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Environment, Recreation, Communications and the Arts References Committee - 10/06/98 - DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNICATIONS AND THE ARTS - Program 1—Arts and heritage - Subprogram 1.5—Australian National Maritime Museum

ACTING CHAIR —I read in the paper the other day that there is some controversy about the return of Australia II to Western Australia. Could you tell us what the difficulties are?

Ms Williams —Controversy? No. I think the matter has been settled. We were very keen to have the yacht at the National Maritime Museum at the time of the Olympic Games, and the minister has kindly helped us along that path. It looks now as if we will have the yacht until after the games. We are working with the department now to work out a program. It is very complicated getting the yacht out of the building, as I am sure you appreciate, and it will take some time and some resources, but we are working towards that at the moment.

ACTING CHAIRAustralia II was actualIy loaned by the Western Australian Maritime Museum, I think, to the National Maritime Museum.

Ms Williams —It is actually owned by the Commonwealth, so we have it on loan from the National Museum of Australia at the moment.

ACTING CHAIR —That is a very basic misunderstanding that a lot of Western Australians are suffering from.

Senator Alston —There is a lot of misinformation over in the West on this issue.

ACTING CHAIR —There was a question in the press that, if arrangements or an agreement was not reached soon, the yacht would not be returned to WA at all. Is that the case or not?

Ms Williams —We are certainly working toward the removal of the yacht from the National Maritime Museum.

Senator Alston —I do not think anyone has ever put that statement publicly.

ACTING CHAIR —I did read that in a newspaper the other day, in fact, and that is why I am seeking clarification of it.

Senator Alston —As I say, there have been some semi[hyphen]hysterical articles written in the West on this issue. I would have to say that once it reached the level of negotiation with the Premier, particularly through the department and Rob Palfreyman, it was handled very professionally. We have reached an outcome now which, I think, is generally to the satisfaction of all parties, which is a tribute also to the maritime museum and Dr Cottee. Clearly they had a preference which could not be met, given earlier undertakings, but I think we have now managed to reach a position that is a good outcome for all.

Senator LUNDY —Would you give the committee a breakdown of your estimated outlays for the financial year 1998[hyphen]99 and include in it a reference to any major one[hyphen]off expenditures—adding cost and recurrent expenditure items—and how it compares with the current financial year's outlays?


Ms Williams —The total budget for next year would be $17.915 million, but that does exclude a one[hyphen]off project which we are entering into next year, which is the refurbishment of Wharf No. 7—which is adjacent to the museum—as a collection display facility.

Senator LUNDY —Could you just cross[hyphen]reference for me the Portfolio budget statement with those figures? You mentioned $17 million.

Mr Howarth —The portfolio figures, the outlay figures, are the budget appropriations that I assume you are reading from.

Senator LUNDY —Yes.

Mr Howarth —I think it is a figure of the order of $14.289 million. That is the government appropriation that the museum receives. It also raises a considerable amount of funding from revenue sources, which contributes to the total outlay of $17.915 million.

Senator LUNDY —Thank you, I am looking at the right page now. I am sorry; please continue.

Ms Williams —Do you want me to identify any major areas of expenditure?

Senator LUNDY —Yes. You mentioned the refurbishment. What is the cost of that particular expenditure?

Ms Williams —The total cost is $19.5 million. We have commenced the demolition of the shed, and the building costs will come to around $14 million. We hope to have that completed for a move[hyphen]in by May of next year.

Senator LUNDY —So you have a development[hyphen]construction timetable prepared for that project?

Ms Williams —Yes, we do. We are pretty well along the way to that now.

Senator LUNDY —Who is doing the work? Whom have you contracted?

Mr Howarth —If I could explain: we are not quite at the stage of actually finalising a contract with a builder. We are almost in a position of actually finalising a contract with a builder but we are still just within the program.

Senator LUNDY —Perhaps you could provide a brief table or a description of the construction timetable?

Mr Howarth —Certainly.

Senator LUNDY —On page 50 of the Portfolio budget statement under `Variations to Subprogram underlying outlays 1997[hyphen]98 to 1998[hyphen]99' there is a reference to:

Reversal of previous year's one[hyphen]off funding from DOCA for Learning Centre and back adjustment of superannuation supplementation

Could you explain that item to the committee please?

Ms Bock —The adjustment for the learning centre refers to $5,000 given to us by the federal government for a development that we have going at the moment called the Peter Doyle Learning Centre. The superannuation back adjustment is because we received an amount of about $30,000 for a previous year. Basically we received supplementation, it was not quite enough and they have withdrawn that now because of the ongoing years.

Senator LUNDY —Is the learning centre project continuing?

Ms Williams —Yes, it is. In fact, we have just recently had a major fundraising campaign for the centre. We are pleased to report that we have done quite well with that, so we will be
able to go ahead with the development of the learning centre in conjunction with the Wharf 7 project.

Senator LUNDY —So the learning centre previously attracted government funding and now you are in a position to supplement it with donations? Can you explain a little bit of the background of how you funded it?

