News National PM rules out changes to Villers-Bretonneux Anzac Day service

PM rules out changes to Villers-Bretonneux Anzac Day service

dawn service villers-bretonneux
The 2018 service at Villers-Bretonneux Memorial. Photo: AAP
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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has overruled a decision by one of his ministers to cancel the Anzac Day dawn service on the Western Front in France.

This morning, Veterans’ Affairs Minister Darren Chester said he would move the Anzac Day service at Villers-Bretonneux from dawn to 10am after local French authorities said they would like the service to start later.

“We expect it will see more local schoolchildren be able to attend, for example,” he said.

“[We] expect we may see more older people to be able to attend.”

But just an hour later on ABC Radio Melbourne, that was overruled by Mr Morrison.

“That’s not going to happen, I spoke to the Minister this morning, the service will go ahead at dawn as usual,” he said.

“I understand that the Villers-Bretonneux service, the dawn element of that, is different to what it is at Gallipoli. I mean it was a dawn landing in Gallipoli.

“That said, there is a tradition that has developed in recent times about that service in Villers-Bretonneux and I want to ensure the integrity of that is kept.

“Because the people I care most about on this is our veterans and how they feel about it.”

dawn service villers-bretonneux
Prince Charles sits between French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (left) and then Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull at the 2018 service. Photo: AAP

Mr Chester subsequently released a statement saying he would consult ex-service organisations before considering any further changes to Anzac Day commemorations in France.

“When it comes to sensitive matters like this, which are at the heart of our entire nation, it is vital that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs conducts full consultations with ex-service organisations and the general public before they make any changes,” he said.

“That’s what the public expect, it’s what the Prime Minister and the Government expect.”

A dawn service has been held at the site only since 2008.