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The Hon Darren Chester MP
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel


Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Sky News, Kieran Gilbert interview discussing Anzac Day commemorations, easing of restrictions and vaccine rollout

Kieran Gilbert interview with Minister Darren Chester

Channel: Sky News

Program: News Day

Date: 6 April 2021

Time: 4:28 pm – 4:33 pm


Kieran Gilbert interview with Minister Darren Chester discussing Anzac Day commemoration, NZ travel bubble, Invasion of Greece commemoration and the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.


Kieran Gilbert: I’m joined now by the Veterans’ Affairs Minister, Darren Chester — thanks for your time — also Minister for Defence Personnel. The travel bubble with New Zealand opened just in time for Anzac Day. So good news.

Darren Chester: Yeah, it is good news. It’s exciting news, really. It gives Australians, I think, a bit of hope that we are making great progress in terms of managing the pandemic, and the vaccine rollout is getting to a point now there’s more confidence we can reopen some of these borders. And I think it’s fantastic particularly because it’s New Zealand. Obviously as we approach Anzac Day, our Kiwi cousins we fought alongside with at Gallipoli — it’s important that we can commemorate Anzac Day together, where possible. So I think it’s going to be an important occasion. I think people will take a lot of comfort from it.

Kieran Gilbert: We saw in Roshai’s report there the comparison with last year and the efforts that people took to commemorate Anzac Day. Is it going to be back to normality on Anzac Day 2021?

Darren Chester: Well, Kieran, at its heart Anzac Day is a moment of personal reflection. So we tend to take our time to, you know, think about those who have given so much to our freedoms we enjoy today. And last year we had to be pretty creative to do that. So people tended to do solitary commemorations last year. This year we’re going to see a lot more, like, normal. There’s going to be more chances for people to gather either at the marches or the dawn services. There’s still restrictions in place in different states as they — as they work towards their final number, but we’re going to see a lot more people being able to gather this year, and we still expect people to have the usual precautions around social distancing, and that type of thing, but I think it’s good. I think it’s really good that people can get together and recognise in a solemn and a dignified way the service and sacrifice of so many Australians over more than 100 years now.

Kieran Gilbert: You’ve got New South Wales saying that there will be exemptions for the march in Hyde Park, but at the same time thousands at the Easter Show. Why is there that difference?

Darren Chester: Well, each of the state public health authorities made their own decisions about these large public events. Primarily it’s around ticketing and being able to trace people. If, in fact, there was an outbreak at some later point, they — contact tracers could get back to those people and let them know that, you know, there may have been an area of some concern. So the different health authorities in different states have their own rules.

But what we’re seeing in these last few weeks is every state has gradually increased the numbers now to where it will be much more like a normal event. There will still be a lot of people — more vulnerable people, people who may have their own health concerns — who will choose to Light Up The Dawn, as the RSL is saying — Light Up The Dawn and do your own service at home. It doesn’t — you know, to me it doesn’t matter whether you want to gather in large numbers or in a solitary way. As long as, you know, pay your respects in a suitably dignified way and recognise that, you know, the freedoms we enjoy as Australians today were hard fought for. We say thank you for your service to those who served throughout our nation’s history, but also recognise those who are serving today. And in this last 12 months — I mean, whether it’s been bushfires or COVID or Operation Fiji Assist or the most recent flood events — our Australian Defence Force has been kept pretty busy and we really are thankful of their service.

Kieran Gilbert: Today, in fact, we commemorate 80 years since Australian forces joined allied attempts to push back their — the German army in Greece and Crete. And we’re talking about quite significant allied fatalities, too, in the operation.

Darren Chester: Well, some of the fiercest fighting of the war occurred — starting today — with the invasion of Greece. And Australian, British, Kiwi forces fought alongside the Greek army, unsuccessfully. The Germans overpowered them. And then Crete fell soon afterwards. But it’s interesting, isn’t it, when you think about it, that relationship of Australians fighting on foreign soil and then you think of the post‑war migration, the number of Greek families who moved to Australia. I mean, something like 160,000 people of Greek descent moved to Australia, a lot of them to Victoria, and that made an enormous impact on the culture —

Kieran Gilbert: Huge.

Darren Chester: — of our country. So, you know, it’s a sad day, I guess, today and a commemorative event, being the 80th anniversary, but also it did lead eventually to an incredibly strong relationship with Australia and the — and the country whose soil we fought on.

Kieran Gilbert: That is a good point. It’s had its positive legacy. And just finally, the vaccine rollout. The Prime Minister says it’s all about the European, you know, fact that they blocked three million doses to Australia. Will the pace pick up enough to help placate some of the concerns out there? Because right now it looks like things are going much more slowly than the government had promised.

Darren Chester: Well, all the reports I’m reading — and you’ll see in the same reports — is that the locally produced vaccine is going to ramp up and over the period of the coming weeks you’ll see more GP clinics and some community pharmacies being able to administer the vaccine. We’ve got to be careful we don’t talk ourselves down, though, here in Australia. I mean, there is nowhere else in the world you’d rather be right now than here in Australia, in terms of there are other countries now still dealing with massive outbreaks of the virus — still got, you know, high levels of fatalities. Here in Australia, through the good work of the community, state and federal governments working together, we’ve been able to avoid the worst the pandemic so far and got ourselves in a strong position economically to recover.

Kieran Gilbert: Minister Darren Chester, thanks for your time. Appreciate your time.

Darren Chester: Appreciate it.

End of Transcript

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