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Previous Ministers' releases and speeches - Senator The Hon. Michael Ronaldson

Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC
Special Minister of State

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Friday, 4 April 2014
MINVA022

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH ROBBIE BUCK
BREAKFAST - 702 SYDNEY

Topics: Closure of Gallipoli Ballot.

ROBBIE BUCK: So have you got plans to go to Gallipoli next year? The Centenary commemorations of that major battle that takes such a big place in Australian history. If you were planning on going you had to get a ticket and the ticketing process was a ballot this year because the expectations, a lot more people wanting to go then there were places for them. To give a little bit of an explanation about how that’s run, yesterday apparently those who were successful in the ballot were contacted or received the good news. I’m joined by Senator Michael Ronaldson the Minister for Veterans Affairs this morning. Good morning Senator.

MICHAEL RONALDSON: Morning, Robbie.

PRESENTER: Yes so a lot of people waiting to see how this ballot has gone. Just take us back through the process; it was late last year that it opened wasn’t it?

MINISTER: Yeah just before we do that Robbie there will be some people who actually haven’t got the news about them getting a ticket yet if they didn’t have an email address…

PRESENTER: Okay.

MINISTER: They’ll be notified by mail so there’ll still be some…

PRESENTER: There may well be plenty of people actually who don’t use an email address. Fair enough.

MINISTER: That’s right, so I’m writing to everyone today and they should get those letters…

PRESENTER: You’re going to have a very tired hand.

MINISTER: Yes, indeed. And they should get them on Monday. And look the process started back well, it started back earlier last year when the Turkish government advised the former Minister and the former government that they were going to impose a ten and a half thousand person cap for security and safety reasons and that of course necessitated a ballot which opened in mid-November and closed the end of January. And there were effectively three categories, there were direct descendants, those who’d served overseas so Veterans who’d served overseas, those in the general category and there’s also a very special group of about 160 widows of the First World War vets who are still alive…

PRESENTER: Wow.

MINISTER: And I wrote to all those ladies about two months ago and said that the Australian people, the Australian government were going to pay for them to go to Gallipoli if they could to do so and I’m very pleased, I think I reckon I’ll get a dozen which is terrific news.

PRESENTER: That would be an incredibly moving experience for them wouldn’t it?

MINISTER: Oh absolutely, very. Well it’s going to be an incredibly moving experience for everyone and the Centenary period of course kicks off in Albany this year where the ships left from, with men from NSW and my home state of Victoria and right throughout the eastern and southern seaboard. So that will actually kick off the commemorative period and Gallipoli next year. And we’ve also just had some terrific discussions with the Turkish government who I’ve got say are very generous hosts, about a service at Lone Pine on the 6th of August next year. So there’ll be lots of opportunities for people who didn’t get tickets in this ballot to go to either Australian commemorative services or overseas.

PRESENTER: There was a huge demand for it, something like 47 000 applicants and the resulting ten and a half thousand who’ll be going. NSW I believe was the most successful state from what we can see from the data. The people who missed out though, I take it there will be some people whose plans will fall through for whatever reason, will those tickets then go back on to the ballot and people will still have a second chance?

MINISTER: Look Robbie, I’m determined to make sure there’s not an empty seat there. Now, there are a couple of ways of doing that. One is to make sure that we’ve taken the scalpers out of the system which we have. People will only get on to the site with a passport and a ticket. The second one is that people have got six months now to get their travel plans, their passports in order and if they haven’t done so their ticket will go through to the people on the waiting list. There was an option to tick the waiting list box and I haven’t seen the final figures but I gather there are many, many people in that category so we want to make sure the place is full for obvious reasons.

PRESENTER: A call this morning from Andrew who’s in Hammondville. Hello Andrew.

CALLER: Hi Robbie, hello Michael. How are you there?

PRESENTER: Good. So you’ve been to Gallipoli to pay your respects?

CALLER: Yes, I did, I did. But we went there in June and July and it was beautiful day and there was about ten people on the whole battlefield. It’s incredibly small the battlefield, to put it in perspective, if let’s say ANZAC Cove was Circular Quay, the furthest they got was about Town Hall, or maybe a little bit of the way towards Central Station. But the entire battlefield is just absolutely tiny. You can actually see the hill just above ANZAC Cove from the furthest point of the battlefield that they got to.

PRESENTER: And what goes through your mind when you’re standing there?

CALLER: The scale of things actually, just it’s so small like on the map when we’re all learning history – where things were, that it’s like you see the map and you think it’s like a standard map but all the major battle sites were all about maybe 200 metres apart, 300 metres apart.

PRESENTER: Yeah, really close, close fighting. Good on you Andrew, thanks for the call. Thanks mate, appreciate it. Just very quickly Senator, of course in previous years there have been accusations that it would turn into a bit of a party zone, that it was the wrong tone that was being set and lots of (inaudible) around, has that changed? Has that been rectified?

MINISTER: It has Rob, just in relation to Andrew’s comments he’s right of course that there are plenty of opportunities to visit the peninsula outside those major commemorative times and some people say you maybe better off seeing it when it’s a bit quieter. But there are…about four years ago now I think there was a view that this had become a bit of a party festival and I was over there two years ago and I was pretty proud, particularly the backpackers themselves have taken ownership of this and…

PRESENTER: And are behaving themselves…

MINISTER: Yeah, I was having a chat to a couple of these kids and they’d said the night before that there’d been some fellas who’d been drinking and they had actually gone and got their grog and...

PRESENTER: And taken it out…

MINISTER: Poured it out. So there…

PRESENTER: Senator I’m sorry, I’m going to have to interrupt because we’re banging up to the news but thank you very much for joining us this morning. Good on you. Senator Michael Ronaldson there, the Minister for Veterans Affairs.

 

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

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