Mr Howarth —The minister very generously supported the museum with a one[hyphen]off grant in relation to seeding funding to assist the museum to develop a funding program for the Peter Doyle Learning Centre of $5,000.

More recently, we held a very large fundraiser in relation to that. In conjunction with other funds raised, the museum has now raised in total something of the order of $180,000. The process that we are involved in with regard to the Wharf 7 project has given us the opportunity to allow the two builders who are presently vying for that particular contract to also vie for the development of the Peter Doyle Learning Centre. We believe that we can, therefore, have this construction undertaken within the range of dollars that we have available to us at this point.

Senator LUNDY —I see. In terms of that proposed development, the inclusion of that learning centre has become quite a focus of their tender?

Mr Howarth —A minor focus, yes. But we are very close to the wire in relation to establishing a contract with a builder at this point.

Senator LUNDY —How will you fund recurrent costs relating to that learning centre?

Mr Howarth —We presently run a series of education programs. This centre will now provide us with a place to actually hold them within the facility of the museum. Previously we ran the programs from a demountable building, which was entirely unsuitable for the task. We will now have an appropriate place to conduct them. So it will not make any variation to recurrent cost.

Senator LUNDY —Has there been any assistance provided for regional history projects under MMAPSS in 1997[hyphen]98?

Ms Williams —We have recently released the grants that will go out to organisations throughout Australia for that particular year. All states will benefit from that scheme.

Senator LUNDY —How do this year's allocations compare with last year's?

Ms Williams —It was a similar amount of money.

Senator LUNDY —How much was that?

Ms Williams —It is $15,000 contribution from the department and $15,000 from us, so the program totals $30,000.

Senator LUNDY —Can you take on notice to provide information on whom the grants are provided to, for what and how much?

Ms Williams —Of course. We have the list with us so I will pass it on.

Senator LUNDY —Thank you. Are they contained within the annual report?

Mr Howarth —They are, but it is a different year—it is the previous year, 1996[hyphen]97. The next annual report will have 1997[hyphen]98 and we are just about to go to 1998[hyphen]99.

Senator LUNDY —Could you provide the 1997[hyphen]98 information?

Ms Williams —Of course.


Senator LUNDY —What are your expectations with respect to these grants in the next financial year? Do you have the same amount of money to expend on these grants?

Ms Williams —We hope so. We find it a hugely important program. There are relatively very few programs available to very small historical societies and museums who research maritime history. It gives us good connections, it develops a very good collaborative community between us and other states and smaller museums and it is mutually beneficial and opens up a range of partnerships that we can then develop. I would really like to see it continue in future years.

Senator LUNDY —Have the government provided their cut, their $15,000, in this year's budget?

Ms Williams —Yes.

Mr Howarth —Yes.

Senator LUNDY —What is the museum's revenue target for 1997[hyphen]98 and will you reach it?

Ms Williams —I think we are about seven per cent behind schedule on that. The total revenue to date remains slightly below target at $2,334,892 compared with a budget of $2,510,000, so we are not that far behind.

Senator LUNDY —How does that compare with last year's revenue?

Mr Howarth —It is below. Last year—1996[hyphen]97—we achieved our target.

Senator LUNDY —That was the $412,000?

Ms Bock —Excuse me, Senator, you are reading from our annual report which gives our accounts on an accrual basis. We have given you cash reports. Those accrual basis accounts include a lot of funds given in kind so they are much greater than the figures we are reporting now. We do not collate those figures until the end of the year when we do our accrual accounts.

Senator LUNDY —Take me back to the figures for the revenue for 1997[hyphen]98. What is your target?

Mr Howarth —The museum's total revenue target for 1997[hyphen]98 is $2,707,900 on a cash basis.

Senator LUNDY —You are running about seven per cent below that at this time?

Mr Howarth —In that order, yes.

Senator LUNDY —How does that compare with last year's revenue, given that you reached your target last year? What was your revenue last year?

Mr Howarth —I cannot give it to you on a cash basis here. I do not have that material. I will take that on notice.

Senator LUNDY —Yes, take that on notice, please. What is your forecast for the next financial year?

Mr HOWARD —Our revenue forecast for 1998[hyphen]99 is $3,696,000.

Senator LUNDY —In terms of the increase between this financial year and the next financial year, what are your main mechanisms to boost the revenue to that degree?

Ms Williams —We are embarking on a program of sponsorship and hope to get extra sponsorship support for the museum's programs in the years leading up to the Olympics.


Senator LUNDY —Has the impact of the Wharf 7 proposal been factored into that revenue forecast increase?

Mr Howarth —It is unlikely to have any major impact on revenues for that year, perhaps with the exception of the final month, when we may get some rental income because it is due for completion in May.

Senator LUNDY —I know this is getting into the out years now, but do you anticipate another jump in potential revenues as a result of the opening of Wharf 7?

Ms Williams —It coincides with the Sydney Olympic Games, so we are hoping, like everybody.

Senator LUNDY —What sort of boost are you planning for?

Mr Howarth —We anticipate a significant increase in rental income as a result of the development which will assist the museum's overall budgetary position.

