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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, 31 January 2014
MINVA007

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH JUSTIN SMITH
DRIVE – 2UE SYDNEY

Topics: Centenary of ANZAC ballot closure.

JUSTIN SMITH: For Anzac Day next year, something magnificent will occur at Gallipoli, which is 100 year anniversary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli. Unfortunately, not everyone is going to be able to go. There will only be a certain amount of room. But I guess the best thing about all this is that everyone wants to go. 13-13-32. I'd love to know if you've put your name in the ballot. There's about 30,000 people that have, but there are not that many places.

To have a chat about it is the minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and the Veterans' Affairs Minister all in one, Senator Michael Ronaldson.

Minister, thanks for that chat.

MICHAEL RONALDSON: Thanks Justin.

JUSTIN SMITH: How many people have we got in the ballot? 30,000 is the figure, but how many places?

MINISTER: We've got 8000 places. As of Wednesday, there were 29,307, I think it was, and I would expect by the close of ballot at 11.59 tonight those numbers would be substantially bigger. There's 2000 places for Kiwis, there's 8000 for Australians, and there's some other tickets for the Turkish Government and other officials. So the 8000 is broken up into various categories. There's 400 double passes for direct descendants with sons and daughters getting precedence. There's 400 double passes for veterans who have served overseas or qualifying service. And there's 3000 double passes for members of the general public and 200 passes for Australian school children and chaperons

And, Justin, you'll be amazed to know this, but there's 160 widows still surviving...

JUSTIN SMITH:  [Talks over] Is that right? That's in...

MINISTER:  But I've written to those ladies, on behalf of the Prime Minister and myself, inviting them to come to Gallipoli next year. I don't know...

JUSTIN SMITH: Wow.

MINISTER:  ...how many will be able to make the trip, but it'd be marvellous if at least some of them could.

JUSTIN SMITH: Minister, what are the ages of the widows? That's incredible figure.

MINISTER: It is, and I suspect that some of these fellows might have married younger women, Justin. I'll say no more.

JUSTIN SMITH: They would be deserved of any pleasure they could get.

MINISTER: Absolutely.

JUSTIN SMITH: Could I ask you, Minister, you must feel terrific at the response to this and how many people could go, if we could only click our fingers and take every Australian there, it would be terrific.

MINISTER: It would be fantastic.  This has really ignited a huge amount of interest.  The Ballot opened on 16 November and the number's just getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

And don't forget these are people who have made a definite judgement that they can go and they will go and I'm sure there are lots of other Australians who are not too sure whether they could or they couldn't and, therefore, didn't go in.

Those people who have been successful will know just prior to Anzac Day this year. They'll have six months to get their travel arrangements in order.

And I've been asked a couple of questions, Justin. The first is how many pollies are going and the Prime Minister is very passionate that this is not a pollie-fest. There will be four of us going, including the Prime Minister, myself, the Leader of the Opposition, and the Shadow Minister.

And I've also been asked about scalpers. This will be a scalper-free zone because you'll have your pass and you'll also be required to show your passport before you get in to the peninsula. So there will be no scalping.

JUSTIN SMITH: What is the process, Minister? How do you do it? Is it we've got some names in a hat or what - how are you going to pick them out?

MINISTER: No. This is being overseen by KPMG and it will be a random ballot draw. The direct descendants who don't get in will go into the general ballot. Those who have served - the veterans who have served overseas or qualifying service, if they don't get in, will go back into the main draw as well.

But, Justin, I wouldn't mind a dollar for every time I've been asked to get a ticket for someone, but this is a very clean process.

JUSTIN SMITH:  Yes.

MINISTER: And even if I wanted to, which I don't, I couldn't. So - and I think that was a really important part.

JUSTIN SMITH: We'd have a whole new story on our hands, wouldn't we, Minister?

MINISTER: Yeah, absolutely.

JUSTIN SMITH: If that was the case. Look, I think it's going to be magnificent.

Have you got some idea of how the Dawn Service is going to unfold?

MINISTER: Look, we are still working on that, but just out of interest, we're having a trial run this year over there and at this stage I will be going over to Gallipoli for Anzac Day this year and we'll really be having a trial run to see whether all the processes are going to work.

People don't need passes, obviously, because it is just a trial run, but we want to make sure it's going to work. It'll be a huge logistical exercise. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for 8000 Australians and we want to make sure that it works and works well.

And for others who can't get there, of course, it'll be on TV and there'll be commemorations all over the country and there'll be services at Villers-Bretonneux, so there are lots of opportunities for people travelling overseas to go to services other than the peninsula on Anzac Day.

JUSTIN SMITH: Minister, just a logistical thing, if somebody is chosen and then for some reason they can't go, what would happen? I know you're talking about scalping is a problem, but would they be able to give it to somebody, another family member?

MINISTER: No. It's not transferable and that's been done deliberately. After I was sworn in I did make some changes to the rules because the way they were first put in, it would have been impossible for someone, you know, if someone had had a serious heart attack ten days out from 2015, from Anzac Day [cuts out]…

JUSTIN SMITH: Yeah. Are you there Minister? I think - Minister are you there? No I think we might have lost him, but I thank him very much for his time. Senator Michael Ronaldson who's the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, also the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC.

I'd say this to you though. If you're in the ballot and you miss out, go at another time because I went on the 90th anniversary which was spectacular, it was terrific.

Actually, General Peter Cosgrove spoke there at the time and it was really something. But I got a lot more out of it and I felt a lot more connected to what had happened when I went there on my own two days beforehand just to have a look and a wander around.

The dawn service is magnificent. I'm sure the 100th will be incredibly special, but if you miss out, just go. …

JUSTIN SMITH: Nathan, could do me a favour? Sorry, I really want to talk you, but please hold on the line there. The Senator is back.

Senator, thanks for coming back to talk to us.

MINISTER: I'm sorry, Justin. I have no idea what happened.

JUSTIN SMITH: No, that is fine. Look, we had pretty well wrapped up, but I did want to say to you I wish you all the very best for it. I hope it works out well. It's an incredible place and it's an incredible occasion. I think most people have full faith that everyone's on the right side here.

MINISTER:  And look, can I just finish by saying 11.59, the ballot closes tonight. If people get on to the DVA website, they can go - they'll be directed through to the Gallipoli ballot. So if people want to go, they've got about seven hours left, I think. They'll need to get a wriggle on.

JUSTIN SMITH: Alright, Minister, thank you very much.

Minister - Senator Michael Ronaldson, and Nathan, please hold on there. We'll come back and talk to you after this.

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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