The director of the Australian War Memorial is pleading with French authorities to rethink building a proposed wind farm near the site of one of the most significant battles in Australian military history.
There are plans to build six turbines near the scene of two 1917 battles during World War I that led to thousands of Australian casualties.
War Memorial director and former Liberal defence minister Brendan Nelson said Australia should be consulted before any plans to build the wind farm go ahead.
“I would like to think a sane and sensible government, in this case on the French side, would reflect on the fact that the very important contemporary bilateral relationship not in any way be jeopardised,” Dr Nelson said.
“I think what also would be helpful would be for the relevant French authorities to give Australia and Australians a very clear explanation of what is being proposed.
“Getting some facts on the public table here in Australia would be a very good start on this.”
Dr Nelson said he was unaware what steps the Australian Government had already taken with its French counterpart.
“I will be very surprised if our Government has not already or is not about to make Australia’s position quite clear,” he said.
Australia and France share long military relationship
Australia has a historical military relationship with France, having fought alongside them in both the first and second world wars.
More recently, French company DCNS won a near $50 billion contract to replace Australia’s ageing Collins Class submarine fleet in 2016, concluding a high-profile tender process.
Dr Nelson said while the final decision of where to build the proposed wind farm rested with France, its relationship with Australia should be a consideration.
“I do plead with the French authorities to hear what Australians think about this,” he said.
“In April and May of 1917, our worst year ever, 10,200 Australians were dead, missing or taken prisoner in two battles at Bullecourt trying to break the Hindenburg Line.
“I would like to think that the French authorities would consider the broader interests of our bilateral relationship in terms of Australia sharing common values with France.”
Dr Nelson said there was a “constant steady stream” of French visitors at the Australian War Memorial paying their respects on behalf of France.
“Almost every day here at the Australian War Memorial, I have visiting French dignitaries. In fact only yesterday the admiral who leads the French submarine fleet,” he said.
“Is it too much to ask the French authorities to take into account our war dead fighting and dying for French freedom in two wars by not putting a wind farm on one of our most significant sites?”
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