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Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee
Australian War Memorial

Australian War Memorial


CHAIR: I call forward the Australian War Memorial officials. I formally welcome back Senator the Hon. Marise Payne, representing the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, the Hon. Dr Brendan Nelson and all of the officials from the Australian War Memorial. Minister, would you like to make an opening statement?

Senator Payne: No, thank you, Madam Chair.

CHAIR: Dr Nelson, would you like to make an opening statement?

Dr Nelson : I would, firstly, like to reiterate the comments made by the minister of Vice Admiral Ray Griggs and Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, both of whom have given extraordinary service and support to the Australian War Memorial. As Members of Council and in the roles that they discharge currently in Defence they provide support to us.

The other thing that I'd like to say to senators and members of the committee is that today we have launched a campaign in the centenary of the end of the First World War, which changed us and for which we paid an immense price, of encouraging Australians to pop a poppy on their car. If senators and members in the other place would like to see them on Comcars or electorate vehicles, I encourage them to do so. Proceeds go to Legacy Australia and to the Australian War Memorial.

CHAIR: Great. Thank you, Dr Nelson.

Senator MOORE: You have to go on and say, 'They are available from—

Dr Nelson : Thank you very much, Senator Moore. They are available from the Australian War Memorial gift shop and online through our website, but we are encouraging—hopefully—a national retailer or two to take up the opportunity to make them available.

CHAIR: I think we would be very happy to pass those on to the Presiding Officers, as a bare minimum. Did you want to make an opening statement as well?

Dr Nelson : No.

CHAIR: Thank you. Senator Gallacher.

Senator GALLACHER: Dr Nelson, you've been advocating an ambitious business case for the Australian War Memorial, and a $500 million figure has been reported. Is that correct? Is that accurate? Perhaps you better tell us. We've read and heard some media about this. What is the advocacy that you've proposed?

Dr Nelson : Certainly, the biggest constraint on the Australian War Memorial, in terms of telling the stories of recent operations and peacekeeping operations, telling the stories that are to be told and as well as incorporating an area for reflection and a facility to be used by non-government military organisations to support veterans, is a lack of space. We put a proposal to the Australian government early last year, following two years of development, for funding in support of an initial business case, which was supported by the government in the 2017-18 budget with a $5 million allocation to the Australian War Memorial, and then in the MYEFO, the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, in late 2017 the government allocated another $11.4 million, in two tranches over this and the next financial year, for development and completion of a detailed business case. We are well advanced in this process. We appointed in January this year GHD Pty Ltd, a major project management company, to oversee this. We appointed an internal project manager, Mr Tim Wise, from Xact Project Consultants. He, by the way, has extensive experience in the Department of Finance managing the property portfolio there as well as in the private sector. We are simultaneously developing a site, precinct and building masterplan at the same time as a gallery masterplan—in other words, what will go in the expanded building. We are about to appoint a public consultation manager in order to see the process through. We will be developing three proposals for consideration, one of which will be developed to 30 per cent confidence, and we will complete this process by the end of this year.

Until the process is completed, Senator Gallacher, we don't know precisely what it will cost. We saw reports in the media, as you suggest, of $500 million over seven years, which at least was reported as being from a source here in parliament. But beyond that, I think it's fair to say, based on the work that we've already done, that it's in the order of that, and certainly no more, over a seven-year period.

Senator GALLACHER: Was there extra funding in the 2018-19 budget to underpin your business case?

Dr Nelson : No, it was made available in MYEFO. So $5 million was allocated, as I said, in last year's budget—the 2017-18 budget—for the initial business case and then MYEFO committed another $11.4 million. By the way, based on the work that we have done and the quantity surveyors that we've had involved in this, we expect that we'll be able to complete the detailed business case at around $10 million and, of course, return the excess to government.

Senator GALLACHER: Does that mean you're $5 million short?

Dr Nelson : No, no. In fact, we estimated we would need a total of $17.4 million to produce and complete an initial and then a detailed business case. The detailed business case at completion takes us to P80 in terms of cost confidence, and this is a very complex process which gets us to second pass for government consideration. It involves not just project managers but engineers, architects, quantity surveyors and people who clearly have expertise in the design and construction of a building such as this and also price certainty. So, at this stage, we expect that we will come in at $10 million in total for the cost of producing the detailed business case, and the residual $7.4 million, in that case, would of course be returned to government.

Senator GALLACHER: To get to the stage that you're at now, you would have had meetings with the ministers. Which ministers are responsible in this area?

