Oct 13, 2005

Adjournment Debate: ANZAC Cove

Adjournment Debate, ANZAC Cove

13 October 2005

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (4.45 pm)— There is no greater symbol of the Howard government’s contempt for our heritage than its request for roadworks at Anzac Cove. In 2003, the Prime Minister promised to protect Anzac Cove. He promised to make Anzac Cove the first listing on the new National Heritage List.

On 18 December 2003, the Prime Minister said:

“It seems to me … entirely appropriate that the Anzac site at Gallipoli should represent the first nomination for inclusion on the National Heritage List. And, although it’s not on Australian territory, anyone who has visited the place will know that once you go there you feel it as Australian as the piece of land on which your home is built.”

Instead of protecting Anzac Cove, this government and this Prime Minister requested roadworks which have damaged the site forever. The Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee inquiry into matters relating to the Gallipoli Peninsula, which reported today, have confirmed this.

The inquiry found:

… that significant sites of the ANZAC campaign … have been lost forever. The coastal road has been widened beyond the extent necessary to ensure visitors’ safety; spoil has been deliberately dumped onto the beach below; there were no environmental measures put in place to minimise erosion from the construction…

The inquiry also found:

… Australian authorities and the Australian government were complacent in their response to allegations and evidence that this damage was occurring.

The Howard government’s complacency continues to this day. In their minority report, government senators state:

… the Australian Government has, at all times, acted appropriately and correctly.

How exactly is the trashing of this sacred site to all Australians acting appropriately and correctly? It is an extraordinary statement given the government, firstly, requested the road works and, then, failed to properly monitor the project. This complacency now threatens other elements of our Anzac heritage.

Further roadwork upgrades are planned for Anzac Cove, but the government has already dismissed calls by the Senate inquiry for: … remedial action before the onset of winter to stabilise and restore the vegetation at ANZAC Cove.

To some extent the damage is done. What Australians saw for 90 years when they went to that site was that the integrity of the site remained largely the same as it was in 1915. When you went there you could get that sense of experience. Diggers who went back there certainly have said that that is the case, as have historians such as Les Carlyon, as have archaeologists and as have the RSL.

But the government must ensure that it does not get worse. It must ensure that this remedial action is undertaken before the onset of winter to ameliorate the scarring caused by the roadworks and to minimise future erosion. Proper heritage management plans must be put in place in partnership with the government of Turkey.

Clear guidelines must be put in place for the future management, recovery, reburial or storage of human remains at Gallipoli which were uncovered by these roadworks. The Howard government must end its complacency on this issue and it must learn from its mistakes. It must ensure that no further damage is done to one of our most sacred sites.

Mr Speaker, you may well recall that when I first raised this issue of the degradation of this site in the parliament the Prime Minister’s response was to say arrogantly that it is regrettable that the question was even asked. Thank goodness the opposition did raise it or it could have been even worse. But now is the time for complacency to end. It should take on board the Senate inquiry recommendations and ensure that no further damage is done. It should get serious about protecting Australia’s heritage.