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.

                9:46 am

                Photo of Don FarrellDon Farrell (SA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC) Share this | | Hansard source

                by leave—I move:

                That the Senate take note of the statement.

                If there is anything in the Australian landscape that is above politics, it is the Centenary of Anzac. I certainly appreciate Senator Ronaldson's statement and the very cooperative way he has commenced discussions on this matter. I can assure him that that will be reciprocated by the opposition. I also acknowledge the work of the former minister, Warren Snowdon, who laid much of the groundwork for this exciting event in Australia's history.

                The Centenary of Anzac is above political pointscoring. That is what the public expects, and that is correct. Rather, the Centenary of Anzac is truly a great opportunity to honour the Anzac spirit and the sacrifice and bravery of those who have served over the past century. This is an opportunity to remember and give thanks for the 416,000 Australian volunteers in World War I, including the 61,522 Australians killed in its bloody battles. We will honour in a special way the 5,482 Australians who were killed in action at Gallipoli and the 2,677 who subsequently died from wounds or disease. Equally, we will remember the more than 100,000 Australian service men and women who never came home from conflicts over the past 100 years. And we will not forget the one million Australians who have served—and continue to serve—in our defence forces.

                I welcome today's announcement that registration for the ballot to determine attendance at the Anzac Day dawn service at Gallipoli will officially begin this Saturday at 12.01 am. It is accepted on both sides of parliament that the Anzac commemorative site on the Gallipoli Peninsula can safely hold up to 10,500 people and that this will comprise 8,000 Australians, 2,000 New Zealanders and approximately 500 official representatives of all countries that served in the Gallipoli campaign. The ballot process represents a fair and transparent approach. As Senator Ronaldson made clear in his statement, there is no rush to enter the online ballot. Australians have until 31 January next year to register for tickets and, regardless of when they register, success is down to the luck of the draw. Widows of World War I veterans are rightly offered special invitations to attend Anzac Day at Gallipoli and do not need to enter the ballot.

                In the lead-up to these commemorations, it is particularly important to remember the hospitality and generosity of the Turkish government. Every year they allow thousands of Australians to make the pilgrimage to the hallowed beaches of Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula. It is wonderful that more and more young Australians join the annual pilgrimage to the birthplace of the Anzac legend. Braving the cold as well as the harsh landscape with few facilities, they connect with the Anzacs and the horrors they endured.

                Locally across the cities and country towns of Australia there will be Anzac centenary project commemorations which will be funded by the government's Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program. These are available through every federal electorate in Australia, and the Department of Veterans' Affairs is administering these grants. I encourage more community organisations to contact their local federal MP for details about these grants. I encourage all Australians to become involved in centenary commemorations, because this Centenary of Anzac is for and about the Australian people and the Australian way of life. It is about ordinary Australians remembering these brave men and women who left their cities and towns to join theatres of war in unfamiliar and unkind lands. As Paul Keating said in his famous 1993 Remembrance Day address, the lesson to come from the horror of war was a lesson about ordinary people:

                And the lesson was that they were not ordinary.

                On all sides they were the heroes of that war; not the generals and the politicians but the soldiers and sailors and nurses—those who taught us to endure hardship, to show courage, to be bold as well as resilient, to believe in ourselves, to stick together.

                9:51 am

                Photo of Penny WrightPenny Wright (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

                I rise to speak on the motion that the Senate take note of the statement by the Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC, Senator Ronaldson. As the veterans' affairs spokesperson for the Australian Greens, I support the notion that there be a fair and equitable allocation of tickets to the special commemorative ceremony and that this is an important aspect of our history that is owned and shared by all Australians. It is therefore fitting that the number of tickets available to the public be maximised. The Greens particularly endorse the special provision to be made for First World War widows and direct descendants of World War I veterans and other veterans.

                As we approach the centenary of the First World War and the battles that have contributed to the Anzac identity, I welcome this opportunity on behalf of the Greens to reflect on just what the Anzac identity and tradition are and what that means for 21st century Australians. There is no doubt that the word 'Anzac' holds an enduring resonance for many Australians both old and young. It is important to recognise that the battles at Gallipoli and on the Western Front were bloody, often totally misconceived and disastrous. We lost many of Australia's young generation—young men, and some young women who served as nurse—and many others came back with a legacy of damaged health, spirit and wellbeing that then had far-reaching consequences for them and the families they returned to. This cast a shadow over many lives for many, many years. It also foreshadowed the experience of service personnel who have returned from subsequent conflicts: World War II, Korea, Vietnam, both Gulf Wars, Afghanistan and the many arenas of conflict and danger in which Australians have served as peacekeepers.

                It is also important to recognise that, despite the argument by some that it was our participation in World War I that forged the Australian identity, the Anzac experience came at a time when Australia was already showing great leadership in relation to many social reforms of which we have the right to be mindful and justly proud. This has been pointed out by Australian historians like Marilyn Lake. She said:

                Before the outbreak of World War 1, Australia had won for itself an international reputation as an egalitarian democracy and progressive social laboratory, a place that legislated to secure the equal rights of women and men, state pensions for the aged and invalid, the rights of mothers, the recognition and remuneration of citizen soldiers and citizen mothers, all paid from general revenue rather than constrained by the principle of social insurance.

                … As an advanced social democracy, Australia, it was often said—

                here and abroad—

                led the world.

                It was from this socially advanced democracy that young Australians set out to fight—at Gallipoli, in Palestine and in France. And here, despite the naivety that saw many expecting to be home by Christmas, they demonstrated the remarkable resilience and other qualities that have come to be known as the Anzac spirit.

                Now, as the centenary approaches, we have an opportunity to think about how to bring that renowned Anzac spirit home—that courage, that can-do attitude and that mateship, the concern for and commitment to their friends. We need those qualities—courage, resourcefulness, loyalty and compassion—as we approach 21st century challenges.

                Australia's Anzac tradition is shown not just in how we go to war but in how we fight for peace. It can be boldly accepting our responsibilities to our international allies and to one another. It can be leading, not following. It can be never giving up and never thinking we are too small to achieve big things and make a difference. In a century where there will be an increasing call for diplomacy and united action to avert crises and maintain peace, it will be our peacekeepers who will play an increasing role in global security. They too have served our nation in places of great conflict and danger. Like other veterans, they continue to embody the Anzac tradition. They do us proud.

                Bringing the Anzac spirit home also means looking out for one another and, particularly, looking out for those who have served. As a nation, we have been willing to send men and women to every corner of the globe. It is crucial that we honour their service and contribution to our nation by caring for them properly when they return. The real cost of war is much higher than the figure in the defence budget. It is the lives of these men and women, and their partners and children. As happened with those who returned from the Great War, all defence personnel return from conflict zones changed. Some have physical scars and some have mental scars. Veterans support programs must be proactive, ongoing and holistic—dealing with all their needs. Caring for veterans means addressing their physical and mental health needs and helping them to live full lives when they are integrated into a civilian setting.

                My family, like so many others all around Australia, has been directly affected by war. I had great uncles in World War I, one of whom landed at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915. I visited that place in 1990 and had cause to imagine the horrors of what those Australians endured at that time. We must all take full responsibility for what we ask of each one of our service men and women, and we must look after them and their families if they are killed or injured.

                Military service is valuable and it is unique. Our Defence Force personnel, in doing their work, must surrender their basic human rights in the protection of our nation. It is the only occupation in Australia that makes such a demand of its workforce. When ordered, ADF personnel are required, without question, to take up arms and defend Australia from its enemies using lethal force, at the risk of their lives and wellbeing. Again uniquely, they face criminal sanctions if they fail to do so. Clearly, they deserve nothing less than our respect, our consideration and our honour.

                The Anzac tradition is not the whole story of our nation, but it forms an important part. This legacy is not something to be taken lightly. The British World War II RAF veteran Harry Leslie Smith wrote this week about the co-opting of British veterans' experiences to tell a new story. He wrote:

                … today's politicians in Britain use past wars to bolster our flagging belief in national austerity or to compel us to surrender our rights as citizens …

                In Australia, where we pride ourselves on giving people a air go, with our diggers, we must be careful not to make the same mistakes. We must avoid the temptation to gild the lily or jump on jingoistic bandwagons. Rewriting history pays a disservice to the real experience of those who have been there. Instead, we must truly recognise what the experience of conflict exacts from our veterans and acknowledge that in the way we treat them when they return home. The Anzac legacy continues today. We will truly honour those veterans and all veterans if we are clear-eyed about the realities and costs of war. Allowing more people from the Australian public to attend the Anzac Day ceremony will advance this cause.

                Our Anzacs showed our nation that we could act on the world stage. They showed us how they were capable of rising to unthinkable challenges. They demonstrated values of leadership, passion and audacity. In the lead-up to the 100 year commemoration, let us bring the Anzac spirit home. Let us rise in this 21st century to the challenges that we face. Let us be leaders. Let us be passionate and brave.

                Question agreed to.