Dr Nelson : Our minister, of course, is Minister Chester, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, but we have briefed the Prime Minister. We have briefed the finance minister. We gave an earlier briefing to the Minister for Defence and to the Treasurer. We have also, at a very high level, spoken to the Leader of the Opposition about it, but not in full detail, shall I say. We've also spoken at a very high level to the shadow minister for veterans' affairs. At this stage, that's as far as it's gone. I, by the way, am chairing an interdepartmental committee, and we've had two meetings. That includes the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Finance, Treasury, Defence, the National Capital Authority, the Department of Veterans' Affairs and the agencies that are obviously important in this.

Senator GALLACHER: The direct line of responsibility is to Minister Chester; there's not a huge amount of discretionary funding in that department. So, by necessity, you've expanded your influence or, at least, your efforts. You've captured the Treasurer, the Prime Minister, Finance and Defence, and they've all been apprised of the work that you're endeavouring to undertake.

Dr Nelson : We have apprised them of the reasons why we need to expand and what we would propose to do with the expanded space in the broad, It is to their satisfaction to the extent of the government making funding available to us to seriously examine an expansion of the memorial. They have been supportive, and your own leader has been also very supportive in principle, without knowing the detail of what I've just said to you.

Senator GALLACHER: You've used your narrative about the War Memorial being the greatest tourism attraction in Canberra and the add-on to the Canberra economy and their place in the national identity and DNA?

Dr Nelson : That's a part of it. The single most important reason is that we're proud of what we have been able to do in the last five years to present the story of what Australia's done in Afghanistan and Iraq, but we are seriously underdone on East Timor. We've got virtually nothing on the Solomon Islands. Our nation has contributed to 65 peacekeeping operations. What those Australians went through in Somalia and Rwanda is, in many ways, more challenging to them than active service in warlike zones. And that space is about the area between your bench and ours. We have 42 carved funeral shrouds done by Alex Seton in the exit corridor on the way to the shop. Each has on it the name of one of our 42 dead from Afghanistan. We've been collecting stories, artefacts and relics from northern Iraq. We've had our people over there in the last 18 months. At the moment, we have no capacity to tell that story at all. We have a magnificent portrait of Dan Kerrigan VC, and we've got nowhere to hang it. In the last year, we commissioned George Gittoes to make a portrait of Jonathan Church bringing out that Rwandan boy in 1995. We've got nowhere to hang it. Every day, I'm saying to people, 'I'd love to do what you want us to do, but we have no space.'

The other thing that we have learned is that we need a place of quiet reflection. In fact, when Alison Carabine from the ABC was walking with me through the War Memorial two days before Anzac Day, doing a walk around and getting a feel, if you like, of the vibe of the memorial in the lead-up to Anzac Day, she asked me if there was somewhere quiet we could do go and sit down and talk, and I said: 'No, there isn't, unless we leave this building and go to my office. That's part of our problem.' And one of the things we have is immense emotion revealed at the memorial every day, so much so that, as patron of Lifeline, I've put all of our staff on the floor through the accidental counselling program. We need a place of quiet reflection. We need a place that can be used by RSL, Soldier On and similar non-government organisations to provide support and advice to veterans. So they're the main reasons. Then, of course, yes, we had 1.1 million visitors last year and we're now No. 2 on TripAdvisor, but that's another story and there is the tourist attraction side. Yes, that's all important, but the single most important reason is these young men and women and their families.

Senator GALLACHER: I know how compelling an advocate you can be in requesting funding for proposals. I recall you coming to the Public Works Committee not only seeking funds but wanting concurrent documentation before you left so you could get on with the job. What has been the reception in respect to this from the respective ministers? Is it a positive experience?

Dr Nelson : To the extent that I've had discussions with people on your side, for example, and, certainly, in the government, not a single person has said to me, 'Why do we have to do this?' It's been about how much and when. I think that's in a period where the political class generally is subject to criticism, as you know only too well, and it's reassuring that that has been the response. That doesn't mean that it will happen. I will do my utmost to see that it does, but, so far, it's been a very positive reception, to the extent that the government has committed this not inconsiderable sum of money for the development of the case.

Senator GALLACHER: It was no surprise that that wasn't in the budget; that was already covered in MYEFO. Is that what you're saying?

Dr Nelson : Yes. We did receive three new policy proposals in the budget which are unrelated to the need for more space.

Senator GALLACHER: If we go to one of those proposals, there is $13.1 million over four years to enhance the digitalisation program. Is that to enhance the visitor experience?

