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Wednesday, 19 November 1986
Page: 2480


Senator TATE —The Minister for Veterans' Affairs will recall frequent references by the Opposition to the proclamation ceremony for the Veterans' Entitlements Act, which Act provides for the well-being of veterans and their dependants. In view of the Opposition's interest in such matters, can the Minister advise whether any functions quite unconnected with the Memorial's operations or the well-being of veterans have been held at the Memorial during the term of the current Director? In particular, can the Minister advise whether a civil wedding ceremony was held in the Hall of Remembrance which, as honourable senators are aware, is the most sacred and deeply symbolic heart of the Memorial? Would the families of Australia's war dead be entitled to regard such a function as an insult to the memory of their loved ones? If there were such a function, can the Minister say who was present at the wedding and who authorised it?


Senator GIETZELT —Mr President, may I ask a question? Did I hear Senator Tate say that a civil wedding was held at the Australian War Memorial?


The PRESIDENT —Order! Does Senator Tate wish to readdress his question?


Senator GIETZELT —May I have that portion repeated?


Senator TATE —The question is in my handwriting. I do not know whether I can read it again. That portion stated:

. . . can the Minister advise whether a civil wedding ceremony was held in the Hall of Remembrance which, as honourable senators are aware, is the most sacred and deeply symbolic heart of the Memorial? Would the families of Australia's war dead be entitled to regard such a function as an insult to the memory of their loved ones?


Senator GIETZELT —I did hear correctly the first time. I am absolutely astounded and shocked at any suggestion that a civil wedding has been held at the Australian War Memorial. If it was held in the Hall of Remembrance it has defiled the very sacredness of that portion of the Australian War Memorial. It would be grossly sacrilegious to hold any civil ceremony of that nature in an area which is regarded, perhaps more than any other part of the Australian War Memorial, as being very sacred. If the assertions are true, I certainly give Senator Tate an assurance that I will immediately seek an explanation from staff of the Australian War Memorial about the issues that he has raised because, as the Senate will be aware, the Government has been criticised by the Opposition for holding a ceremony for the proclamation of the Veterans' Entitlements Act. Therefore, to suggest that there has been a civil wedding ceremony at the War Memorial defies imagination. I am absolutely appalled at that suggestion. I will seek an urgent response and reply to the honourable senator.