THE HON MICHAEL DANBY MP
SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION,
SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR THE ARTS
MEMBER FOR MELBOURNE PORTS
Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (10:41): This afternoon members of this House will be honoured to attend the last post ceremony at the Australian War Memorial, now run by the very competent former Leader of the Opposition and former Ambassador to NATO, Brendan Nelson, which has come to mark the beginning of the parliamentary year.
It is particularly significant this year, which is the centenary of the landings at ANZAC. The ceremony will be dedicated to the decision makers of the nation 100 years ago as well as the thousands of Australians who paid the ultimate sacrifice in World War I. It is good that bipartisanship marks the commemoration of service of Australian troops both in the past and today.
On 19 October 1914 the first Australian troopship left from Victoria—from Port Melbourne in my electorate—to send the troops to fight in the First World War—for training in Egypt and Lemnos and then landing at Gallipoli. I am very proud our centenary grants have involved the local Turkish community in a special memorial that the Australian Turkish community is creating to those events, and with the Australian Greek community in a memorial for the very significant training by the ANZACs that took place in Lemnos. That day of departure from Port Melbourne was very iconic for Australia. Pictures of that departure from Port Melbourne adorn the wall of practically every RSL in Australia.
Port Melbourne in those days was pivotal to the war effort. Melbourne was the capital of Australia, and war materials were shipped from Port Melbourne to the far side of the world. 126,000 servicemen embarked from Port Melbourne. More than 19,000 out of the 60,000 who died in the First World War were from Victoria. My grandfather John Peek, later commissioned lieutenant, left for training in Egypt and landed in the first reinforcement at Gallipoli. He got his commission—proudly framed at home on our wall—on the battlefield in France, just as General Sir John Monash did. He led a long and honoured life and often recounted stories of ANZAC to his precocious grandson.
Gallipoli continues to impact on Australia—especially how Australian see themselves. Indeed, Russell Crowe’s directorial debut, The Water Diviner also shows us to the world. Crowe’s film was particularly sensitive and particularly typical of modern Australia that a greater understanding of our Turkish friends is emblematic of that film. If I may say so, I believe that the great Turkish actor Yilmaz Erdogan stole the show. He was by far the best actor in that wonderful production, which I urge people to go and see. The evocation of life in Turkey and the post-war difficulties there is very important for Australians to understand. I pay tribute to Brendan Nelson. This is a wonderful way to begin the centenary of Gallipoli.