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Hawke happy to charge to honour war dead

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John Hewson Leader of the Opposition M e d i a R e l e a s e

14 February 1991 36/91


The Government persists in referring to our sacred shrine, the National War Memorial, as a 'museum'.

I would like to remind the Prime Minister and the Minister for Finance that this tribute to Australia's war dead is definitely NOT a museum.

It is a memorial - a memorial to those who gave their lives on our behalf and was never intended to be a commercial venture.

I quote from a document produced by the Australian War Memorial for the opening in 1941:

"The Memorial to Australians who have died in defence of their country comprises the National collection of war relics and the building in which these are preserved. The collection consists of the documentary records of the Australian Fighting Forces and the pictures, photographs,

dioramas and other models, as well as the material relics, of their campaign.

The gathering of these relics began on the battlefields of World War I and the decision that they should become part of the Nation's War Memorial was made by the Commonwealth on the suggestion from the Battlefront in 1917.

Conceived at ANZAC on Gallipoli, born amid the thunder of the guns at Bullecourt in France, the Memorial has been raised by the living members of the Australian Forces to their fallen mates. It constitutes not a general museum portraying war, much less one glorifying it, but a Memorial conceived, founded and from first to last, worked for by Australian Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen."

I am staggered by the incapacity of the Government to grasp the fact that the National War Memorial is not just another museum. NO Australian should be deterred from visiting the Memorial because of the existence of entry fees.

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The Opposition view on this issue is clear.

Senator Newman, the Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs, stated it in the Senate on 17 December:

"The decision that was announced last month to charge for the admission (to the Memorial) gives the Opposition some major concerns. We accept generally the principle of user pays. But in this case there are very real concerns that we are turning something which is a memorial to our dead

into just another museum."

Our position was conveyed in writing to the Chairman of the Council of the Australian War Memorial, Dame Beryl Beaurepaire, DBE, setting out our concerns and asking her for answers to our questions.

At no time did the Opposition find her responses satisfactory and we consistently urged the Council to reconsider its position.

The decision taken by the Opposition on Monday could in no way come as a surprise to the Council of the National War Memorial.

We, as a nation, asked our Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen to pay the ultimate price for freedom. Charging their widows and other Australians a fee to enter the Memorial built in their honour is wrong.