Professor Roberts, Colonel Cowper, my good friend Les Bryant representing the Lord Mayor, any other representatives of Local or State Government, Mr Kay, members of the RSL, ladies and gentlemen and, in particular, the McIvors.
If you ever talk about labours of love I think this has got to be it. I might tell you how I got mixed up in this. I was at a place called Point Lookout , many of you would know where Point Lookout is. It happens to be in my electorate, and as one of the first jobs I got to do after I was appointed Minister for Veterans' Affairs, I was unveiling a memorial to the hospital ship Centaur. The story, of course, not a lot of people know, particularly the younger people, and those of you who are here will remember 268 lives were lost, not combatant service people but ambulance people, nurses and that sort of thing, and they perished not all that far from Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island, near Brisbane. A tragic loss of life to which this memorial paid tribute. That's where I met them. I came up to them, or they came up to me, I can't remember, and they told me what they were doing. They told me they were going round the whole State taking photographs of every memorial and straight away I clicked to that, because you see memorials aren't just a piece of stone and a plaque, they are a remembrance, they are a living structure, if you like, of people who have given all that they can give in defence of their country.
What all these memorials do is that they remember the 100,000 people that have given their lives in defence of this country or in wars that Australia has been involved in, starting with the Boer War as Professor Roberts explained. So they are an important part of our history, an important part of our community, and I think as such need to be recognised as such. That's where you go every Anzac Day, that's where you go on Remembrance Day, and it has a special meaning. I thought to myself given that there are so many hundreds of war memorials and cenotaphs around the country isn't it great to be able to just grab them all and be able put them in one book, at least in Queensland.
Now a few ideas were spawned by me at that time and I thought I would let you know that today. As a result of that I thought to myself what better way of being able to remember and to be able to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II than to see if we can't do something about making these war memorials, these remembrance structures, part of the commemoration, and later on today, in about an hour's time, I will be officially launching what we call Operation Restoration, and I have got to say to the McIvors that that is where the idea for me to do this was born, because my mind was focused on that. I have been to many places around Australia and there are many of them that are aging, there are many of them that are in need of refurbishment, and there are many of them where you can't even read the names of the people that they are commemorating, and it seemed to me what a wonderful way of doing it. So we have ended up coming up with this fantastic project we called Operation Restoration.
Basically what it means is that it is good news for everybody, the long term unemployed will be put to work, we are spending up to $10 million dollars doing this job, and frankly if it is up to me I think we might even end up spending more. What we will do is that in every little town and village in Australia where they need to be refurbished, perhaps even resited, because most of them were built in the 1920s after World War I, as a result of which some of them are now at busy intersections and that sort of thing. I know in Cleveland in my own electorate we had to shift ours because of redevelopment. So there are all sorts of things we can do and at the same time we are giving a job to some of these people who have been unemployed for a long period of time.
We will involve the ex-service communities in those areas and more importantly will be involving the local authorities. We will be asking them to be the providers, if you like, and we will supply almost 90% of the money. So I think we might even get some takers from the local authorities. I mention that because it is very fitting that we are launching this book not only on Remembrance Day but on the day that all of Australia is talking about restoration of memorials.
Back to the McIvors. When I spoke with them and I had some contact with them they said to me "Is there some way that you can help?" and I said, "Of course, if I can". If there is anything I am sorry for it is my Department and my staff have let me down a little bit here, I'll have to tell them that, but I would have loved to have seen some of our banners for Australia Remembers here today because this to me is an Australia Remembers activity. That's why we've been involved, that's what we are doing, we are remembering the people that those memorials are representing. But it doesn't matter, I mean the spirit of Australia Remembers is still here. When I thought about it I said, "Well I can give them a little bit of money and it sort of underwrites the University of Southern Queensland Press, which is fine", I said, "but I would like to give some of these copies away myself." So I think I bought about 40 copies and put a few dollars in as well, and thank you very much for that acknowledgment.
It seemed what I was really interested in was a letter that Mrs McIvor sent to me. I want to just mention a few parts of that because I'm not going to read my prepared speech, I don't think there's any necessity to do that, but there were a couple of points this morning when I was coming up from Canberra in the plane that struck me. This is one of them. In her letter to me she said, "Today we received news from Bundaberg that as part of Australia Remembers the War Nurses Pavilion may be rededicated on 15 August 1995 following our request for information on it commencing in November 1992. It is situated right opposite the Base Hospital but the nurses did not know it existed. One of them recommenced Anzac Day remembrance services there in 1993, and in 1994 they were joined by ex-service personnel and Red Cross Workers. Now they plan to have the rededication and put up a sign so everyone passing on the new road leading to the second traffic bridge across the Burnett River will be aware of its presence."
These are the sorts of thing that their labours have done. These are the sorts of things that they are able to point out to the community because people forget. This is what Australia Remembers programme is all about next year, it is educating people as to what it is that they really should know, because otherwise the whole thing will be lost. And then she went on and she said, "We visited Mount Perry recently and found that following our enquiries about their war trophy, a rare World War I Turkish 87mm field gun captured by the Australian Light Horse, they had relocated it to the cover of a shelter shed. The Shire Clerk told us they had even considered disposing of it before we let them know how rare it was." So there you are, this could have been lost had it not been for the McIvors being able to say to the Shire Clerk, "Listen, you don't want to get rid of that, that is as rare as hen's teeth". You know, I think these are the sorts of things that we ought to be very thankful to the McIvors for doing.
The University of Southern Queensland Press - I'm well aware that books of this nature are not what you would call best sellers, they are not the sort of romantic fiction and all the rest of it that people like to read - so I want to thank them because I think they have done a good service here to the community. Not just to the ex-service community, to the community. To all of us, because it gives us a chance to be able to record our history and to show the sorts of things that had been built by the community over all Australia, in this case Queensland, to be able to remember those that paid the ultimate sacrifice. I think that that in itself is marvellous and I am glad that we do have publishing organisations like that that are prepared to do that, because I know that you know you are not going to be making any fortune out of this, but what you have done is made sure that we have that facility available, that resource available that will record part of our history, and you do it in many respects also as a bit of a labour of love, not as much as a labour of love as the McIvors, of course, but nevertheless still I think it is a great service and I want to thank you, Professor Roberts, and everybody associated with the University for being prepared to do that.
I, in launching this book, want to particularly thank the McIvors. I don't think people like them come along all that often. They have done it very well. I have only seen it for the first time today; the photographs, so many of them! I don't know about colour separation either, Colonel Cowper, but all I can say is whatever it is has certainly come out looking pretty good.
Now I'm not going to talk much longer because I don't really think there's a lot I need to say. The book speaks for itself. I was very honoured to be asked to launch this book, mainly because I am getting all wrapped up in this. I think it's a great job I have, I really do. Every time I do something I think it just gets better and better. But this particular job makes me very happy, simply because it is, as I say, a good publication and it is done well.
I might finalise by simply saying this: in her letter to me Mrs McIvor said "Part of the wording on the Battle of the Coral Sea Memorial dedicated at The Strand, Townsville, on 9 May 1992 summed up what we were attempting to do as two ordinary Australians, and I quote - "It was our desire to leave a lasting memorial for future generations who may need to be reminded that freedom is often bought at a terrible cost".
You have done that extremely well. Congratulations! I hope that people all round Queensland and Australia will get to know this is available, and I have great pleasure in launching your book, Salute the Brave. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.