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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Page: 3539


Mr SNOWDON (LingiariMinister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Minister for Indigenous Health and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Centenary of ANZAC) (16:27): by leave—I would like to inform the House of progress with preparations for the centenary of the First World War—the 'Anzac Centenary'.

I am pleased to report that Australia is well placed for the Anzac Centenary. The Centenary will be one of the most significant commemorative events in our history. Central to this will, of course, be the dawn service in Gallipoli, in 2015. Another key event will be the Armistice Day, in 2018. And, of course, there will be many important dates to commemorate over the four-year centenary period.

The government is confident that the programs and initiatives identified so far will ensure that our nation will be able to proudly acknowledge the service of all servicemen and women.

I welcome the bipartisan approach taken by the opposition in regard to the Anzac Centenary. The government and the opposition, and all other members of parliament, recognise the significance of the Centenary for the nation.

On 4 August 2014—some 15 months away now—worldwide commemorations marking the centenary of the First World War will start.

For Australia, the Great War was tragic, profound and transformational. From a nation of some four to five million people at the time, over 400,000 Australians volunteered and more than 330,000 served overseas. More than 60,000 never came home. Alongside the carnage and the suffering, we were witness to courage, tenacity, resilience and mateship—values that helped shape a young nation.

During the Anzac Centenary, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to honour the service and sacrifice of those Australians who permanently linked these values and qualities with the name, 'Anzac'.

Planning by the government for the Anzac Centenary began on Anzac Day 2010 with the establishment of the National Commission on the Commemoration of the Anzac Centenary.

The commission—led by former prime ministers the Rt Hon. Malcolm Fraser PC, AC, CH and the Hon. Bob Hawke AC—reported to government in March 2011 and recommended the establishment of the Anzac Centenary Advisory Board to carry the baton forward by developing a blueprint for a program of Anzac Centenary initiatives.

Since its establishment in October 2011, the board has provided regular advice to the government on the development of a blueprint for the Anzac Centenary Program. The board has also undertaken extensive consultation with the states and territories and local communities. On 21 April 2013, the government released the board's report on a program of initiatives to commemorate the Anzac Centenary. The board report put forward 25 recommendations, all of which the government was pleased to accept.

I would like to thank the board and its chair, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston AC, AFC (Ret'd) for their excellent, well-considered document. This report will be fundamental to shaping how we see the Anzac centenary and how we commemorate it.

I want to turn now to the details of the proposed Anzac Centenary Program. The centenary will be a time when we commemorate a century, or more, of service and sacrifice by Australian service men and women in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations in which Australia has participated, and continues to participate. It will be a time when we will honour generations of Australia's service men and women, past and present, and when we will see the continuity and the strength of the ANZAC inheritance. It is very much with us today, and will be with us into the future.

In delivering the report to government, Air Chief Marshal Houston noted that unfortunately we live in a world that is far from peaceful and Australian servicemen and service women will continue to face dangers. Learning from the experience of Australians at war, and their families, over the last century or more remains vitally important and relevant today.

The national flagship initiative for the centenary will be a travelling exhibition. This will be an exhibition unlike anything most Australians have seen before. The government is determined that it will bring the Anzac centenary to rural, regional and urban communities across the country. It is intended that the travelling exhibition will immerse participants in simulations of the sights, sounds and objects of the major battlefields in which Australians fought. The exhibition will travel throughout Australia during the centenary period, potentially meeting 85 per cent of the population. The government has provided $10 million in seed funding for the travelling exhibition to ensure its planning can proceed. I am confident that the private sector will wish to contribute substantially to bring this initiative to fruition.

Community participation will be the main way we ensure the Anzac legacy is passed to the next generation. This is one of the main aims of the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program which the government announced in early 2013. The program will provide $100,000 to each of Australia's 150 federal electorates, from 01 July 2013, to support communities commemorating the centenary in ways of their own choosing. Community involvement in developing projects to be considered for funding is already well underway. I encourage honourable members to work with their communities to generate ideas and make the most of this initiative.

Another iconic project is the protection and preservation of the Australian submarine HMAS AE2. Many Australians are probably unaware that the largest Australian relic from the Gallipoli campaign was not located until 1998 and lies, where it sank, at the bottom of the Sea of Marmara in present-day Turkey. It was scuttled by its crew after being struck by fire from an Ottoman torpedo boat. Its role and fate are not well understood. This vessel is at risk of damage and deterioration. The funding provided to the centenary program will enable a sound level of the protection and preservation to be undertaken.

An educational campaign aimed especially at schoolchildren will also be funded. The government is also providing initial funding to the ABC to develop, in conjunction with Screen Australia, 10 hours of programs using a range of stories and storytelling devices to raise awareness of the Anzac centenary.

Funding is also being provided to make The Australians at War Film Archive accessible to all Australians. This archive consists of interviews with over 2,000 Australians who participated in wars and peacekeeping operations in which Australia has been involved since the First World War, covering the battlefield and the home front. We will ensure that the entire archive is digitised and preserved so that it will be easily accessible, including for educational research purposes. We will also develop the minimum 100 personal stories for broadcast during the centenary using this extraordinary archive. These stories will blend human interest with a broad sweep of history.

