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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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Tuesday, 11 February 2014

STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER FOR VETERANS' AFFAIRS AND MINISTER ASSISTING THE PRIME MINISTER FOR THE CENTENARY OF ANZAC, SENATOR THE HON. MICHAEL RONALDSON
MINISTERIAL STATEMENT ON THE CENTENARY OF ANZAC - FEBRUARY UPDATE

On 14 November 2013 I delivered the Government’s first Ministerial Statement on the Centenary of Anzac.

The Government is committed to providing regular updates to the Australia people about the progress of preparations for the Centenary of Anzac.  Today, as Parliament meets for the first time in 2014, I provide the first of what the Government intends to be regular and informative updates about the Centenary of Anzac.

Since coming to office, the Government has set about taking the hands-on approach necessary to ensure that the Centenary commemorations are the success they must be.

This has included addressing funding shortfalls for the National Anzac Centre in Albany, of which the Commonwealth has provided a further $1.35 million, on a 75/25 funding split arrangement with the Western Australian Government.

The Commonwealth is confident that the Western Australian Government, together with the Albany City Council, will deliver the Anzac Interpretive Centre on time to mark the 100th anniversary on 1 November of the departure of the convoy of ships which carried Australian and New Zealand troops to the Middle East in 1914.

The Government has also increased funding for local community based commemoration, lifting grants under the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program to $125,000 per Federal electorate.

In this Ministerial Statement I will outline the Government’s agenda in the lead up to centenary of, arguably, one of the most defining moments in our nation’s story – the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops, the ANZACs, at Gallipoli.

New Zealand

Recently I had the opportunity to meet with my New Zealand counterpart, the Hon Michael Woodhouse MP, to discuss preparations for the Centenary of Anzac.  Our discussion reinforced the importance of our two nation’s working together – with a common purpose – to deliver commemoration of events of fundamental importance to each nation’s story.

Minister Woodhouse assured me of the New Zealand Government’s ongoing desire to see the Centenary marked in a solemn and dignified manner.  New Zealand will be an active participant in Australia’s major commemorative events in 2014, particularly the Albany Convoy Commemorative Event on 31 October and 1 November this year.

The Minister and I also discussed work underway to construct the Australian War Memorial in New Zealand’s new War Memorial Park in Wellington.  In 2001 New Zealand dedicated their memorial on Anzac Parade in Canberra and, in 2015, just days before the 100th anniversary of our two nation’s baptism of fire on the shores of Gallipoli, Australia will officially dedicate our Memorial in New Zealand’s capital. 

The Memorial, whilst located in the War Memorial Park, is not just about our shared service and sacrifice in war.  It will also commemorate the many  shared aspects of our history and way of life.

I look forward to continuing to work with Minister Woodhouse and the New Zealand Government as we progress preparations for the Gallipoli 2015 commemorative event and the remainder of the Centenary programme.

Gallipoli 2015 ballot

The ballot for the 2015 Anzac Day Dawn Service at Gallipoli has now closed, with more than 50,000 applications being lodged by Australians and New Zealanders.

Ticketek, the contracted ballot managers, are currently in the process of making sure that applicants have met the guidelines and that there is only one application per person.  This includes checking for applications in both the New Zealand and Australian ballots.

Turkish authorities have confirmed with the Australian and New Zealand governments that 10,500 people can safely be accommodated at the Anzac Cove site.  There are 8,000 places available for Australians, 2,000 for New Zealand and the balance for Turkish representatives and official guests.

Of Australia’s 8,000 places, 400 double passes are available for direct descendants of Gallipoli veterans, with preference for first-generation sons and daughters, 400 double passes are available for veterans of the Australian Defence Force and 3,000 double passes are available for the general public.  These places will be determined through the ballot, and the whole process is being overseen by KPMG.

In addition, there are 400 places for students and chaperones which have been allocated to each of the states and territories.  As previously announced, the Government will meet the cost of any First World War war widow, and a carer, to travel to Gallipoli for these commemorative events.  I will shortly write to formally invite these widows to attend.

As my earlier statement outlined, the Prime Minister has made it clear that official political representation at this event will be minimal and restricted to himself, myself, the Leader of the Opposition and the Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.

The Government, working with Ticketek, is aiming to advise applicants in the ballot on or around 31 March this year of the outcome.

The strong response from first-generation sons and daughters of Gallipoli veterans will result in the ballot for the direct descendant category only considering these applicants in the first cascade.  All other direct descendants who registered will be considered in the veteran category, if they are also veterans, or otherwise in the general public category.

At the same time, the Department of  Veterans’ Affairs will work with Defence, as necessary, to verify the eligibility of those who have applied in the veteran category.

Finally, Ticketek will run the ballot for all applicants and prepare a waitlist for those who have asked to be waitlisted. 

Those who do not receive a ticket through the ballot may wish to explore other options for commemoration of Anzac Day in 2015.

