I heard about Dana Vale’s suggestion that a part of Mornington Peninsula in Victoria be used to recreate the Anzac landing site on the day we left to drive to Gallipoli. I had got a fairly scathing email from some war veterans about it, and it was the subject of a bit of comment amongst members of the delegation while we were on the bus on the way there.
During our visit to the Governor of Çanakkale we had quite a lot of media present and they were very keen to know our delegation’s views about the proposal and whether it might happen. They asked the delegation leader, Liberal Senator Alan Ferguson, what he thought about it. They knew that some of us were from other political parties, so they also asked Labor Senator Ursula Stephens and me what we thought. The local media seemed to think it might mean that the main Anzac Day ceremony might be held in Australia in future. We all reassured them that was never going to happen and tried to say in as polite a way as possible that the proposal was just one person’s idea which did not have wider government or public support.
Ironically, whilst the way Dana Vale reportedly expressed the idea did make it sound pretty daft, I think the notion of having another symbolic place where the story of the Anzac landings could be shown and commemorated is not totally without merit, for those who can’t make it all the way to Gallipoli.
There was also a question from the local media about the recent road widening at Gallipoli and whether we were concerned about it. As I wrote previously, my view is that while the roadwork is less than ideal, my major problem was the Australian government’s public dishonesty in how they dealt with the issue. The government members of the delegation didn’t seem to feel the roadworks were much of a problem and in any case at the end of the day it is Turkish land (not that anyone disputes that). Senator Ferguson kindly offered me the chance to express a view to the media as well, as my views differ a bit from his and I had been part of a Senate Committee inquiry into this. However, I felt it was not the place or the time for such comments. My concerns are a matter for internal political debate in Australia and I don’t want to risk them being misinterpreted as criticism of the Turkish authorities. Overall, the Gallipoli Park is still a marvellous area that is well presented, and we should be focusing on helping the Turks as much as we can in getting it even better for the future.
There has been a huge increase in recent years in visitors to the area. Indeed the numbers of Australians are dwarfed by the number of Turks and others who now visit the site. The number of Turks killed there also dwarfs that of all the other nations combined, spread over a much larger area than the area the Anzacs were in. Enabling so many visitors to travel into, around and out of a place with so many different burial sites and memorials spread over such a distance presents major logistical challenges, particularly given the desirability of also maintaining the hills, gullies and ridgelines that help tell the story of the battle. Overall, it is a matter for the Turks but if we can help them with resources and expertise we should, as I expect the numbers visiting will continue to grow for some time yet, and there is no doubt the surrounding facilities will need to be improved.