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Thursday, 3 March 2011
Page: 1176

Senator LUNDY (Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) (6:16 PM) —On the same matter, I am also pleased to make a contribution because of the significant announcement made by the government today to increase the operational budget of the Australian War Memorial by $8 million. In sharp contrast to the outlandish claims of the very eager senator opposite to claim credit, the government has been undertaking a very serious review of the War Memorial’s operational budget and its capacity to support a very appropriate and very grave and important commemoration of the centenary of Gallipoli in 2015. In stark contrast, as I said, to the claims of the senator opposite, this is the responsible approach by government. I put to the opposition that their quite shallow exercise today in claiming some credit for the government’s longstanding review of the Australian War Memorial is not the situation at all. In fact, our consideration and our announcement today have been well programed. I would put to you, Mr Deputy President, that in fact it is pure opportunism for the opposition to stand up here today and claim some credit. We take very seriously our responsibility for the ongoing operation of the Australian War Memorial—we all do. We do not play games with it, and that is one of the reasons why we commissioned a very serious review. It is not about playing politics. It is not about a quick grab for cash in response to an opposition campaign. It is about a serious consideration of the War Memorial’s ongoing operational budget.

I know that there has been quite a deal of interest in this issue, and rightly so. I participated in a Public Accounts and Audit Committee inquiry some time ago now that looked at the operational budgets of a whole number of what are defined as small agencies, and serious issues like the ongoing impact of the efficiency dividend. Indeed, I have participated in Senate estimates over many, many years—but obviously in my role as an ACT senator through the course of our years in opposition—and I am very familiar with the budget situation of the War Memorial. The fact of the matter is that there had been no diminution of the budget of the Australian War Memorial up to this financial year. The claims of the opposition that it had somehow been reduced were incorrect. Despite them being advised of this fact, they persisted in telling mistruths in the public domain about the state of the Australian War Memorial’s budget. And now they have the audacity to come in here and try to claim credit for a considered review and a response to those ongoing operational needs, which were the substance of the Prime Minister’s very warmly welcomed announcement this morning.

It is very easy for the opposition to play these games, to make out that they have been somehow instrumental in the community campaign. The bottom line is that they knew we were reviewing the Australian War Memorial’s budget, and the opposition have made token endeavours in the public domain to buy themselves into this debate in an opportunistic way—so much so that, obviously with the results of the review imminent, we saw a shallow exercise last week by their leader, Mr Tony Abbott, in announcing some kind of commitment from the opposition about the budget. But the fact is that they are not in government; they are in opposition. They can play politics all they like.

I am incredibly proud of this announcement today. It is the operational budget that this institution requires. It is about providing $1.7 million, particularly towards the upgrade of those extraordinary World War 1 exhibitions. It is about all of the things that many Australians care deeply about. I have been to the War Memorial many, many times, and I think all Australians will agree that the World War 1 exhibition area, with its amazing dioramas, deserves this investment by the Australian government. It was my honour to stand beside the Prime Minister this morning as she made this important announcement, and I think it will serve the interests of all Australians very well.

In closing, I want to reiterate the point about the state of the budget at the War Memorial.

Senator Ronaldson —12 months too late.

Senator LUNDY —I will take Senator Ronaldson’s interjection—12 months too late. The fact is that their budget has not been cut. That was clarified at estimates last week, and you know it.