In addition to commemorative ceremonies which will take place in towns and cities right across Australia, major commemorative events will occur in the state capitals and in Canberra at the Australian War Memorial.  With Anzac Day falling on a Saturday in 2015, this may present families unable to travel overseas with an opportunity to visit places in Australia normally out of reach.

On an international level, the Australian Government will also be organising an Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux in France.  There are annual Anzac Day services held in London, in Belgium, in Papua New Guinea and throughout south-east Asia.  Services will also be taking place in New Zealand.

To ensure the safety of the Anzac Commemorative Site, and the dignity and solemnity of the Anzac Day dawn service and other commemorative events, it is anticipated that restrictions on travel to and from the Gallipoli Peninsula may be in place on and around Anzac Day 2015. 

For those Australians without tickets to the dawn service on 25 April 2015, the Australian Government strongly recommends against travel to the Gallipoli Peninsula around this time.  Access will be carefully and strictly managed.

As noted in my earlier statement, Australians are encouraged to consider visiting the Gallipoli Peninsula at times other than Anzac Day.  My Department is continuing to work with tour operators to identify ways for Australians participating in tours of the site to commemorate the service and sacrifice of our Anzacs and the Government will make a further statement about this in the future.

Post Anzac Day commemoration of the Gallipoli campaign

Australia spent nearly eight months fighting on the Gallipoli peninsula between April and December 1915.  Our Anzac troops sweltered through a Mediterranean summer and shivered through the winter.  Their endurance was remarkable.

Across 2015 there will be further opportunities for Australians to commemorate the service and sacrifice of our Anzacs.  This will be particularly the case in August when the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Lone Pine will take place.

On 6 August, Australians of the 1st Brigade AIF launched a diversionary attack at Lone Pine.  Part of the Allied August offensive, the attack was designed to distract the Turkish defenders from the main assault at Chunuk Bair and Koja Temen Tepe. At 5.30pm, following an hour long bombardment, the Australians  charged. All wore white arm bands, to tell friend from foe, as they knew the combat would be close and that they would soon be fighting in the dark. Once in the Turkish trenches, the  men experienced some of the most brutal hand-to-hand fighting of the war.

By 9 August the diggers had secured their objective, though at a loss of  more than 2,000 killed or wounded. Seven  Australians had earned the Victoria Cross. 

I will make a further statement about additional commemorative events in Gallipoli shortly.

Anzac Centenary Public Fund

On 12 December 2013 I was honoured to join with the Prime Minister and Mr Lindsay Fox AC to officially launch the Anzac Centenary Public Fund.

I want to again acknowledge the tremendous work of Lindsay Fox. Mr Fox has given a great deal of his personal time and energy to work with corporate Australia to encourage them to give generously to the Fund.  The Australian Government is grateful to Mr Fox for his efforts and thanks him most sincerely for his ongoing generosity.

The Australian Government is particularly grateful to the support the Fund has already received from the corporate community and, in particular:

  • BHP Billiton Limited
  • Woodside Petroleum Ltd
  • National Australia Bank Limited
  • Commonwealth Bank of Australia
  • Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited
  • Telstra Corporation Limited
  • Australian Football League
  • Crown Resorts Limited
  • Aurizon Holdings Limited
  • News Corporation
  • Leighton Holdings Limited
  • James Packer
  • Linfox Group
  • Boral - Boral Limited

These companies have not forgotten their responsibilities during this our most important commemorative period and the Australian community will not forget the very significant and generous financial support they have provided.

The Anzac Centenary Public Fund will enable the Australian Government to fund a series of commemorative activities across the nation.  Through the Anzac Centenary Advisory Board (ACAB), close to $150 million worth of projects have been identified for possible financial support through the Fund.

The Government’s first fundraising priority is the Centenary of Anzac national travelling exhibition.  The travelling exhibition will enable Australians, particularly those living outside the capital cities, to share in the Centenary of Anzac, learn about the Australian experience of the First World War and our century of service since.

Earlier this week, the Australian War Memorial, who are managing the exhibition on behalf of the Government, signed a contract with Imagination Australia Pty Ltd to develop the creative content for the exhibition.

The proposal is an exciting one and I will be working closely with the Australian War Memorial and Imagination Australia Pty Ltd to ensure the exhibition accurately tells the story of Australia and Australians during the First World War.

In addition to the travelling exhibition, and based on promises already made, the Government expects that funds will be available to assist state and territory governments to develop their own commemorative infrastructure.  To aid this, the Government encourages corporate Australia to dig deep and give generously to the Anzac Centenary Public Fund.  Through their generosity, more Australians will be able to share in the Centenary of Anzac.

Anzac Centenary Local Grants Programme

At the last election, the Government committed to increasing funding under the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Programme to $125,000 per Federal electorate.

Funds under this scheme are available now, and I am pleased that many applications for funding have already been approved.  Members of the House of Representatives are reminded that they have until 30 May this year to submit applications for funding under the programme to support community-based commemoration.

Projects already approved for funding include the relocation and restoration of First World War memorials, the creation of a memorial garden in a Western Australian primary school, the publication of a special Gallipoli issue of a military history journal and services to commemorate the beginning of the First World War and Anzac Day 2015.

