The Turnbull government will seek urgent discussions with the French government over a proposal to build a wind farm on a French field where dead Australian diggers are thought to lie after the World War I battle of Bullecourt.
Veterans Affairs Minister Dan Tehan said he would speak with his French counterpart to obtain clarity on the proposal.
“I spoke to her six weeks ago we had a really good conversation about the need for our countries’ need to continue to co-operate when it comes to commemorating what took place 100 years ago, so I will be reaching out to her to have a discussion,” Mr Tehan told Sky News.
“This story has been around for about 12 months, this wind farm has been on again off again, on again off again, so I will be trying to get an understanding.
“But I can say the French take incredibly seriously ensuring that what took place 100 years ago is properly respected.”
The Australian reported this morning there are plans for six turbines to be installed directly where fierce fighting in two battles in April and May 1917 led to more than 10,000 Australian casualties.
It has been estimated the remains of between 3000 and 4000 Australian, British and German soldiers were never recovered.
Mr Tehan said there was no need for Malcolm Turnbull to reach out to the French President Emmanuel Macron.
“In the first instance I will reach out and get an understanding of what is happening from my counterpart there,” he said.
“I think in the first instance, lets just get all the facts as they stand as to what is proposed, whether there is a likelihood of it going on and then we will be able to take it from there and where we need to go.”
Opposition defence spokesman Richard Marles said it was “good to hear” the Turnbull government would reach out to France.
“This is obviously sacred ground, there may well be unknown soldiers who lie within that ground,” Mr Marles told Sky News.
“I can sense the anxiety and concern that many descendants and others within our community feel about the notion of this ground being disturbed in any way, so it is important that those representations are made.”
Opposition veterans affairs spokeswoman Amanda Rishworth said Mr Turnbull needed to seek “clarification” on the wind farm proposal.
“If these reports are accurate they are incredibly concerning because it does have the possibility of disturbing the unmarked graves of many soldiers,” she told Sky News.
“This is a really significant site in Australia’s World War 1 history and I know that many family members and concerned Australian citizens are concerned at the fact that these unmarked graves and these sacred places these men now lie could possibly be disturbed.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding