Thursday, 26 June 2014
Questions without Notice
My coach turns into a pumpkin on Monday, so this will be my last question! My question is to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC, Senator Ronaldson. Can the minister advise the Senate how preparations for the dawn service at Gallipoli in 2015 are progressing? How many Australians will be at the dawn service on Anzac Day next year?
It is a great honour for me to take Senator Boswell's last question. I thank him most sincerely for a quite remarkable contribution. Mr President, I would also like to acknowledge the presence of your wife Sue, who has given you great support and, in doing so, has supported the Senate. Thank you very much.
In answer to Senator Boswell's question, I am very pleased to say that the preparations for the dawn service at Gallipoli next year are progressing well. Only last week, Australian and New Zealand officials had a series of bilateral meetings to lock in the arrangements for next year. We are working very closely with our brothers and sisters in New Zealand to make sure that this is a great success. The former government announced a ballot for the Gallipoli commemorations next year. There was a figure that was put in place by the Turkish government of some 10,500 people. I again place on the record our very grateful thanks to the government and people of Turkey for their support. There will be 8,000 Australians and 2,000 Kiwis.
When the ballot was first drawn there was a waitlist attached to that for people who had indicated they wanted to go on the waitlist, and I am very pleased to say today that the first of those waitlist applicants will be announced shortly. There will be some 102 double passes for those who have handed them in or said they no longer want to go. There will be 22 in the veterans category, 20 for the sons and daughters and 60 double passes in the general public category. From day one, we said that we wanted to ensure that veterans and the sons and daughters of Gallipoli veterans were given the greatest opportunity to attend these commemorations, and this will ensure that occurs.
Remarkably, there are 140 widows of those who served in Gallipoli still surviving. It is quite remarkable. The Prime Minister and I wrote to those 140 ladies last year, inviting them to come to Gallipoli at the invitation of the Australian government and to also bring a carer with them at the government's expense. Remarkably and, I think, fantastically, some 15 of those ladies have indicated to date that they would like to come. We will of course work with them to conduct health checks to ensure that they are actually fit and able to travel to Gallipoli. I think it is just fantastic. The names of those ladies will be announced later in the year. I take this opportunity again to say that they will be part of an official delegation from this nation, which is very limited. It includes the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, me and the shadow minister.
We are committed to ensuring that the dignity and solemnity of these commemorative services at Gallipoli next year is maintained, and I know that is the position of everyone in this chamber and Australia generally. I received a letter from the director of public policy at eBay on 17 April this year advising me that eBay would prevent listings for ballot tickets to appear on their site, and I would like to publicly thank them for taking this initiative. We are doing everything to ensure that only those who are in the ballot or on the waitlist will be at Gallipoli in 2015. It will not be possible to sell these tickets. It will not be possible to transfer these tickets. Everyone arriving at the site will have to confirm their identity before they are allowed in. We will leave no stone unturned to ensure that no-one who has not been part of the ballot process arrives on the peninsula next year and gains entry.