The programme provides a broad scope to support as many community activities as possible as part of the Centenary of Anzac.  Schools, community groups, veterans’ organisations and others in the community are encouraged to think about how best their local communities can commemorate the Centenary of Anzac and apply for funding.  Further details are available from www.anzaccentenary.gov.au and through the office of each member of the House of Representatives..

Centenary of Anzac merchandise

Over the course of the Centenary of Anzac, merchandise supporting the Centenary of Anzac will be available for purchase.  The Government will ensure that merchandise carrying the word ‘Anzac’ is dignified and is worthy of endorsement prior to approval.  Funds raised through the sale of merchandise will be split between the Australian War Memorial and the Anzac Centenary Public Fund.

In addition to officially approved merchandise, I have already approved a series of coins being produced by the Royal Australian Mint.  In 2014, the Mint will circulate a special commemorative $1 coin carrying the Centenary of Anzac logo.  Other commemorative coins, not for circulation, will also be available.  Once again, the Government will ensure that coins produced are appropriately dignified.

It is anticipated that stamps honouring our service men and women, and particularly focussed on the Centenary of Anzac, will be made available over the course of the Centenary.  These are collectable items which, when passed down through future generations, tell a story about our nation as it is today and how we reflected on events which took place in our more recent past.

2015 and beyond

The Australian Government is determined to ensure that the sacrifice of all 61 512 Australians who made the supreme sacrifice in the First World War and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour at the AWM is appropriately honoured and recognised during the Centenary of Anzac period.

Later this year, we will remember Australia’s first battle of the First World War, at Rabaul in New Britain in September 1914, and our first battle casualties of the war.

The Centenary of Anzac goes beyond just the events which took place at Gallipoli.  

As is recorded in the history books, following the withdrawal of Australian and New Zealand forces from the Gallipoli campaign in December 1915, Australian forces then went on to fight on the Western Front in France, where more than 46,000 Australians were killed in action and another 130,000 were wounded.

From 2016 onwards, Australia will ensure that the efforts of our men and women on the frontline in France, Belgium and the Middle East are appropriately honoured.  In France in 2016 commemorative services will be held to mark two of the most significant battles of 1916 – the Battle of Fromelles on 19 July and the Battle of Pozieres on 23 July.

In September 2017 a service at the Buttes New British Cemetery in Belgium will commemorate the service and sacrifice of Australians who served in the Battle of Polygon Wood, a campaign during the Third Battle of Ypres.  This service will commemorate all who served in Belgium during this period.  Also in 2017, and together with New Zealand, we will commemorate the Australian Light Horse and the desert campaign with a commemorative service planned for Beersheba in Israel.

2018 will see services conducted to commemorate the extraordinary service of Australians on the Western Front in 1918.  These services will focus on Villers-Bretonneux, the site of the Australian National Memorial in France.  The Australian attack at Villers Bretonneux, which took place on 24 and 25 April 1918, played a vital role in preventing a German breakthrough at a critical time in the war.  Later, on 4 July 1918, at nearby Le Hamel, Australians led by General Sir John Monash would secure a stunning ‘model victory’ which would become a much studied template for further Allied success.

Both of these events are proposed to be marked, along with a suitable day of commemoration on 11 November – the 100th anniversary of the armistice which was to be the end of the war ‘to end all wars’.

Over coming years, the Australian Government will continue to provide all Australians with advice about official commemorative events to mark the Centenary of Anzac and the First World War both at home and overseas.  We will also ensure that commemorative events to mark significant anniversaries of the Second World War, such as D-Day, VE and VP Day, are held, along with events to remember the 65th anniversaries of the Korean War and the 50th anniversary of battles during the Vietnam War. 

Conclusion

The Australian Government is committed to ensuring that the Centenary of Anzac leaves a lasting legacy for all Australians.

We will honour the extraordinary deeds of ordinary men and women.  Men and women who did not go to battle to seek glory but who, by their deeds and actions, achieved greatness.

It will be a legacy not just of bricks and mortar but, and perhaps more importantly, a legacy of understanding.  An understanding of what we fought for, where we fought and why we fought.  An acknowledgment of our defeats, and an awareness of our stirring victories and decisive achievements on the field of battle, on the seas and in the sky. And, equally and importantly, it is opportunity to reflect on the horror, tragedy and waste  of war. 

As a nation, we have a responsibility to ensure that the service and sacrifice of past generations is never forgotten.  The Centenary of Anzac is not a period to glorify war but to reflect on its horror.  We will remember those who made the supreme sacrifice in defence of our beliefs and our way of life, And we will remember those who came home wounded in body and spirit, and we will remember their families.

The Centenary of Anzac is not just about the past, but also about the future.  It is understanding that tens of thousands of men and women continue to serve our nation today, upholding a tradition that started a century ago.  These men and women, and their families, devote their lives to the protection of ours and we owe them, as we owe their forebears, our gratitude and respect for the work they do in our country’s name.

 

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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