Australians and New Zealanders sleep outside before a ceremony marking the 98th anniversary of Anzac Day at Anzac Cove, in Turkey. Photo: AFP
Australians are enthusiastic about commemorating the Anzac centenary, but they also appear to be fond of leaving things until the last minute.
Almost one quarter of the 42,582 Australians who applied for a ticket to attend the Anzac Day dawn service at Gallipolli next year did so on the closing day.
Interested Australians have had plenty of time to apply, with the ballot opening on November 15 last year. But according to a spokesman for Veterans' Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson, about 9,966 people applied last Friday, with 972 squeaking in their bids between 10.59 pm and 11.59 pm.
Senator Ronaldson said on Sunday that the ballot had "ignited an extraordinary response," from thousands of Australians hoping to be part of a "once in a lifetime experience".
But with only 7,600 tickets available in the ballot, the Coalition is advising applicants to have a Plan B.
"Unsuccessful applicants are encouraged to visit Gallipoli at another time in 2015, attend another Anzac Day service overseas such as Villers-Bretonneux in France, or watch the broadcast of the Gallipoli and Villers-Bretonneux services live on the ABC," Senator Ronaldson said.
There are 8,000 places reserved for Australians to attend the centenary service. Along with the 7,600 tickets in the ballot, there will be space for 400 high school students and their chaperones. Australian First World War widows will be included as part of Australia's official representative group.
The ballot is divided between 400 double passes for direct descendants of those who served in the Gallipoli campaign, 400 double passes for veterans and 3,000 double passes for other Australians.
Ticketek will now review the applications and remove any duplicates or incorrect bids, before the ballot is drawn. Senator Ronaldson said that all ballot applicants would find out about the outcome before Anzac Day this year.
Labor veterans' affairs spokesman Don Farrell welcomed the "massive interest" in attending the 2015 service.
"The response shows the deep respect held by Australians towards our courageous servicemen and women, the sacrifices made by our nation at Gallipoli and many theatres of war over the past 100 years," he said.
Senator Farrell said he felt disappointed for those who would miss out but said the ballot was the fairest and most transparent way to allocate places.
Overall attendance at the Gallipoli centenary service, which will also include New Zealand attendees and official guests, has been limited to 10,500 for safety reasons.