Dr Nelson : We're just one of the collecting organisations in this country that is trying as hard as we can to digitise our collection. We have records, diaries and letters. We have audiovisual records in old formats that are deteriorating. And, on current trends, it would take us 35 years to fully digitise what we have in our collection. I know you, Senator Gallacher, your staff and family members, for example, are constantly going online, whether it's to the Australian War Memorial, the National Archives or anywhere else, and seeking information that you expect to have been digitised. So the government allocated this money to us in the budget, and $1.7 million will be used for hardware and software investment in the first financial year. Then about $1.6 million will be provided over the four years of the estimates for the digitisation of our highest priorities. Essentially, we think that it will be able to reduce by about a third the time that it will take us to digitise the collection.

Senator GALLACHER: In relation to the Australian War Memorial, did you create the business case for this digitisation and the 13.1 number?

Dr Nelson : Yes, we did. In fact, we were seeking a little bit more, but, of course, I understand the nature of government. That was the decision that was made, and we're very grateful for it.

Senator GALLACHER: As part of the 2018-19 budget, were you aware of any cuts to your funding?

Dr Nelson : No. We received $4.9 million to stabilise our salaries, to provide within our teamwork agreement funding to support individual flexibility agreements and also to assist us to cope with the increased demand that we've had through this period towards the end of the Centenary of the First World War. But our appropriation was essentially maintained.

Senator GALLACHER: Are you aware of reports suggesting there's been a four per cent decrease in your 2018-19 budget?

Ms Patterson : It's primarily related to the initial funding that the director spoke of, for the initial business case for the redevelopment, which was funded in 2017-18.

Senator GALLACHER: So it's the way the money has been taken into account over different years?

Ms Patterson : That's correct.

Senator GALLACHER: It's not an actual decrease?

Ms Patterson : No. It's just that we were supplemented in 2017-18 for the initial business case and the detailed business case.

Senator GALLACHER: Dr Nelson, you confirmed on ABC recently that you've been the subject of efficiency dividends. I thought an organisation of your size would have been exempt from efficiency dividends. What's the nature of your staffing levels at the moment—FTEs and that sort of thing?

Dr Nelson : Toward the end of 2013, we had 333 staff. Our average staffing level at the moment is 283, but that includes 13 ASLs specifically for the official history of Afghanistan, Iraq and East Timor. So our real ASL, if you like, is 270, which is precisely what it was in 2006. We have been subjected to efficiency dividends through governments—previous Labor governments, the current coalition government—and, in fact, as of today, since 2011-12 we have not received $7.2 million, in aggregate, as a consequence of efficiency dividends applied across the political spectrum in government. In fact, if you go out to the end of the forward estimates period, it will be $10.2 million.

Senator GALLACHER: How have you dealt with that? Have you increased volunteers or reduced services?

Dr Nelson : There isn't, in my experience, any organisation that can't be more efficient. We did offer some redundancies, and I think we had in the order of 11 that were accepted, from memory. We also abolished positions. We also had some natural attrition which came off the back of the Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience. The funding for our travelling exhibition program was terminated in August 2014, and that meant five positions that we no longer needed. And of course there were positions we left unfilled. We also shifted about 20 staff onto contracts. The paradox of efficiency dividends is that often you find yourself having to contract people, and we pay a premium of five to 15 per cent for doing so. But I've also worked very hard to try, wherever possible, to see that we employ the right people and we create an environment where people can be as efficient as they can. I think it would be fair to say to any outsider that our productivity has increased substantially in recent years.

Senator GALLACHER: But you've had your staffing levels capped at a 2012 level. Is that what I hear?

Dr Nelson : Yes.

Senator GALLACHER: Has that placed additional pressure on your fundraising and that sort of thing?

Dr Nelson : It does. I first arrived in the week before Christmas in 2012. I had been in Afghanistan in only October 2012, as Australia's NATO ambassador, and a young Australian soldier—my appointment to the memorial having been announced—said, 'Sir, thanks for looking after the family jewels.' I said, 'It's a privilege. I'm looking forward to it.' He said to me, 'I go to the War Memorial a lot. I take my son. I can show him what his great-grandfather did, I can show him what his grandfather did, but why can't I show him what I'm doing?' When I first arrived—in fact on my first day—I had a look, and we had a long-range patrol vehicle that was hit in 2005, an SAS vehicle, and that was it. I said to the then senior staff, on my second day, 'When are we doing Afghanistan?' I was told it would be a long time. 'We have to wait,' I was told, 'until the politics have washed out of it, until the war is over. We've got no money. We've got no space.'

My very strong view was we that had to do it and we had to do it then—not like Vietnam and wait a decade or more and see that people would suffer as a consequence in part of that. So one of the things that I did was I started on the business of trying to raise some money from individuals and from corporations. The Boeing Corporation itself provided $500,000 to support that Afghanistan exhibition, of which veterans are immensely proud and as I most certainly am.