The government has also agreed to fund the National Archives of Australia to digitise a sample of the repatriation records of those servicemen and service women who survived both Gallipoli and the Western Front. These Australians fought in some of the most atrocious battles of the war and had then to re-engage in civilian life, often carrying physical, emotional and mental wounds. This project will assist new research and I am sure will be of considerable interest to the families and descendants of those individuals who were repatriated.

In recognition of the importance of the education and research throughout the centenary period, we will establish a history grants program for research related to the Anzac centenary. This will not only contribute to the academic research but also be open to community and family-based research. We have also committed funding to ensure we properly commemorate the role of Albany in Western Australia as a departure point for the first convoys to Egypt and Gallipoli. The Australian government has already provided over $6.5 million for the development of a physical and online ANZAC interpretive centre at Albany. Now the government will provide $2.7 million toward an event to commemorate the gathering and departure of the first convoy from Albany that occurred on 1 November 1914. This funding will be in addition to the contribution to the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Army and possibly vessels from New Zealand and other navies to the commemoration. The event is intended to be a curtain-raiser for the Anzac Centenary Program and will be broadcast nationally.

While the Anzac Centenary is a time to honour our Australian servicemen and women, past and present, it should also be a time to look broadly and honestly at Australia's military experience. This means recognising where facets of service and sacrifice have been underplayed in the past, and working to remedy the situation. The key role that Australian troops played on the Western Front throughout WWI has often been overshadowed by the events at Gallipoli. Australian troops in Europe played a crucial role in the eventual defeat of the Central Powers—and paid a terrible price for doing so. Over 75 per cent of Australia's war dead from the First World War died on the Western Front. Furthermore, we cannot forget the tragedy in the months and years that followed, when thousands of Australian troops died here at home from their wounds, putting the actual toll closer to double the number who died during the conflict.

One of the key ways we are recognising our relationship with the Western Front is the Australian Remembrance Trail. The trail was initiated by my predecessor, the Hon. Alan Griffin, and is being developed in partnership with local authorities in France and Belgium. This is an excellent initiative. The Australian government is contributing $10 million towards the trail, which will link the sites of the most significant Australian battles along the Western Front. Considerable progress has already been made across the various locations. It will build upon the efforts of local communities to commemorate Australian service.

This project highlights the collaborative approach we have taken to working with our international counterparts in commemorating the First World War. The government has forged strong relationships with the governments of Belgium, France and the United Kingdom in planning for the events that will mark the 2014-2018 period in Europe. In April, I met with my French and UK counterparts and signed a MOU with French minister Kader Arif that will provide a framework for Australia's participation in commemorations in France. This mirrors the MOU I signed with the Belgian government last year.

The government has now made a number of funding commitments to the Anzac Centenary. These include $83.5 million in the 2012-13 budget, notably $27 million for the refurbishment of the Australian War Memorial's First World War galleries and refurbishment of war graves. The government has committed a further $25 million in this year's budget. Our total commitment to the centenary program is now in excess of $140 million for a diverse range of projects and initiatives. This is a substantial commitment. To supplement this commitment, we will establish an Anzac centenary public fund to collect corporate donations. I commend the significant role being played by Mr Lindsay Fox in encouraging corporate donations. I call on corporate Australia to contribute to the fund and participate in this unique commemoration to help leave an enduring legacy.

There is much to be done to implement the Anzac Centenary Program but the government is well advanced. States and territories are also progressing their initiatives, as are local communities with their involvement. Members of parliament will start submitting their Anzac Centenary local grant applications at the end of this month. I welcome the continuing role of the Anzac Centenary Advisory Board as ambassadors, informing the community about the program of Anzac Centenary events and assisting in the successful delivery of the program by providing strategic advice to government.

While the focus of the Anzac Centenary will be on domestic activities, the desire of Australians to participate in commemorations marking the centenary of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli is great. The initial landings by the Anzacs occurred just before dawn on 25 April 1915, when Australians came ashore and engaged the Turkish defenders on the ridges inland. By the end of the day, more than 20,000 Australians and New Zealanders had been put ashore, mainly in a small bay to the south of Ari Burnu that soon became known as Anzac Cove. More than 2,000 Australians were killed during the first day and it has been estimated the opposing Turkish units suffered around the same number of casualties. During the eight-month campaign our men fought bravely, with many paying the ultimate sacrifice in the numerous battles including Krithia at Cape Helles, as well as in the August offensive battles at Lone Pine and the Nek.

