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Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Page: 898

Mr ABBOTT (Leader of the Opposition) (2:07 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister, who last night rightly described the Australian War Memorial as ‘our pre-eminent temple of honour’. Given that War Memorial funding has fallen from $38 million to $30 million a year since 2007, will she now accept the coalition’s request for an immediate $5 million a year funding boost?

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —It was a great honour and privilege to be with the Governor-General and the Leader of the Opposition at the War Memorial yesterday evening to open the Hall of Valour. I said the words that the Leader of the Opposition has repeated during that occasion and I also echoed the words of wartime Prime Minister John Curtin that the War Memorial is the ‘sanctuary of Australia’s traditions’.

I can advise the House that the government provided the Australian War Memorial with more than $38 million this financial year, which is comparable to previous financial years. I can also say to the Leader of the Opposition and the House: I have been concerned about resourcing for the War Memorial and that is why I directed the review of its financial position, which has been undertaken by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, working with the Minister for Finance and Deregulation. That review, undertaken by my direction, is well advanced and I will be receiving it soon. Having received that review, when I am in a position to I will make further statements about resourcing for the War Memorial.

But I would point to the fact that there are a number of claims that have been made publicly which simply are not right. The Leader of the Opposition’s question was premised on a false claim. Let me convey the facts to the House, if people are interested in the facts. The facts are: the government will provide the Australian War Memorial with more than $38 million—

Mr Pyne —We’re interested in the money, not your cheap talk.

The SPEAKER —Order! I am reluctant to interrupt, but, when a member asserts that talk is cheap, I just hope that they will not talk as much by way of interjection. The member for Sturt should desist from his continual interjections.

Ms GILLARD —I presume every member of the House is interested in the facts: the government will provide the Australian War Memorial with more than $38 million this financial year.

There have been claims made that 20 per cent of the memorial staff are seeking other employment. That is wrong. The current ongoing staff turnover rate is 3.02 per cent, and that is tracking below the previous five-year average of 3.73 per cent. Claims have been made that the memorial staff are taking a pay cut. These claims are wrong. Staff have received yearly pay increases under enterprise agreements and other wage increase mechanisms and most recently received a three per cent pay increase on 1 July 2010. This flows from their enterprise agreement. There have been claims made that staff are being paid from the wrong budget. These claims are wrong. Memorial council policy, endorsed by the ANAO, the auditor, is only to fund staff costs from capital funds when costs are associated with enhancing or replacing an asset or extending its life, so funds are being taken from the right source.

I understand that members of the House of Representatives and Australians generally would be concerned to see appropriate resourcing for the War Memorial, as am I. They would be keen to make sure any claims made publicly are accurate. I have provided the accurate information to the House.