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Thursday, 25 October 2018
Page: 11191

Centenary of the First World War Armistice

Mr LLEW O'BRIEN (Wide Bay) (15:06): My question is to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. I refer the minister to the centenary of the Armistice, on 11 November this year. Will the minister update the House on the importance of commemorating the service and sacrifice of Australia's service men and women? What are the actions the government is taking to support our veterans community?

Mr Rob Mitchell interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for McEwen will cease interjecting.

Mr CHESTER (GippslandMinister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Defence Personnel, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and Deputy Leader of the House) (15:06): I do thank the member for Wide Bay for his question, because he understands—indeed, I believe all members understand— the importance of commemorating the centenary of the Armistice to end the Great War. Remembrance Day is about respect and recognition. We wear our red poppies and we pause to remember the fallen. I urge all Australians to attend a local service, to wear a red poppy and to pause for one minute at 11 am on 11 November. In that minute's silence, we remember the service and sacrifice of the 416,000 Australians who enlisted; the 62,000 who never made it home; and the thousands more who returned, carrying the scars with them for the rest of their lives. We thank them for their service. We thank their families and their loved ones for their service, too. I've said before in this place that in many ways the home front has been as important as the front line, throughout our history, in caring for our Defence Force personnel.

On Remembrance Day, the commemorations will be supported by our government both here and abroad. Right here in this place, Mr Speaker, you and I viewed earlier today 30,000 poppies which are on display above the Marble Foyer—each poppy handcrafted with love, in remembrance. I thank members opposite who I know have visited the War Memorial as well to see the 62,000 poppies on its grounds, each of which represents one person killed in the Great War. Each poppy is unique and individual in its own way—part of the more than one million poppies that have been made inspired by Lynn Berry and Margaret Knight, who first set out to crochet just 120 poppies for the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.

These individual poppies are a reminder to us all. We often think of our ADF members as some sort of homogeneous group. We tend to see only the uniform and think that perhaps they're all the same, but they're not. They're all individuals—someone's brother, someone's sister, someone's husband, someone's wife, someone's son, someone's daughter, someone's best mate. To our current members of the Australian Defence Force, I simply say: on behalf of all members in this place, thank you for your service; you help keep us safe in an often challenging world. On Remembrance Day, as we pause to remember the fallen, we should also pay our respects, I think, to the current serving men and women of the Defence Force, and their families.

It was former Prime Minister Billy Hughes who made our obligations clear at the end of World War I, when he said:

Our heritage, our free institutions of government—all that we hold dear—are handed back into our keeping stained with the blood of sacrifice.

Surely not only we, their fellow citizens, but Australians throughout the ages, will treasure for ever the memories of those glorious men to whom the Commonwealth owes so much, and will guard with resolute determination the privileges for which they fought and suffered.

We honour the fallen of 1918 by the way we choose to live our lives in 2018. For a century, we have kept our promise and we have remembered them. Lest we forget.

Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (15:10): On indulgence: I acknowledge and associate the opposition with the remarks of the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, and I acknowledge, too, the poppy display around the parliament, which connects the parliament to the Australian War Memorial.

It was a hundred years ago that our nation made a promise: we will remember them. Lest we forget. We carve that promise into our grand national memorials in our capital cities and the stone of smaller and humbler monuments in country towns and coastal villages. We made that promise to the young Australians who died, to the ones who were wounded and to the ones who came home forever changed. And ever since, around our nation, at the going down of the sun and in the morning we repeat it to ourselves and to each other.

The first Anzacs are all gone. Even those left to grow old have passed away. But we will never forget their sacrifice or their service. We must continue to give our nation's century-old promise new meaning by doing everything we can to help the next generation of Australian veterans with their return to civilian life. We will remember them. Lest we forget.

Mr MORRISON (CookPrime Minister) (15:11): I rise, on indulgence, on two matters. Firstly, I thank the Leader of the Opposition and the Minister for Veterans' Affairs for their words. I can think, frankly, of no better demonstration of the spirit of those who we lost 100 years ago than what we've seen in Australia over the past week in the spirit of those who've been competing in the Invictus Games in Sydney. It has been truly remarkable. Jenny and the girls have been out there this week seeing the events, and they've told me stories about courage and determination from all the athletes from all the countries that are represented there. I want to thank Sydneysiders for getting behind the games and recognising all those great athletes. I think that's a fitting tribute as we go into Armistice Day.

On another note, I wish to congratulate the member for Curtin. I would like to recognise that she received yesterday an honour from the United States embassy. The member for Curtin was awarded the inaugural US Mission Award for Leadership Excellence, established to honour Eleanor Roosevelt's legacy and lifelong crusade for equality, social justice and human rights. I commend the member for Curtin.

I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.