Senator LUNDY —So that revenue will be used to boost your promotional activities?

Mr Howarth —It will help pay off the shed, in the first instance, and then it will assist us in our budgetary requirements elsewhere as well.

Senator LUNDY —I will leave that one alone. I could ask questions about what is happening in two years time for the next hour, but I will restrain myself. In your 1996[hyphen]97 annual report you identified some operational problems in maintaining visitor numbers compared to previous years. What strategies have you put in place to address this problem?

Ms Williams —It is an experience which I think most cultural institutions in Sydney are having at the moment. We are about seven per cent down on our visitation, and other organisations are experiencing 12 to 17 per cent down. There is a general downturn in the number of tourists visiting Sydney, which is of concern to all organisations. We are looking closely at our public programs and exhibitions programs to make sure we have an appropriate balance and that we appeal to a wider market. We are constantly trying new ideas and programs to attract more people in a different market to the museum.

Senator LUNDY —Does your budget provide for access to international tourist markets for direct promotion of your facility?

Ms Williams —We are quite lucky in that sense, being in Darling Harbour, and a reasonably high proportion of our visitors come from overseas. As I said, it has gone down in the last 12 months.

Senator LUNDY —You have noticed the proportion of international visitors decline quite specifically?

Ms Williams —Yes. At one stage it was around the 48 per cent mark, which is incredibly high. I have not seen figures recently but I would imagine that it would be way down, to about the 30 per cent mark.

Senator LUNDY —If you could provide the committee with a breakdown and perhaps a yearly comparison, that would be very interesting. We have the 1996[hyphen]97 rates, your anticipated visitation rates for 1997[hyphen]98 and also your projections for the following year. I appreciate that once you are in the year 2000 it is a way off, but just over this three[hyphen]year period.

Ms Williams —Certainly.

Senator LUNDY —Thank you. Has there been a reduction in your expenditure on the museum's collection in this financial year compared with the previous financial year?


Ms Williams —No, there has not. We have been fortunate, as we get older as an institution, to attract sponsorship support to the museum. As a young institution we must get known in the market and within the community, and that certainly is happening. We have stronger support each year for gifts and for recognition of the collection. So whilst at the moment our priority is with the shed, we obviously have to consolidate the collection to protect it and to make sure that we have good conditions for its care and management.

Senator LUNDY —In terms of a decline in actual expenditure, are you saying that there has been a decline in your paying money for material but a corresponding rise in donations or bequests to the museum?

Ms Williams —I think that would be fair to say, yes. We could give you the exact figures on that.

Senator LUNDY —Yes, if you could take that on notice, and just show that shifting proportionality. I certainly appreciate the issues. Do you have the necessary funds to manage the museum's collection material properly? You were making a point about curatorial staff, expertise and other particular difficulties that you may confront as a maritime museum.

Ms Williams —I think that question is a constant struggle for most collecting institutions, especially now that there is pressure for public programs over the management of the collections. Wearing my hat as assistant director responsible for the collections, I would say, `Yes, we need more money!' With my other hat on, as director, I am very cognisant of the fact that we have to balance our needs. It is a dreadful thing to do to a person! I am aware of the needs the organisation has in the next two to three years but, at the same time, we do have a management plan for the care of the collection and we stick to that. We upgrade that each year as we see fit, so I hope that answers your question.

Senator LUNDY —Yes. Thank you for that response. With respect to your web page, what degree of success are you having with it? What measures do you have in place?

Ms Williams —The number of hits?

Senator LUNDY —I suppose the number of hits is the base port of call in terms of how successful it is but, more so than hits, do you gauge the degree of interactivity that occurs with those hits to your site?

Ms Williams —It is very early days, of course, for most of us.

Senator LUNDY —How long has it been up?

Ms Williams —We have had ours up for about 18 months, and we certainly have lots of compliments, which is very nice.

Senator LUNDY —I am pleased to hear it; it is a marvellous site.

Ms Williams —As we become more skilled at using it and developing the web page, we add more information to it and interact with other sites. I could not tell you today how many hits we have had. I have not had a report for some time, but I could provide that information.

Senator LUNDY —Yes. Any analysis you have about its success, effectiveness and acceptance in educational institutions would be very interesting.

Mr Howarth —It has been somewhat disappointing in relation to its impact with New South Wales schools utilising it as a booking mechanism. We provided a booking mechanism within the process and it has proved somewhat disappointing.

Senator LUNDY —Have you analysed the lack of use of it in that regard?


Mr Howarth —I anticipate it is because teachers in schools do not have much time to get onto the computers within the schools, particularly primary schools.

Senator LUNDY —I suspect that is probably a reasonable analysis. Do you maintain it in[hyphen]house or do you use a contractor?

Ms Williams —We maintain it in[hyphen]house.

Senator LUNDY —Congratulations. Excellent. That is all I have. Thank you very much for travelling all the way down here.

Ms Williams —Thank you.

ACTING CHAIR —That concludes subprogram 1.5. Thank you very much for attending.

[11.29 a.m.]