Although the Gallipoli campaign will forever be remembered in our history as a tragic event resulting in the great loss, often needlessly, of young lives, we should also recall the successful evacuation that occurred without the loss of a single life. We will always remember the more than 50,000 Australians and 8,500 New Zealanders who served at Gallipoli. By the end of that Gallipoli campaign, 8,709 Australians and 2,721 New Zealanders had died, with thousands more casualties. It is also important that we as a nation acknowledge the extensive loss of life suffered by the Turkish people throughout the Gallipoli campaign. More than 56,000 Turkish soldiers were killed, some 107,000 were wounded and another 11,000 were taken prisoner during the Gallipoli campaign. We should never forget that the Anzacs and the Turks held each other in quite high regard during those eight months. Over the years, that high regard has turned to friendship, camaraderie and mateship between our peoples.

In 2015 the Anzac Day commemorations at Gallipoli will follow the same program as in any other year. We rely very much on the support and cooperation of the Turkish authorities and we should never underestimate the extent of their commitment to this event each year. For example, they ensure the security of the site, coordinate access to the peninsula and provide health services for foreign visitors. The Anzac commemorative site, where the dawn service is held, is located in the Gallipoli historical national park—a rugged and remote part of Turkey. The site is surrounded by thick scrub, steep terrain and bounded by the Aegean Sea. It is subject to heritage and conservation restrictions and is extremely constrained and there is no opportunity for expansion. To ensure the safety of visitors, extensive investigations of the Anzac commemorative site have been conducted.

In January this year, the Turkish government confirmed that the maximum number of attendees for the Anzac Day commemorations at Gallipoli in 2015 is 10,500 people. This was reaffirmed to me in April this year, after the Anzac ceremonies, during meetings with Dr Ismet Yilmaz, the Turkish Minister for National Defence, and Dr Ibrahim Kalin, Deputy Undersecretary of State and Foreign Advisor to the Prime Minister, and also with the Governor of Canakkale, Gungor Tuna.

The Australian government, of course, wants to see as many Australians as possible having the opportunity to attend the Dawn Service. However, we need to ensure that the service is solemn, dignified and safe for all those that attend. On that basis, we have agreed with the government of New Zealand that 8,000 places of the 10,500 places will be available to Australians and 2,000 places will be available to New Zealanders. This distribution is based on the relative number of casualties suffered by Australia and New Zealand during the campaign.

In September last year, the Australian and New Zealand governments announced that a ballot would be held to allocate attendance passes to people wishing to attend the Anzac Day centenary commemorations at Gallipoli. A ballot is seen as the most fair, equitable and transparent process for allocating attendance passes to this significant occasion.

Public forums were held in 36 locations across Australia to discuss what we should do about the Centenary of Anzac. We had a website which was used for those people who wished to make online comments. The views of Australians have helped inform the government's decisions on the ballot process. It was also clear from the feedback that many people believe priority should be given to the sons and daughters of Gallipoli veterans and other direct descendants.

People will be able to register for the ballot from 1 November 2013. A concurrent ballot will be run in New Zealand. The ballot will provide for special representatives, including:

War widows from the First World War, of whom we believe there are around 200 still alive;

direct descendants of those who served in the Gallipoli campaign, with first preference for the sons and daughters of Gallipoli veterans;

veterans with qualifying service or who have deployed on operations outside of Australia, whether they are warlike, non-warlike or peacetime operations; and

400 secondary school students and their chaperones with their selection managed by the states and territories.

For Australia generally there will be 6,000 passes. Those successful in the ballot process will have around 12 months to arrange and pay for the costs of their travel to Gallipoli.

Attending the annual Anzac Day commemorations at Gallipoli in any year is a truly moving and unique experience for any Australian. Visiting Gallipoli around Anzac Day in 2015 will be the busiest and most difficult time to explore the area. Australians are encouraged to consider visiting Gallipoli throughout the year, which would allow for easier access to the battlefields and cemeteries and provide greater opportunities for personal reflection.

It should never be forgotten that we Australians are invited to Gallipoli each year to commemorate Anzac Day, thanks again to the people of Turkey. It is by the goodwill of the government and the people of Turkey that so many Australians are welcomed so warmly each year. I would like to take this opportunity to thank, on behalf of the Australian people, the Turkish authorities and people who help us to stage the Anzac Day services. For example, the Gendarma, the 2nd Army Corps and the Straits Commander do an exemplary job in managing the safety and security of thousands of people who gather each year. I think we also owe a great deal of thanks to the people of the Canakkale region and the Governor of Canakkale, Gungor Tuna, and his predecessors for their support and goodwill.

Australians are incredibly fortunate to have the friendship of the Turkish people. Each year around Anzac Day, we proudly remember that from those days of war, almost a century ago, a friendship has grown strong. On behalf of the Australian government, I wish to extend Australia's appreciation to the Government of the Republic of Turkey for the ongoing cooperation and support provided and for allowing us to hold commemorations on a yearly basis on Turkish soil. Our long-standing relationship and combined dedication to preserving and protecting the Gallipoli battlefields is paramount to the commemoration of the service of our forebears.

I present a copy of my ministerial statement, Planning for the ANZAC Centenary 2014-18, and ask leave of the House to move a motion to enable the member for Fadden to speak for 22 minutes.

Leave granted.

Mr SNOWDON: I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent Mr Robert speaking for a period not exceeding 22 minutes.

Question agreed to.