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Thursday, 26 June 2008
Page: 3503

Senator RONALDSON (12:58 PM) —I want to say a couple of words on the Military Memorials of National Significance Bill 2008. I thank Senator Minchin for his kind words but I can assure the chamber that this was a massive community effort and, while I am reluctant to talk about commercial involvement in a project such as this, I do want to pay enormous tribute to the Tattersalls organisation for putting some $1.1 million into this project. Quite frankly I think we should give credit where credit is due: we would not have had this project the way it is unless it were for the involvement of Tattersalls.

I vividly remember Mr Scott from the other place visiting Ballarat when he was Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. When shown the plan, he said: ‘Why are you only doing this? Why aren’t you doing a bit more? Why aren’t you making this bigger?’ He was the inspiration for David Baird OAM, the chairman, who is an ex-POW, and others to go ahead and build this magnificent memorial. It is visited by tens of thousands of people every year. It is a very moving memorial, and I would encourage everyone to see it. I know a number of my colleagues have done so.

It is with reluctance that I talk about this memorial of national significance because I do not want in any way to debase what has been done. But it would be unreasonable to not place on the public record that you cannot go to the people of Ballarat with a notion that they were going to be delivered a national memorial, because that could never have happened. The Prime Minister must have known that that could not have happened. I do not know whether ‘duplicitous’ is the right word. But it is inappropriate when you know or should know that something cannot be delivered.

We have known since the first sod was turned that this was a memorial of national significance. We were talking about this as a memorial of national significance before the first sod was turned. So why would someone then go out and say it was going to be a national memorial, which it is not and can never be? No-one would like more than me for this to be a national memorial. No-one would want it more than me for this to be a national memorial. It was very obvious to me, it was very obvious to the committee and it was very obvious to a lot of people before the event that it could not be a national memorial. Could it be a memorial of national significance? Absolutely. Was it treated by the former government as a memorial of national significance? Absolutely.

Was it treated as such by the people of Ballarat? In fact, it was not just the people of Ballarat. Fifteen thousand people from Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and New South Wales came down to the opening of this magnificent memorial. This may surprise some people, but it was stinking hot in Ballarat on the day this memorial was opened. It was stinking hot. I reckon it was about 42 in the waterbag. It was a hot, hot day. There were 15,000 people at the opening of this magnificent memorial attended by the Governor-General. Can we please celebrate this remarkable memorial to some remarkable people, but can we please be honest about what the description is? It is a memorial of national significance but it was prior to this bill. It has never been, nor can it ever be, a national memorial due to legislative reasons. I support this bill and I am proud of the people of Ballarat who made this extraordinary contribution to this country.