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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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Monday, 3 February 2014
MINVA009

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH ANGELA CATTERNS
MORNINGS – 2UE SYDNEY

Topics: Centenary of ANZAC ballot closure.

ANGELA CATTERNS: Were you one of the almost 43,000 Australians who applied for a ticket to attend the ANZAC Day dawn service at Gallipoli next year? It was a ballot as I'm sure you know, numbers were heavily restricted. The closing date has come and gone and Michael Ronaldson is the Veteran's Affairs Minister. He joins us on the programme. Hello there, Michael. I apologise for...

MICHAEL RONALDSON: That's all right.

ANGELA CATTERNS: I'll just say it three times now. Ronaldson, Ronaldson, Ronaldson. Thank you. So 45 - obviously a very popular ballot for nearly 43,000 Australians applied.

MINISTER: Look it was a quite extraordinary response Angela, and look, I thought there would be a huge response but even I was surprised by the massive numbers. Even on Friday there were around 9000 applications lodged - the closing day. And around 1000 in the last hour. So look this has ignited huge interest right throughout the country. The ballot was opened on the 16th of November, it closed 11:59pm last Friday night. And the ballot draw will take place prior to Anzac Day this year, and those who were successful will be notified then.

ANGELA CATTERNS: So they'll have 12 months to finalise their travel plans?

MINISTER: Well no they won't have 12 months, they'll actually have six months. They'll have to get their travel details and details of tickets in by the 25th of October this year because we want to make sure that people who have gone into the Ballot are absolutely serious about it and if they haven't done that booking then their position will go into...

ANGELA CATTERNS: [Interrupts] Oh, to somebody else. I see, I see. Will they be able to sell these or pass on their tickets?

MINISTER: No they won't, they might be able to sell them but it won't do the buyer any good because one of the things we're being very careful about is to make sure this is not an open book for the scalpers and someone with a pass will have to produce their passport prior to entering Gallipoli itself. So there'll be no scalpers, nor should there be.

ANGELA CATTERNS: So what are they in the ballot for, Michael?

MINISTER: Well, there's 10,500 spots between ourselves and the Kiwis. There's 8000 for Australians, 2000 for the Kiwis and there's 500 for official guests from around the world including the Turkish Government our very generous hosts, and included in that is potentially 160 widows of First World War veterans, it's quite remarkable. So I've written to all of them and extended an invitation on behalf of the Prime Minister and myself. The Commonwealth will pay for any of those ladies who can make the trip. And indeed I was going through my mail this morning and I noticed a letter from - I won't mention the lady's name - who was very keen to go on the trip so that's fantastic.

ANGELA CATTERNS: So it's going to be very special, isn't it? It's the centenary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli. What is - what's planned for the ceremony?

MINISTER: We're actually having a trial run this Anzac Day so it'll be exactly as we hope next year will be, except there won't be the gating procedure so anyone can come along as is normal.

ANGELA CATTERNS: This year? And crowds seem to grow every year don't they?

MINISTER: Yeah they do. Look, both Gallipoli and Villers-Bretonneux, that is also continued to grow as well. And I'm glad you raised that because there's going to be lots of opportunities for people who don't get a position on the ballot.

I mean obviously, if they're overseas they could go to Villers-Bretonneux. I'm working with the Turks to see if we can have another commemorative event, more low-key perhaps around August and of course there'll be numerous commemorative events around Australia itself as well as overseas. So there will be lots of opportunities.

An email from a fellow over the weekend who's from New South Wales said look, if I miss out I'll be really disappointed but I would have been even more disappointed if I hadn't' had the opportunity to go into the ballot. So I think that probably says it all, doesn't it?

ANGELA CATTERNS: Yes, well I think it was a good decision to decide, obviously to restrict numbers and then for people to at least have a chance to go.

MINISTER: Absolutely. And as you know, there are sort of three categories. There's 400 double passes for direct descendants, with preference going to sons and daughters. There's 400 double passes for people with qualifying service and veterans, and those who've served overseas, whether it's in peacekeeping or other roles. 3000 double passes for the general public, and there's 200 double passes for schoolchildren. So school kids and a chaperon, and the states will be managing that.

ANGELA CATTERNS: I think my grandfather and his brother were at Gallipoli. They were in the light horse brigade. But that's enough family history for one day on this program for me. Yes so you were going to tell me that it's a sort of rehearsal this coming Anzac Day for the following year, and you were hopefully going to tell us a little bit about what might be on the program?

MINISTER: Well we're not saying a lot about that at the moment, until we get things finalised and that will be released in due course. I don't want to give too much away at the moment because it's still a work in progress. But look, it's going to be a magnificent commemorative event and as you know it's televised live and I think there will be huge audiences watching as well as attending other commemorative events around the country. But look, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and those 8000 Australians are going to see something very special.

ANGELA CATTERNS: And how will you be letting them know? By email, by phone, by letter?

MINISTER: We're just working through that, I think at the moment I will probably be writing to all of them. And that will happen before Anzac Day just to let them know and tell them they've got until the 25th of October to finalise their travel plans. What I don't want to see is someone missing out because travel plans aren't finalised, and that would be terrible for someone who really does want to get there. So that's why we've imposed the six-month limit to get those travel details in. And if they're not, then it'll go to people on the waiting list.

ANGELA CATTERNS: So you'll be wanting to see some proof later in the year of - what will you want to see? A booking reference number or something?

MINISTER: We will want to see flight details, we will want to see booking details. That's six months people have got, or will have to get that in order. Now when you've got 42,500 in the ballot I think it's incumbent on those who are successful to make those booking and if they can't go, well it will go to the next person on the list.

You were talking about scalpers. Probably a couple of questions I've been asked was both about scalping, but also how many polis are going and the Prime Minister has made it very clear that this is not a poli-fest, and there will only be four Australian politicians going whether that's state or federal or local government. And that's the Prime Minister, obviously, myself, the leader of the opposition and my counterpart. So they're the only four polis. Which doesn't mean that some of my colleagues might have...

ANGELA CATTERNS: [Interrupts] Won a place in the ballot? And I would imagine minister that the Governor-General would be going to?

MINISTER: Well there are various protocols with this, Angela, and normally if the Prime Minister is at an event the Governor-General would not be but that's still to be worked out.

ANGELA CATTERNS: Yes, I'm sure he'd be desperate to be there. It's a pleasure to talk to you we appreciate your time.

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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