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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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Wednesday, 29 January 2014
MINVA005

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL ROWLAND & VIRGINIA TRIOLI
BREAKFAST - ABC NEWS 24

Topics: Centenary of ANZAC ballot closure, SPC Ardmona

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Senator Michael Ronaldson is the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and he joins us now. Michael Ronaldson, good morning, thanks for waiting to speak to us this morning.

MINISTER MICHAEL RONALDSON: That’s alright, waiting to listen to Katie Noonan is no penalty, she’s got a beautiful voice.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: She certainly does, and lovely to think that those songs are inspired by convict stories as well. We’re talking again about another important part of Australian history. Do you know what the response has been already to this ballot?

MINISTER: Well it’s been a quite remarkable response, Virginia. It opened on the 16th of November, it’s been pretty widely advertised throughout the country, it closes tonight at 11:59pm AEST and as of Wednesday there were some 29,307 applications lodged. So there’s enormous interest.

There are 8000 places, 2000 for our New Zealand counterparts, 8000 for Australians. There’ll be 400 double passes for direct descendants with sons and daughters getting priority, there’s 400 double passes for veterans, those with qualifying service or who have served overseas and there’s 3000 double passes in the general ballot area, as well as 200 double passes for school children throughout Australia and their chaperones and there’s a pretty special group as well, Virginia, there’s 160 widows of WWI Veterans and the Prime Minister and I have asked those widows if they’d like to come to Gallipoli and the Commonwealth will pay for their trip, and I’d like to think as many as possible would come, they’re a very special group.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Well I don’t know how you’re going to manage select 8000 from what’s already close to 30 000 and will clearly be more by the close tonight, I imagine there’ll be a last rush for entries.

MINISTER: Well Virginia I just need to say, I won’t be determining who goes.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: You won’t be pulling people out of the barrel?

MINISTER: No, no, no. I wouldn’t mind a dollar for every person who has asked me to get them a ticket. No this is a process which is being overseen by KPMG. It’s as clear as possible. I was asked the other day, Virginia, whether this was just going to be pollie fest; well the Prime Minister has made it very clear that there will only be four politicians from throughout the country going, that’s the Prime Minister, myself, the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Farrell, who is the shadow, I don’t think will be with us by, from what I’ve heard this morning, I think he’s off to contest the leadership of the South Australian Labor Party. So Don won’t be going but his replacement will be.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Alright, well it is going to be a special event and of course there’s always been challenges around trying to organise an event at Gallipoli cove that accommodates a large number of people and takes in to account the interest but at the same time is dignified, is respectful, and has all the hallmarks of that event that the Australian community would want. That’s a very tough balancing act.

MINISTER: It is a tough balancing act and we must never forget that we have very generous hosts in the Turkish people. They are very generous and we must respect their wishes. They stipulated 10 500 for Gallipoli 2015, we’ve respected that, and we’ve framed the ballot around those numbers.

And I know there are going to be a lot of disappointed people but I am looking at other options during the year for people to go to other commemorative events, obviously Villers- Bretonneux there will be a service, so there are lots of opportunities but this is a smaller group who will be going to Gallipoli.

Someone asked the other day whether this was going to be a scalper’s event. People will have their ticket and will need to produce their passport. So we really have gone to great lengths to ensure that those who really do want to go are given the opportunity to do so and the scalpers are simply not welcome and it won’t do any good at all.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: I really need to move on rather quickly, and I’m sorry about that, because time is on the wing, but I wanted to ask you particularly given your regional connections, and as a regional Senator, your view of the fact that the federal government has not given that assistance package to SPC Ardmona. You would have been hearing Sharman Stone, your colleague, very angry about that. Do you also share concerns?

MINISTER: Well the first thing I’ll say is that I know Sharman very, very, well and I’ve known her for a long time and she’s a very passionate local member and it would have been more of a surprise to me if Sharman hadn’t been as passionate. She’s always been so.

Look I’m not going to provide a running commentary on other people’s portfolio areas. This was fully canvassed by the Prime Minister and Minister Macfarlane last night and they made it quite clear that the government desperately wants SPC to survive but the entity that is best placed to conduct the restructure is the business itself and apart from that I’ve got nothing else to add.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Michael Ronaldson, good to talk to you this morning, again thanks for waiting.

MINISTER: 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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