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Transcript of doorstop interview: 13 February 2004: South Australia.

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DATE: February 13 2004

TITLE: Doorstop Interview, South Australia

Downer: Just to say something about newspaper reports that have appeared today about the possibility of an admission charge being introduced to the Gallipoli Peace Park. I’ve checked this out. I hadn’t heard that there was any proposal for an admission charge, and I’ve checked this out and I’ve been told by Turkish authorities that they don’t have plans for an admission charge for the Gallipoli Peace Park. I’m very pleased to hear that. I rang the Turkish Ambassador today and I said to the Ambassador that this would be a matter which

would cause great sensitivity and concern in Australia. Gallipoli means a great deal to Australians. We, as a Government, feel that it would be inappropriate for the Turkish Government to introduce charges for Australians to visit Gallipoli. The Ambassador said he would pass my message back to Ankara. But I have been informed from Turkish officials in Ankara that they’re not planning to introduce admission charges. They are doing some development work there, including building an entrance gate, and they may move towards building a reception centre, a museum, that kind of thing. Their plans aren’t fully developed. And it’s possible if they were to build, for example a museum, they may introduce a charge for admission into the museum. That’s a slightly different thing from charging people admission into the Park itself. So, I guess that would be understandable if they charged people something to go and visit the museum. But we think it would be inappropriate for them to charge for Australians going to visit the Gallipoli Peace Park. And I’ve been reassured by the Turks that they’re not planning to do that.

Journalist: (What has triggered the reports?)

Downer: I think there’s a combination of things probably, as is so often the case with media stories with the greatest of respect to a fine profession. But there is some construction work going on there and some gates are being built. And there’s consideration to further develop, for example building a museum or something like that, and thought has been given as to whether the Turks would charge admission to a museum, or a reception centre of some kind. And these two things have got confused. And the stories have emerged that they’re planning to charge for entrance into the Park - they’re not.

Journalist: There’s no war graves or cemetery set-up anywhere in the world that charges admission. Are you aware of any?

Downer: I’ve been to an awful lot of them over the years. I’ve been to the Western Front, I’ve been to war graves in North America, and in the Middle East very recently I went to a Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in Jerusalem. I’ve never seen a charge to go and

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visit war graves. There are I think charges to visit battlefields, for example I think you might find there’s a charge to visit the Waterloo battlefields south of Brussels. I’m a bit of an expert on this. I’ve never seen a charge for a war grave, no.

Journalist: (Comments by Jim Wolfensohn)

Downer: I met with Jim Wolfensohn during the course of this week, two days ago. And he’s a good friend of mine. We had discussions for about an hour about regional as well as global issues. We talked about the Middle East and those sorts of questions. But we also had a good discussion about Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands and what Australia is doing there, and how we’re working in with the World Bank. And I think he told me he was very

impressed with what Australia is doing in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. And I think co-operation with the World Bank in those two areas, as well as beyond that in the region is very important. I haven’t seen his remarks, but we don’t focus so much on, as you put it, “feel good” programs. What we concentrate on are outcomes. And we put a lot more

effort in the region into helping countries in our neighbourhood with improved governance. And I did talk to Mr Wolfenshon about that and I think he’s pretty much on side there.

Journalist: Did he talk to you about a moral leadership role?

Downer: We always try to do things according to a good and traditional moral code and I think Australia has provided tremendous leadership in the region over the last few years. I think Australians, not just the government particularly, but Australians should be very proud of what they’ve done in East Timor. I think that was right. And I think it was moral. It was controversial. I think what we’ve done in Solomon Islands and I think what we’re doing in Papua New Guinea I think it’s all right and I think it’s moral. I think it’s morally right to help people who are more disadvantaged than us and try to bring stability and peace and freedom to their countries. I think we have been moral about that, yes.

Journalist: Do you have a comment on the superannuation issue?

Downer: I don’t have anything fresh to talk to you about. I think people have a view about parliamentary pay and emoluments and if one of the major political parties breaks out and says it’s going to cut them the other will always match it. You will always find that. And I don’t think we want to have a national debate about parliamentary pay. I think we want to have a national debate about whether we should go ahead with a free trade agreement with the United States, whether our security policies are good, whether we’re doing the right thing in terms of managing our economy and bringing down unemployment. Look, these are the issues that get to the very core of stability and security and prosperity of our society, not

parliamentary superannuation. So, the Labor Party has decided that its big issue for the year is parliamentary superannuation. We match it. We’re not going to have a debate about it. Sacrifice a pawn on a minor issue and make sure that by playing well with our other pieces the nation’s interests are much better served than quibbling about parliamentary superannuation. There are better things for the Parliament to debate than those sorts of things.

ENDS……………………………………………………………………….February 13 2004