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Wednesday, 3 December 1986
Page: 3253


Senator FOREMAN —My question is directed to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. The editorial in this morning's Australian newspaper attempts to portray a picture of sad neglect at the Australian War Memorial. Is it true, for instance, that millions of exhibits are in danger of rotting away or being lost to future generations because of a lack of money and staff? What action is the Government taking in making funds available to preserve all its treasures?


Senator GIETZELT —I have seen the editorial in today's Australian. It is certainly not true that millions of exhibits are in danger of rotting away because of a lack of money and staff, as was expressed in that editorial. Editorial writers have a penchant for making statements without checking the facts. Unfortunately in this particular case the details upon which the editorial has been written have obviously been taken from the 1984-85 annual report of the Australian War Memorial. It was the recognition of some of the deficiencies in previous years that led to a number of changes being made, including the War Memorial coming under my portfolio. It is true that in difficult financial times funds and staff are never sufficient to meet all the demands of government. It is rather a contradiction that the Australian newspaper which has carried editorials in recent times generally supporting the policies of the New Right and, suggesting that there should be cutbacks in public sector spending should draw attention to what happened in respect of the Australian War Memorial when there were such cutbacks over many years.

This Government and, in particular, the Minister have accepted their responsibilities and there has been very substantial improvement in both the staffing and funding of the Australian War Memorial. For example, in the two years-and the two Budgets-for which I have had responsibility for the War Memorial there has been a 50 per cent increase in funding. So the matters referred to in the editorial should be well and truly put aside, recognising that the Memorial has received vast increases in funding from the Department of Veterans' Affairs. In addition, 44 more staff have been made available to the Australian War Memorial. There have been five new policy proposals in the last two Budgets, four related to the preservation of written records, films and photographs. I agree that if there is neglect in these areas these records are lost over time.

I advise Senator Foreman that the Government gave approval in the last Budget for the construction of a new administrative building costing $9.955m and a new storage facility in the previous Budget which cost $1.32m. These new buildings will provide needed accommodation for staff and will allow an expanded and upgraded space for relics and collections. A program for the air-conditioning of the existing War Memorial building will commence during the current financial year. One welcomes the fact that public attention has been drawn to deficiencies in the past. For example, in 1982 the War Memorial had 126 full time staff, six part time staff and a budget of only $3.53m. Currently, following the 1986-87 Budget, it has up to 218 staff and funding has increased from $6.42m to $9.63m.

Today I asked the Australian War Memorial administration to give me a schedule which would indicate what has happened with respect to staff and funding in the Australian War Memorial over the last 10 years. For example, on 30 June 1977 only 80 people worked at the War Memorial and its funding was less than $1m. I have just indicated how much recognition has been given by past governments, and particularly this Government, to fulfilling our obligations to preserving the important collections that exist in the Australian War Memorial. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the schedule which has been provided to me by the administration of the Australian War Memorial.

Leave granted.

The schedule read as follows-

COMPARISON OF STAFFING AND FUNDING

OVER THE PERIOD 1.7.76 TO 30.6.86

Staff

30.6.77...

69 F/T

11 P/T

30.6.78...

85 F/T

-

30.6.79...

89 F/T

3 P/T

30.6.80...

95 F/T

4 P/T

Statutory Authority Status

30.6.81...

116 F/T

6 P/T

30.6.82...

126 F/T

6 P/T

PAC Inquiry

30.6.83...

156 F/T

10 P/T

30.6.84...

159 F/T

25 P/T

30.6.85...

188 AOSL

30.6.86...

207 AOSL

Funding

30.6.77...

$0.986m

30.6.78...

$1.245m

30.6.79...

$1.634m

30.6.80...

$1.90m

Statutory Authority

30.6.81...

$2.51m

30.6.82...

$3.53m

PAC Inquiry (196 Report)

30.6.83...

$5.50m

30.6.84...

$6.42m

30.6.85...

$7.15m

30.6.86...

$9.01m*

* Does not include costs of the new storage facility at Mitchell ($1.32m) and preliminary work on the Administration Building.

This expenditure is shown under NCDC but was funded through savings achieved by the Veterans' Affairs portfolio.