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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

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Friday, 25 April 2014


Topics: Anzac Day Dawn Service 

RICHARD STUBBS: Here’s Senator Michael Ronaldson. Welcome Michael.

MICHAEL RONALDSON: Morning Richard, nice to see you again. We had a terrific chat about 2 months ago so I’m pleased to see you again - it’s great.

STUBBS: I had my first experience of the Dawn Service today and we were chatting among the team about what we found the most poignant. For me it’s always the last post, there’s something about that moment, what is it for you? Is it the light? I don’t know, what is it?

MINISTER: I think it’s those stories at the start of the service, talking out the names of the Kiwis and the Australians who were killed and some of the messages from families underneath. I find that the most poignant and it just sort of really is a stark reminder of what was and what is and we hope will be the future, and that is an acknowledgement of the extraordinary sacrifice.

STUBBS: We were talking to one young backpacker who was here and one of the points he made was it made it very personal. It stopped being a number in a book and suddenly you walk past gravestones and they’re 19 year olds and 20 year olds and 25 year olds and as you say, the human cost and here at Lone Pine it’s a much lighter, friendlier atmosphere but it’s a terrible place.

MINISTER: It is a terrible place. There were 2,000 casualties here in August of 1915 and look I’ve made a long tour yesterday and just to make sure - sorry the day before yesterday - just to make sure we’re getting the planning right for next year, but I had a chat to a local historian and the stories are quite extraordinary. It was a relatively small area that these battles took place and according to him there were 900 million bullets fired in those 8 months, I mean it’s quite extraordinary. But I’ve also said it’s an extraordinary relationship our relationship with the Turks. The men that were going up the cliffs didn’t hate the people at the top and the people at the top didn’t hate the ones coming up because we knew nothing about each other, we were just here because of circumstances and not long and traditional hatred and I think that’s why simple things like a night swapping cigarettes and pausing to bury their dead and these men were walking past each other and acknowledging each other and exchanging pleasantries and...

STUBBS: It’s one of the by-products of the campaign going so long is, you know, once the Turks had done their offensive and then we’d tried ours I think there was a respect for each other because both had just put their men into the carnal yard, the butcher’s yard of a place like Lone Pine. Lone Pine - unique in World War One history because the casualties were all hand-to-hand close combat; most of the casualties on the Western front were artillery and machine-gun fire but in the trenches of Lone Pine, incredibly personal for days on end, it’s just an amazing thing to think about.

MINISTER: Look I think everyone given the opportunity, not everyone can of course, but given the opportunity to come here either during a commemorative event such as this or outside that and the Western front, I mean gee if you don’t cry when you get off some of those buses on the Western front then you’ve got no feeling and I found it extraordinarily moving, I just literally burst into tears, just as far as the eye can see you’ve got these graves and you walk around and they were kids, they were kids, younger than my kids.

STUBBS: Yeah and that’s the terrifying thing, same for mine for next year this, from an outsider’s point of view, this was my first, this seemed to run very well, it seemed to be set up very well, were you happy, are you confident about next year now?

MINISTER: Well as far as you can be confident about anything in life Richard. I’m confident that the team here has looked at lessons from the past and there have always been previous events and we’ve looked at those, the security will obviously be beefed up, we’ve got a lot of VIPs but just as importantly we’ve got ordinary men and women from Australia and New Zealand who are going to come and we need to make sure the security is right for them. But look I’m pretty confident this is going to be an event next year that we’ll all be incredibly proud of.

STUBBS: It’s an intensely personal thing and I know you’ve got to move on but there’s just one of the highlights that we were chatting in the crowd there’s one guy here who’s a veteran of Malaya, his father was in World War Two, his grandfather fought here, his gravestone’s here, you’ll see him, he’s just travelled on his own, he’s going to come and stand next to his grandfather’s grave when the Last Post’s played and as you say if that doesn’t send something up your back, something’s wrong, there’s a nerve missing.

MINISTER: This morning I was wandering around the stands, met a lady who’s, who was a war widow and she said ‘Look I just wanted to be here, my husband was a Vietnam veteran who died but I just wanted to come and look at this because I know what his view was of the service he thought he was giving his country and he was so passionate about it and I wanted to be here today’. You can go to these stands and it’s just story after story and that’s I’m happy doing what I’m doing at the moment just meeting people who come from...I’ve actually found a couple of people from Ballarat so I’m very happy Richard!

STUBBS: Alright Senator I should let you go, thank you very much for your time and I can’t wish you a happy ANZAC Day but I hope it’s a successful commemoration for you.

MINISTER: And can I also thank you for the fantastic work you’ve been doing in the run-up to today and for what you say. It is poignant and it’s heartfelt and I thank you most sincerely for that.

STUBBS: Thanks so much.

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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