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Wednesday, 18 February 2004
Page: 25098

Mr LINDSAY (2:01 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is the minister aware of further reports in today's press that Turkish authorities were planning to charge a fee for entry to Gallipoli Peace Park?

Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —I thank the honourable member for Herbert for his question and I would like to say how much I am looking forward to going to his electorate next week. He and I will be able to have a civic conversation with the people in Townsville, but it will be a civic conversation with substance, not just empty rhetoric and cliches. I appreciate the honourable member's concern about Gallipoli. Gallipoli does have a special place in the hearts of all Australians, and thousands visit every year, so we as a government would be very opposed to any measure that would interfere with access to Gallipoli by Australians through the introduction of a charge to get into Gallipoli Peace Park.

There is a report in one of our newspapers today suggesting that Turkey is indeed planning to impose a charge. I took the opportunity this morning to speak with the Turkish Ambassador, following up on a call I made to him last Friday. The Turkish Ambassador has already spoken with officials in Ankara, not only in the foreign ministry but in the forestry and environment ministry. In both cases, they have told him that there are no plans whatsoever, either on the part of the foreign ministry or on the part of the ministry for forestry and the environment, to introduce a fee to access Gallipoli Peace Park. I have instructed the Australian Ambassador to Turkey, Mr Philp, to continue to make representations to the Turkish government on this front, because I do not think Australians want to be charged to access Gallipoli Peace Park. I am very reassured by what the Turkish Ambassador has said, which is that the reports we have seen in the newspapers in the last few days are wrong and that Turkey is not proposing to introduce a fee for access to the park.