Previous Ministers' releases and speeches - Senator The Hon. Michael Ronaldson
Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC
Special Minister of State
Statement made in the Senate by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC, Senator the Hon Michael Ronaldson - Thursday, 14 November 2013
On 2 September this year, the Coalition gave a pre-election 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 of Anzac.
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:
Where we fought;
When we fought; and perhaps most importantly
Why we fought and the values we fought for.
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 102,785 Australians killed in action, the hundreds of thousands wounded in action and the more than one million Australians who have worn the uniform 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 most pressing issue faced by the new Government was a looming funding crisis in the Anzac Interpretive Centre in Albany, Western Australia.
Albany, of course, marks the beginning of the journey of the men who were the first ‘Anzacs’.
It is where, on 1 November 1914, thousands of Australian troops joined New Zealand forces to sail for the other side of the world.
It was the beginning of the so-called ‘great adventure’ for the brash, self-assured, first generation of sons of a new nation, and it will be the beginning of this nation’s period of reflection and commemoration of the Centenary of Anzac.
The Anzac Interpretive Centre at Albany will provide visitors with an opportunity to better understand the departure of the Anzac convoy.
It will tell the story about those Australians who, charged with the notion of a great adventure in service of ‘King and Country’ left the shores of our young nation, many never to return again.
From a young nation with a population of fewer than five million, over 400,000 Australians voluntarily enlisted and more than 330,000 served overseas.
Those who enlisted represented almost 40 per cent of the total male population, aged between 18 to 44, and came from across Australia – urban, regional, rural and remote areas.
They were ordinary men who went on to do extraordinary deeds.
The Anzac Interpretive Centre will be a magnificent facility.
But funding shortfalls have beset the Centre’s construction and threatened its success.
Thankfully, the Western Australian Coalition Government has provided top-up funding for the project and has now taken on the task of project manager to ensure the facility is built on time for next November’s commemorations.
The new Coalition Government has long supported this project – indeed, I have visited Albany six times in both Opposition and Government to lend my support to local activities.
I am also grateful for the support of the new Federal Member for O’Connor, Rick Wilson MP, and Senator Dean Smith who have been indefatigable supporters and advocates for Albany.
Upon assuming office, the new Coalition Government was urgently required to make a funding decision in relation to the Centre, a decision which, left unaddressed, would have jeopardised the Centre’s on-time construction.
The new Government has committed a further $1.35 million to the project.
This funding includes a Commonwealth contribution of 75 per cent of funds required for construction cost overruns, a cost shared by the Western Australian Government.
It also represents a 75 per cent share of the $1 million cost associated with online elements of the new Centre’s interpretive material, a vital and necessary component of the Centre’s design.
It fell to this Government to take the necessary steps to ensure the success of the Albany commemorations.
I am confident that the Western Australian Government has this project well in hand, and I commend the personal attention of the Premier of Western Australia, Colin Barnett, and the Minister for Veterans, Joe Francis, to the completion of this project.
I look forward to joining the community of Albany in November next year to not only open the Interpretive Centre but to participate in commemorative activities associated with the beginning of the Centenary of Anzac commemorative period.
Anzac Centenary Public Fund
The Australian Government is grateful for the personal dedication of Lindsay Fox to the Anzac Centenary Public Fund.
Lindsay Fox is a great Australian.
We are grateful for his ongoing efforts to raise corporate financial contributions towards the Anzac Centenary Public Fund.
The Fund will provide money to support the national travelling exhibition, commemorative projects in the states and territories and other projects of national significance.
I will have more to say about the Fund in coming weeks.
The Australian Government places on record its thanks for Lindsay Fox’s efforts to date and its appreciation to those he has met with for their generosity of spirit as part of the Centenary of Anzac.
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.
Forged in the heat of battle was a national spirit which time has strengthened and a tradition which identifies and resonates with all Australians.
The centenary commemoration of the arrival of thousands of Australians and New Zealanders on a beach in far-away Turkey will be an event unparalleled in our nation’s history.
Many Australians, young and old, living in the biggest cities and smallest country towns, want to be involved in this event.
For many, visiting Gallipoli for this event is an important personal pilgrimage, a journey to reconnect with a family member who made the supreme sacrifice there, or who returned home a different person.
After coming to office, the new Government took the decision to delay the opening of the Ballot until rigorous testing of the online registration system had concluded.
Over the course of testing, which was overseen by KPMG and the government’s contracted provider, Ticketek, issues were identified which have now been resolved.
KPMG has signed off on the test, and indicated that the Government’s requirement of ‘zero defects’ on the registration form has been met.
The decision of the Government to not to open the online ballot registration system until this confirmation was provided was the right decision.
Opening of the ballot
Having rigorously tested the system, I can today 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 also 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.
It was agreed that 8,000 places would be available for Australians, 2,000 for New Zealanders with the balance for invited guests and representatives from Turkey.
At this point, I should note that the Australian Government appreciates the enormous assistance of the Turkish Government and the people of Canakkale in relation to the hosting of this event.
