Mar 17, 2005

ANZAC Cove: Adjournment: Deakin Electorate: Blackburn Lake Sanctuary

ADJOURNMENT: Deakin Electorate: Blackburn Lake Sanctuary

17 March 2005

ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12.20 p.m.) —As shadow minister for heritage, today I wish to raise the issue of Anzac Cove. The government requested last year the massive roadworks now occurring in an area that is not just a heritage site but a sacred site for all Australians. The result of that appears to have been disastrous. Mr Les Carlyon, Australia’s best-known historian on Gallipoli, has stated:

… someone in the Government seems determined to turn Gallipoli into a circus—

He goes on to say—

apart from damaging the world’s best preserved World War I battlefield, the work was likely to disturb the remains of soldiers.

The ABC has reported that Ms Bernina Gezici, an Australian who operates tours in Turkey, said the following:

But what they’ve actually physically done now, is actually cut into the cliff face itself. So where you have the natural cliff, where you could stand on Anzac Cove and look up, and see exactly what the Anzacs saw in 1915—that no longer is there.

The Australian people deserve answers as to how this occurred. In a briefing yesterday, the shadow minister for veterans’ affairs was shown a letter from former Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dana Vale requesting the roadworks. There was no mention in that correspondence and request about the need to protect the heritage, the integrity and the sanctity of the site. It is beyond belief for most Australians that this could occur, and a number of questions need to be answered. Why was it more than a week after the first reports of human remains being uncovered during excavations at Anzac Cove before any Australian official attempted to contact historian and journalist Bill Sellars to verify the accuracy of his public comments? Why did Ambassador Jean Dunn not request that Bill Sellars accompany her to Anzac Cove to show her where the human remains had been found?

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has said that some additional repair work may be needed at Anzac Cove after excavations are completed. Why would repair work be needed if, as the Prime Minister has contended all along, officials are doing everything possible to preserve the heritage of the area and do as little damage to the site as possible? In late February and early March 2005, the head of the Office of Australian War Graves, retired Air Vice Marshal Gary Beck, was in Turkey and inspected the work at Anzac Cove. Air Vice Marshal Beck then wrote a report on the work for the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Ms De-Anne Kelly. Is the government going to make this report public?

Why did the Prime Minister state that one of the fragments of human remains found at the site had disappeared and the other had been covered up when, in fact, according to Bill Sellars, the bone was still there? Did the Australian government approve the plans to widen the road above Anzac Cove and to excavate back into the hills to a depth of 20 metres? Was this work originally requested by the government on this scale? Does the Australian government have any knowledge of further plans to widen the road that runs between the Australian memorial at Lone Pine and the New Zealand memorial at Chunuk Bair? How does the Prime Minister reconcile his claims that a thorough archaeological study of the area to be excavated was conducted, with statements in the Daily Telegraph on 12 March, by a Turkish expert who took part in one of the surveys, that the study was neither thorough nor scientific? Why did the Prime Minister say in December 2003 that the Anzac Cove site would be the first placed on the National Heritage List, when it still has not occurred—seven sites have been listed, but it has not.

The fact that this has been left vulnerable by a complacent government is a concern to all Australians. As historian Ross McMullin stated in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald:

Fancy authorising—not just authorising, but initiating—unnecessary changes to a unique place ostensibly to make it more comfortable for visitors.

When those changes irretrievably damage what the visitors have come so far to visit that’s not pragmatic. It’s preposterous.

So said Mr McMullin. The government should table all information relating to this. Instead, it has sought to gag debate and has even said it is regrettable that Labor has raised this issue.