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Transcripts

The Hon Michael McCormack MP
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC
Deputy Leader of the House
Federal Member for Riverina

TRANSCRIPT

Tuesday 23 January

Michael McCormack with Chris Smith 2GB Tuesday 23 January

E&OE


CHRIS SMITH:

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Michael McCormack joins me on the line right now. Thank you Minister very much for your time.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

A pleasure, Chris.

CHRIS SMITH:

Over 8,000 Aussies and 2,000 New Zealanders travelled to Gallipoli for the Centenary and now we can’t even manage close to a 1,000. What’s wrong?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Nothing wrong. I think you said in your intro that the focus has shifted and perhaps rightly so to Villers-Bretonneux and of course let's not forget the 50,000 plus deaths not just casualties but deaths that Australia, ANZAC indeed we lost on the western front. And the opening of the Sir John Monash Centre a magnificent museum is happening on the 24th of April, ANZAC eve, and I think the rightful and respectful and dignified focus has shifted to Villers-Bretonneux and I think it’s great that people are recognising the western front because for far too long ANZAC day has taken almost all of the focus and attention and rightly so.

CHRIS SMITH:

You mean Gallipoli?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Yes, Gallipoli, sorry. And I think that is it good and appropriate that Villers-Bretonneux will be getting the focus that it deserves because let’s not forget that second battle of Villers-Bretonneux which started on the 24th of April 1918, in which, you know, 2400 casualties from Australia and 9500 from Britain and of course 3500 from France. That was a very important and strategic victory in World War One, which ultimately led to the victory and of course declared on the 11th of November.

CHRIS SMITH:

I am hearing what you are saying, and that’s the reason why we are broadcasting from Villers-Bretonneux on ANZAC day. And I cannot wait to go through the Sir John Monash Centre and see the interactive projects that have been organised for there, however, if you look at the 164 going to Gallipoli, I’d imagine that 50 of those would be Government officials, so we’ve only got a 100 people going to Gallipoli? That’s a massive drop from what we can expect.

Aren’t you surprised?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

I am a little bit surprised but we may still get some more. So there are 250 registered and I would urge and encourage anybody wishing to go to any ANZAC day service in France or in Turkey to make sure they register with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

CHRIS SMITH:

So how do they do that?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, they just go onto the website and there is a contact number there. They can register their attendance via that online portal, but it would be a good opportunity for people to go to ANZAC day at Gallipoli. It’s not going to be as crowded and congested as previous years as you’ve mentioned and it is a sombre experience to go to Gallipoli. The day I was there it was wind swept, there was four people on the peninsula and it was one of the….. a dreadful day as a far as weather, but you never complain when you go to Gallipoli, cause you know, the dreadful conditions our ANZACs endured when they were there in 1915.

CHRIS SMITH:

Very true. It’s a small sacrifice by comparison. In terms of security I notice some of the cruise lines have pulled out of using one of the Turkish cities as an arrival point this month and since about November last year. Are there additional security fears in relation to Gallipoli we haven’t had before?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Look, the Australian and New Zealand Governments are working very closely with Turkish authorities. Of course security support is provided by the Turkish police, the Jandarma, the general command who are the service branch of the Turkish armed forces and military personnel and private security companies. Whilst people should always be alert not alarmed, there is adequate security provisions being put in place, and the Australian Government has certainly made sure that they are working very closely with Turkish authorities to ensure that happens.

CHRIS SMITH:

You’d hope that Gallipoli wasn’t losing significance because although it was an appalling strategic mess and a loss, a defeat and we lost so many young lives. It was a defining moment in Australian history abroad, wasn’t it?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Oh look, indeed. I certainly don’t think the fact even in small country towns where they line streets five and six deep, in little small dusty country towns, which normally have a population of 100-200. I know that ANZAC day will or the legacy and the respect will endure for as long Australians draw breath and that is appropriate.

CHRIS SMITH:

On a positive note, the numbers are looking terrific for Villers-Bretonneux and the Centenary. 4,400 at this point is it?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Ah, well as at 23 January which is today, there are more than 6,500 registered.

CHRIS SMITH:

Wow.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

For ANZAC services in France. Which is tremendous. And it’s great. Villers-Bretonneux and so many of those other battlefields that Australians back in the start of World War One recognise and couldn’t pronounce and now they’re coming part of culture and folk law. And the service and sacrifice on those French and Belgium battlefields is also very much right up there with ANZAC day at Gallipoli and certainly I know that this is appropriate that Villers-Bretonneux will now be recognised for what it is, the new interactive centre that is the Sir John Monash Centre is very much as the front and centre of it.

CHRIS SMITH:

I thank you for your time this afternoon.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Any time at all, Chris.

ENDS

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 4546). VVCS is a service founded by Vietnam veterans.