The 8,000 Australian places will be divided into four categories:
- 400 double passes will be available to direct descendants of World War One veterans;
- 400 double passes will be available to veterans of all conflicts;
- 3,000 double passes will be available to the general public; and
- 400 individual passes will be available for school students and chaperones selected by the states and territories.
Separately there are a number of spaces for invited guests, which I will come to shortly.
Australians can begin to register their interest to attend the Anzac Day Dawn Service from 12.01am on Saturday, 16 November 2013.
Importantly, there is no rush for Australians 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.
Copies of these forms will be available through Ticketek, who are managing the ballot and ticketing process, from DVA offices across the nation, from the offices of all members of parliament and downloaded from the Gallipoli 2015 website.
The registration process is expected to take 15-30 minutes to complete, depending on the number of categories an applicant is eligible to apply for.
I must stress that whilst the number of places is capped, early registration will not provide any greater likelihood of the applicant being successful.
Once the ballot closes, Ticketek will begin a process of data checking, including identifying duplicate entries.
All Australian citizens aged 18 and over are eligible to apply once for the ballot.
This means that a husband and wife, who are both Australian citizens, can each both apply for the ballot and, if one is successful, can then nominate the other as their accompanying ticket holder.
If both husband and wife were successful in the ballot they could each select another individual to accompany them.
If successful in the ballot, Australians will then have six months to supply the Department of Veterans’ Affairs with verified travel arrangements and their passport for the preparation of named tickets.
They will also be required to nominate the person accompanying them, or offer to return the accompanying pass to the pool to be allocated to a waiting list.
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.
Further, those who receive tickets will also be required to satisfy Turkish immigration and customs arrangements, which will include applying for a visa and be subject to Turkish law.
Again, these are the responsibility of the individuals concerned and not the Australian Government.
Tickets will be individually named and checked against identification before collection and at entry to the site on 24/25 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.
Australians who are also New Zealand citizens can only apply in the Australian ballot if they have not registered in the New Zealand ballot, and Ticketek will be working through the system after registrations have closed to identify double-ups and remove them.
The full list of Terms and Conditions are available at www.gallipoli2015.dva.gov.au and I encourage those who intend to register their interest to read these very carefully.
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.
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.
Final arrangements for international invited guests continue to be progressed.
Importantly, of the 500 invited guests a number will be representatives from Turkey, New Zealand and other nations.
The official Australian delegation will be deliberately 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 lead 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.
An invitation to attend will also be extended to the Leader of the Opposition and 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 One veterans, together with a nominated carer.
I will shortly write to the 160 remaining widows advising them of these arrangements, and specifically that they are not required to enter the ballot if they wish to attend.
I note that all other apart from the four members of parliament mentioned earlier, 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.
This is a fair way to ensure that as many Australians as possible can participate in the Dawn Service.
All Australians who wish to attend the Dawn Service at Gallipoli on Anzac Day 2015 are encouraged to register their interest.
Australia’s part in the Gallipoli campaign stretched from 25 April 1915 to 20 December 1915 when, during the evacuation, not one Australians life was lost.
Throughout 2015, I hope that many Australians will have an opportunity to visit Gallipoli and pay their own personal tribute at a time of particular significance to them and their family.
Perhaps, for some, it will be the day their family member arrived to reinforce the front, or the date that their relative made the supreme sacrifice, was wounded or undertook an act of extreme bravery and gallantry on the battlefield.
Similarly, there are iconic battles, such as the Battle of Lone Pine, which are important in Australia’s military history.
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, 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.
Anzac Centenary Local Grants Programme
At the last election, the new Government committed to increase funding under the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Programme to $125,000 per Federal electorate.
To date, 18 projects covering eight electorates worth $468,158 have been approved.
I recently wrote to all Members of the House of Representatives to remind them about the increase in funding and that the Government had extended the date for applications to be received to 30 May 2014.
We will continue to work with Members of the House of Representatives and local communities to identify ways to locally commemorate the Centenary of Anzac right across Australia.
The extraordinary sacrifice, bravery and courage of Australians who fought on the Western Front will be an equally pivotal part of our 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 One.
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 One.
French officials have indicated their willingness and passionate desire to assist in any way with Australian commemorations of World War One, particularly along the Western Front.
They are eager for all Australians to have the opportunity to participate in events, particularly from 2016 onwards, which commemorate the service and sacrifice of Australians on the Western Front.
46,000 Australians were killed in action on the Western Front and 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 ever lasting reminder of the connection between the communities of northern France with the service and sacrifice of Australians nearly 100 years ago.
In the school’s courtyard hangs a large yellow sign which in green letters says ‘Never Forget Australia’, and the school’s assembly hall is decorated with pictures of Victoria.
The School also houses the magnificent Franco-Australian Museum and I am delighted that the Australian Government has partnered with local authorities to provide 1.5 million Euros to improve access to the museum including a new entrance way and improved facilities in the museum.
It was 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.
Work on a road re-alignment adjacent to the Memorial is progressing well and I am confident that these improvements will have lasting benefits for the local community and to visitors to the Memorial itself.
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, and we may never 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.
Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) and Veterans Line can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046