The threat of blow-out costs for RSL sub-branches to allow Bega Valley veterans to march on Anzac Day is an attack on democracy itself.
What price our right to honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice in wars around the world? What price our right to honour those who returned changed forever by what they had experienced?
The price it seems is several thousand dollars per march to be paid by the veterans - who have already given so much - and their organisations, the RSL sub-branches.
And why are we in this situation?
Transport for NSW has changed the traffic management rules for events requiring road closures, including Anzac Day marches. Sub-branches can no longer use service organisations to man barriers as accredited traffic controllers are mandatory, and the also need more of them.
Take for example the situation for the Merimbula dawn service where the Merimbula sub-branch has, for many years, used four signs with two 'road closed' barricades manned by Rotary volunteers and overseen by the police. Now council says five signs and two closed road barricades, both manned by two traffic controllers on each barricade, are needed.
At Wolumla five 'road closed' signs used to suffice but now multiple traffic controllers, 15 signs and nine barricades are shown in the latest plan.
Council and Transport for NSW (TfNSW) have issued statements saying they want to see Anzac Day marches go ahead, but neither party has budged on their position about traffic plans. The only thing they have done is to quickly pass the hot potato to each other, with council saying it doesn't make the rules and TfNSW saying it's up to council how it deals with local roads.
Council has said it "no longer has the manpower nor budget to assist with traffic controllers for any events" and has given as much help as it can.
So does anyone think it's reasonable or fair to expect veterans and their sub-branches to pay thousands of dollars to march in small country towns? Bega RSL sub-branch for example, is looking at $10,000-$11,000 for the Bega, Tathra and Bemboka services.
It's a question for the minister - either the Minister for Local Government Wendy Tuckerman, given council's obvious financial dilemma, or Transport, and also Veteran Affairs Minister David Elliott, who might appreciate a quick and easy win.
Whoever it is, please just sort this out.
- Denise Dion
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