Apr 10, 2005

ANZAC Cove response too little too late


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 10 April 2005

Reports that a Delegation from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of the Environment and Heritage are only now being sent to Turkey to discuss the heritage issues around Anzac Cove highlight the Government’s negligence in this matter.

A Departmental Delegation being despatched after the damage has been done to Anzac Cove is a pathetic response. It is too little, too late.

The Delegation will seek a much weaker declaration than the Prime Minister’s unequivocal commitment of 2003 that the "Anzac site at Gallipoli should represent the first nomination for inclusion on the National Heritage List". On 19 December 2003 he said "I have no doubt the Turkish Government will give permission". This was intended to be a step towards World Heritage listing.

The disturbing photos and eyewitness accounts published in today’s Sunday Age by Russell Skelton show the destruction caused by the massive road works at Anzac Cove.

It is extremely worrying that even after media reports of the destruction at Anzac Cove no monitoring was put in place by the Australian Government.

It is even more worrying that since those media reports the pace of the work increased and extra earth moving equipment was brought in.

The desecration of Anzac Cove is a tragedy. Anzac Cove is more than a heritage site – it is a sacred site for all Australians.

Australia’s leading expert on Gallipoli, Les Carlyon, says "someone in the Government seems determined to turn Gallipoli into a circus" and he reminded us all that “apart from damaging the world’s best preserved World War I battlefield, the work was likely to disturb the remains of soldiers."

The Australian Government requested the destructive road works, in spite of archaeological surveys by Australians identifying the sensitive and vulnerable character of the site.

If John Howard was serious about protecting our heritage, he would have made sure there was a heritage management plan in place and that heritage experts and archaeologists monitored all the road works.

When Labor first raised these questions in Parliament on 10 March 2005, the Prime Minister stated “I think it is regrettable that the question has been asked”. What is truly regrettable is the ongoing Government neglect.