Peter Costello

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Anzac Day

TRANSCRIPT

THE HON PETER COSTELLO MP
Treasurer

Interview with Neil Mitchell, 3AW

25 April 2003

 

SUBJECTS: Anzac Day

MITCHELL:

…the battlefields, how did it strike you, what did you think about when you were out there?

TREASURER:

You cannot help but be moved by the scene and the enormity of the challenge that faced the troops as they landed, looked up at cliffs which were defended. There were a lot of young Australians that were picking their way across the battlefields and looking for names and gravestones on the memorials. And you cannot help but feel this is a pretty special place for all Australians. It was in 1915 and still is today.

MITCHELL:

Were you emotionally moved by it?

TREASURER:

I don't think you can come here and not be emotionally moved because Gallipoli, and the landing of Gallipoli, not just because of the bravery of the troops but because of what it meant for Australia. It now says a lot about who we are and how we see ourselves and that moves you.

What also moves you is you see name after name of young soldier that may not even know where they are buried but they are just recorded in the memorials which is pretty moving stuff.

MITCHELL:

I think this is your first time there, isn't it? Did it live up to what you expected?

TREASURER:

Absolutely. You can't get an idea of the challenge until you see it. You know, they talk about Anzac Cove as a beach, well, that is all of about 10 metres wide and then you run into a huge cliff and there were snipers on these cliffs, and it is all so close. When you look at maps you get the idea that the troops were quite a way from each other. But they were almost on top of each other in some of these trenches and as it turned out, living there for nearly eight months. And the privation must have been enormous.

MITCHELL:

Why has this captured our national imagination, our spirit? It is almost our national day, why has it had this impact? Can you see that now that you have been there?

TREASURER:

I think that travel to Gallipoli is now becoming something for young Australians, almost something that they want to do to prove their commitment to their country. They see it as almost a sacred place for pilgrimage. And just watching the backpackers coming in and talking to them some of them have been travelling for years, some have just been travelling for weeks, but they get to Istanbul and they make for Gallipoli on Anzac Day and they want to feel part of something that is very uniquely Australian. And the thing that impresses me is that these are young kids and many of them are kids that, back home, may have dropped out, or back home probably wouldn't even go to an Anzac Day. But when they come across here they feel that this is a very important part of Australia and they want to be part of it.

MITCHELL:

Do you feel that it will be very much affected, the event today, by the terrorist threats?

TREASURER:

Well, there have been a lot of warnings, Neil, and we are warning people to be careful about their safety and the tourist operators and the bus companies are reporting that the crowds won't be as great as they have been in the past. But it is our view that this is such an important day for Australia it has got to go on and our Government is taking all steps which are reasonable to try and secure the arrangements here.

MITCHELL:

And what will your role be here in the Dawn Service and the ceremony?

TREASURER:

I will be speaking on behalf of the Australians and talking about what Anzac means to us and what the original Anzacs meant to us when they came ashore on the 25th April 1915.

MITCHELL:

Does it feel more timely because of what is, has been happening in Iraq?

TREASURER:

Well, it reminds you that there are always problems in the world. There are problems in the world today just as there were in 1915. You can't turn your back on them, you cannot walk away and pretend they are not there. And young Australians, even today, are serving in the Middle East because they want to make a difference, they want to address some of these problems. And you think back how their grandfathers and great-grandfathers would have felt the same in 1915. Thankfully in Iraq we have not taken anything like the casualties that Australians took at Gallipoli, but I think the same spirit is there. And you see the continuation coming down through the generations of Australian servicemen and women who want to serve and want to give on behalf of their country.

MITCHELL:

Yes, just finally I was talking to one of our F-18 pilots in Iraq last week. He used to march with his great-grandfather who was a Gallipoli veteran, and now he is carrying on that tradition and can't wait to get back to this country and be involved again.

TREASURER:

Fabulous to see the generations of Australians, a First World War and a Second World War, and Vietnam, and right down now to Iraq, people who have always answered the call and made a difference. And I think that is where the spirit of Gallipoli lives on, that this is now so much part of how we regard ourselves. But, it is a spirit which can inspire successive generations of Australians. I have seen that here in Gallipoli, how they are inspired, by not in a showy way, but in a quiet way, what a difference it means to them. And I think the original example will provide, it will provide inspiration for generations to come.

MITCHELL:

Well, it must be a privilege to be there. Mr Costello, thank you very much for your time today.

TREASURER:

Thanks very much for your time.

 

25 Apr 2003

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