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Thursday, 18 November 2010
Page: 1686

Senator RONALDSON (6:13 PM) —I also rise to take note of the annual report. I start off by thanking Senator Humphries for the way he has taken up the cudgel in relation to the Australian War Memorial. He has passionately advocated the case for the War Memorial since these appalling funding cuts came to our attention. Full strength to Senator Humphries in his pursuit on behalf of not just the people of Canberra but also the people of Australia to make sure this magnificent memorial remains adequately funded.

I indicate to the chamber that the mission of the Australian War Memorial is:

… to assist Australians to remember, interpret and understand the Australian experience of war and its enduring impact on Australian society.

How can we achieve that without adequate funding? How can the Australian War Memorial meet its mission statement without appropriate and adequate funding? In this year’s report the most telling commentary from anyone was from General Peter Cosgrove, who is chairman of the memorial’s council. In the report he said:

This year has seen a further reduction in the operational budget for the Memorial …

He went on to say:

The challenge for the Memorial is to do more with less but there are limits to how far this approach can be taken.

Senator Humphries has mentioned the staff reductions. Senator Humphries has mentioned the fact that the War Memorial actually considered closing for a day a week. The government says they did not end up doing that, but that is not the point; the point is that they were forced to consider it. No-one knows more than Senator Humphries about the enormous contribution of the staff and volunteers at the Australian War Memorial; I have heard him praise them in our discussions about this matter. But they are being let down by the government.

I do not care what the government says about this; the simple fact is that the operational budget of the Australian War Memorial has been slashed by this government. It does not matter how you try and cloak this argument in smoke and mirrors, the operational budget has been reduced. When we left government, it was $37 million; it is now $31 million. It is a substantial reduction in funding. I am a bit sick and tired of hearing people say, ‘Well, we might do something about addressing it.’ Stop talking about it, and do something about it, because the operational budget has been cut. Senator Humphries said that that has resulted in staff cuts. This memorial is under enormous pressure. The Gillard Labor government needs to do something about it very quickly.