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


Date: 10 March 2021
Time: 10:22 AM - 10:26 AM

Sky News Extra, Laura Jayes interview discussing Anzac Day commemorations amid the coronavirus pandemic

Station: Sky News Extra
Program: News Bulletin


Description: Minister for Veteran Affairs Darren Chester discusses Anzac Day commemorations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

LAURA JAYES: Anzac Day marches will be held in every capital city this year we're pleased to report, veterans had been left devastated by plans to scale back commemorations, despite the easing of COVID restrictions, the Prime Minister says, if people are allowed to protest, they should be able to pay tribute as well. Darren Chester is the Minister for Veterans Affairs, he joins us now live from Canberra. Darren Chester, thank you for your time. New South Wales was the one that we were concerned about in particular 5,000 veterans now allowed to march, but it shouldn't be even more than that should in anyone who wants to be allowed?

DARREN CHESTER: Well, great to be with you, Laura. And as you're well aware, last year because of the pandemic Australians had to commemorate Anzac Day at home, and they did that in a very dignified and respectful way with the light up the Dawn and people's driveways and we still commemorated the fallen in that manner. But this year, and the Prime Minister is right, we want to see as many people as possible able to gather and safely commemorate the day we need to be able to do that because it's a mark of respect for 102,000 Australians who lost their lives in Wars and conflicts. But it's all also a mark of respect and a chance for us to say thank you for your service to those who are still with us today to our veteran community, to the men and women who have served with such great distinction, particularly over the last 15 months again with operation bushfire assist and operation COVID-19 and the Fiji assist programme. We've got a lot to be thankful for, and we want to thank all those men and women in uniform on Anzac Day, and we want to see as many people as possible able to safely gather it's subject to the rules in each state, but we're working with the state authorities to try and ensure that we can have large gatherings this year.

LAURA JAYES: So what's the status at the moment? Will, Anzac Day look like it has before 2020?

DARREN CHESTER: Well, I think Laura with seven or eight weeks to go until the day, there's still a few moving parts out there in terms of getting final authority from different state jurisdictions but the indication I'm receiving from the RSLs around Australia and I also spoke to the RSL National President Greg Melick in recent days and he's very keen to see Anzac Day look very similar to the way it normally does. So there will be rules around social distancing, and we've got to accept that there'll be provisions put in place to try and put a gap between marchers and that type of thing. So I think that's understandable the circumstances. But at its heart, Anzac Day is about a moment of personal reflection and commemoration and showing our respects as individuals. While we do traditionally gather in large numbers, we still need to show our dignified and respectful recognition of all those men and women who serve in uniform so I would love to see large gatherings I'd love to see as many veterans as possible being able to march or gather at Dawn services but we need to work through the final details of the weeks ahead and it's only seven or eight weeks, but it's a long way in terms of the pandemic and as the vaccine is rolled out and conditions are improving on the ground right throughout Australia, I would expect that local authorities will be able to come to an arrangement with the RSL to make sure that the day goes off very successfully.

LAURA JAYES: Minister, if the vaccine had have been rolled out as promised, we wouldn't be having this conversation, would we?

DARREN CHESTER: Well, that's not true, Laura. I mean, Australia is in a very fortunate position where in relation to the management of the coronavirus pandemic, we were not in a position where we had to make rushed decisions about the rollout of the vaccine. Other countries were forced into an emergency situation where they had to rush the vaccine out into their communities, we were in a position where we could go through our normal approval authorities are normal processes to make sure the Australians could have complete confidence that the vaccine would be safe, it would be free and be available throughout the country, and that's what's happening right now. So in terms of those more vulnerable cohorts of the community, obviously, there are some veterans who fit in that vulnerable category, they may be older because obviously our world war two veterans in their 90s even our Korean and Vietnam veterans now in their 70s and 80s so there are always going to be issues around the more vulnerable members of our communities that whether we need to have large gatherings, this soon was always going to be questionable. So look, I think Australians understand that we are in a very fortunate position our nation in the way we've managed to the pandemic, local, state and federal authorities have worked strongly together, the community has been incredibly tolerant and incredibly supportive of trying to keep each other safe. We are in a strong position and we need to keep working constructively together to get through the social and economic challenges the pandemic has created for us.

LAURA JAYES: Perhaps that tolerance is being tested, we'll have to leave it there. Darren Chester as always appreciate your time.

DARREN CHESTER: Thanks, Lauren, all the best.

End of Transcript


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