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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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Tuesday, 22 April 2014


Topics: ANZAC Day

JOURNALIST: Thank you for accepting our invitation.

MICHAEL RONALDSON: It’s a great pleasure, a great pleasure.

JOURNALIST: So first of all I would like to ask, Anzac Day is a national public holiday and is also one of the most solemn days for many Australians. So within the scope, will there be any special events and organisations for remembrance in the centenary of Anzac Day in 2015 and what about the programs in 2014?

MINISTER: Well Anzac Day is a very special day for us every year. Obviously next year, being the Centenary of Anzac that’s very special and for us to be on the Gallipoli peninsula, side by side, with those who were once our enemy but now our very close friends is an extremely important day for us in Turkey. Across Australia next year, there will be commemorative events from the smallest of towns to the largest of cities. These are events we hold very, very dearly. And the Centenary of Anzac is an opportunity for us not just to commemorate the sacrifice of a hundred years ago but actually a centenary of sacrifice and an opportunity for us to teach our children that the freedoms they enjoy today are as a result of the sacrifice of others. Whether it’s the Turks, the Australians, New Zealanders, whoever it might be. The freedoms these young people enjoy have been paid for in blood. And we must never, ever, forget it.

JOURNALIST: Can I please talk about your work. As we know that you’re responsible for Veterans Affairs. What do you do in your work field for the Veterans or the parents of the martyrs in Australia? What’s your work field area?

MINISTER: Well, I’m the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and also the Minister for Veterans Affairs. We’ve got a very comprehensive system to look after Veterans and their families, one that we’re very proud of. Is it perfect? No. Could it be made better? Yes. But we are proud of the repatriation system we’ve got. But we’ve got enormous challenges, as have many others now, with our young men and women who’ve returned from Iraq, Afghanistan and that’s the mental illness issue. And the mental health of these young men and women is very, very important to the Australian Government and very important to me as Minister. We are seeing a decline obviously of Second World War veterans but there are as many young Australian who have served overseas since 1999 as served in the whole of the Vietnam War. So there are some real challenges but the repatriation system does look after those young men and women and their families and the widows obviously are a very important part as well.

JOURNALIST: Since you’re in Turkey, I would like to ask how you see the current Australian and Turkey relations, social and economy wise, after Anzac Day and generally the current agenda between the two countries?

MINISTER: Well, what an extraordinary relationship our two countries have, an extraordinary relationship. We were, a hundred years ago, enemies and we are today the best of friends. And I think this reflects very much on the maturity of our two countries. That we have been able to move on from what was, to where we are today and those social ties, those economic ties are vitally important. We should never forget that those young Australians and New Zealanders who were going up the cliffs at Gallipoli did not hate the men at the time. They didn’t know them. The men at the top, the Turks did not know those men who were coming up the cliffs, so this was not a battle of hatred. It was a battle of circumstances and for our two countries now to have moved from there to where we are, I think is a very special relationship and the Australian people view this as a very special relationship. And the words of Ataturk ring loudly in our ears and they’re not forgotten and they’ll never be forgotten.

JOURNALIST: My last question will be, the Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in world wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations and contribution [inaudible] all those who have served in World War One in the battlefields. So there will be a movie coming out which a Hollywood star, Russell Crowe will star. It will be…the name will be The Water Diviner, it tells the story of a New Zealand father who searches for his two sons missing since World War One. So how do you think this will effect or boost awareness worldwide to Anzac Day or the battle in 1915?

MINISTER: Look, I’m not aware of the script. I understand that Russell Crowe, who’s actually a New Zealander and not an Australian, he’s originally from New Zealand, has been shooting this film. I think our two nations and our peoples can tell this story very well. We understand what was involved; we understand the enormous losses that both our nations suffered. We lost a generation of young men, a generation of young Turks, a generation of young Australians, a generation of young New Zealanders and we’ve got to ensure their sacrifices were not in vain. We’ve got to understand that the freedom we enjoy has come at a huge price. And we must never, ever forget that.

JOURNALIST: Thank you so much for interviewing, thank you for taking time.

MINISTER: Thank you very much, thank you.


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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