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Thursday, 20 November 1986
Page: 2607

Senator GILES —I refer the Minister for Veterans' Affairs to the report in yesterday's Canberra Times and the accompanying photograph of the extensive flooding of the Australian War Memorial on Tuesday which seriously endangered the Memorial's priceless archives and film collection. Is this the first occasion in recent times that such flooding has occurred at the Memorial? If there have been previous occasions, what steps have been taken as a result to counteract the risks to the Memorial posed by floodwaters?

Senator GIETZELT —All honourable senators would be aware that there is an Australian War Memorial in Canberra. They would also be aware that on Tuesday a very extensive storm did quite an amount of damage generally to Canberra and to the Australian War Memorial. Honourable senators would have seen a photograph yesterday of the Director of the Memorial with his trousers rolled up-he had not lost them; he had merely rolled them up-doing something to get rid of the water. Obviously, I sought some information about the matter because I expected a question from the Opposition on it. However, the Opposition has been more concerned with subjective factors than with protecting the very important collections at the Australian War Memorial.

This is not the first occasion on which storms have resulted in water damage to the Memorial. Over the last three years there have been at least 16 reports of such damage at the Memorial's research centre alone, as well as a number of recurring problems with leaks and seepage. For example, between July 1983 and April 1986 there were 14 reports of seepage and leaks in the special collections area which, as honourable senators would probably be aware, houses a priceless and irreplaceable collection of war records and relics. I can inform the Senate that when the new building was being planned two or three years ago the officer in charge of building operations recommended in writing against the storage of the collections in the research centre area.

The curator of prints and special collections prepared a submission to the Memorial Council's Research and Publications Committee in January 1984, when the Memorial was under the control of the previous Minister, the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment. The submission stressed the need for the collection to be housed in different accommodation of an approved standard. However, the Director did not allow the submission to be presented. A further submission was then made from three research centre section heads to the Committee for its October 1985 meeting. At that time the Memorial was my portfolio responsibility. The submission stressed the water risks. Unfortunately, the files show that the matter was not dealt with by the Committee so it progressed no further. Consequently, the important relics and collections of the Memorial continue to be at risk from flooding and associated problems.