians nearly 100 years ago.

                Amazingly, and I suppose somewhat coincidentally, inside the school hall are a series of timber finials which depict Australian animals. They were carved at the Daylesford Institute of Technology which was in my electorate of Ballarat when I was a member of the House of Representatives.

                It is clear to me that all Australians are welcome in Villers-Bretonneux and I want to pay particular tribute to the mayor, Patrick Simon, and his fellow councillors for their warm welcome as well as their assistance in improving road access between the town and the Australian national memorial.

                The warmth of the people of Villers-Bretonneux is known to the many thousands of Australians who have visited both the museum and the memorial.


                Earlier I said that the Centenary of Anzac is the most important period of national commemoration in this nation's history.

                It will be like nothing we have ever done before or may ever do again.

                As we prepare for the centenary, I plan to keep the parliament and the Australian people informed about progress on the commemorations.

                All Australians, no matter where they live, must be able to participate in Centenary of Anzac commemorative events.

                I thank the Senate and I apologise to the shadow minister and the Leader of the Australian Greens, or their spokesperson—I am required to be at a roundtable of the ex-service community and cannot remain to hear their valuable contributions. I table the statement on the Centenary of Anzac.


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