By the way, I think these companies have a responsibility to support the memorial, and I worry about the ones that don't. I said to the president of one large defence contractor, a company that had given us a small amount of money two years earlier, 'Thank you.' He said, 'That's terrific; we're very supportive of the War Memorial.' I said, 'Yes, but it's pathetic,' and then I reminded him of how much business in the defence space and in the civilian space that his company had received from Australia. As a consequence, that particular company is now very supportive of the memorial and, as a result of that, others have come on board as well. But what's important in terms of nongovernment fundraising is that it doesn't go into things that create a long-term operating cost and that it goes into things that have a defined period for which the funding is available, whether that's capital or whether it is a program of some sort or another.

Senator GALLACHER: Is there a website or a disclosure annually of where those private donations come from? Is there a recognition board?

Dr Nelson : Our annual report, of course, documents the support we receive from individuals, bequests, corporations and so on. At the entrance to the memorial, behind the welcome desk, shall I say, is a screen and rotating through that screen are the images of the companies that are the key supporters of the memorial. So whether that is Qantas, Lockheed Martin, RSL Victoria or whatever the group is, they're recognised there. For individuals who have made a significant contribution, we have a little board just inside the entrance to the memorial which recognises them.

Senator GALLACHER: Excellent. Thank you very much, Dr Nelson—as always, very compelling evidence.

Senator RHIANNON: Dr Nelson, I want to ask some questions about sponsorship and financial contributions. Can you provide the committee with a total figure for the value of contributions that the Australian War Memorial received from military and defence firms in the year to date?

Senator Payne: On notice, Senator?

Senator RHIANNON: Considering the issue has been in the news quite a bit, I was hoping that the staff may have those figures. If not, it can go on notice. But I was hoping that it would be available.

Senator Payne: I'm not sure if it is totalled, Senator. Perhaps the AWM can take the total on notice for you.

Senator RHIANNON: Did you have anything, Dr Nelsen, or do you want to take it on notice?

Dr Nelson : Senator Rhiannon, we're happy to be as helpful as we possibly can, and we will certainly take it on notice and give you a detailed response. Only a week ago we announced a three-year continued funding program from Lockheed Martin, which is $375,000. Thales Australia has committed $30,000 to support the Napier Waller veterans art prize. QinetiQ is providing $100,000 of in-kind support to help the engineering and scoping for the preservation and conservation of our large technology objects, which are in our Mitchell storage facility. Leidos Australia—

Senator RHIANNON: Sorry, which one was that?

Dr Nelson : Leidos Australia—which does a lot of work in the defence space and in the civilian space and for government departments, such as the Department of Human Services—has signed a partnership with us for three years for $450,000 to provide a virtual reality tour of five large technology objects. These are our Mark IV tank—our First World War tank—our G for George Lancaster bomber in Anzac Hall; the Lockheed Hudson bomber, which you would have seen at the Canberra Airport; the bridge of HMAS Sydney IV; and also the inside of a Bushmaster. As a consequence of that support, what we are now building with the support of Leidos is the capacity for people to do a tour of the inside of these large objects. The narration—where they are still alive, of course—is going to be provided by men and women who actually served in these particular objects as a way of describing it to visitors. By the way, the target is principally young people learning about these objects. They are just some, but I'll respond on notice in detail.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, if you could take that on notice. Could you also provide the figure for the 2015-16 financial year and 2016-17? Also, could you break that down by company for the last three financial years? Moving on, how much private sponsorship does the government expect the War Memorial to source each year?

Dr Nelson : I can't speak for the government, but I can speak for the Australian War Memorial. The government doesn't expect us to seek or receive any, as far as I know. I have never been directed, in the five-and-a-half years that I've had the privilege to be in this job, by any government minister or, indeed, any shadow minister, to go out and seek funding. I do, however, think that both sides of politics have been generous to the War Memorial over a long period of time. There have been periods under the previous Labor government and, indeed, under the current government when funding has become a challenge and the government has responded by correcting it. The Gillard government did such and certainly the Turnbull government has recently done such. But no-one has ever said to me, 'Can you go out and raise money from the private sector?' Every single day, I see things, I have ideas and my staff come to me with ideas and proposals—things we'd like to do that we can't do within the budget that we've got. I just described to you, for example, a $450,000 project to be supported by Leidos. We have no capacity within our existing budget to do such a thing, but it's an important thing to do in terms of bringing the stories of these veterans to life and examining and exploring the objects that they used in the service of our country.

I appreciate that, philosophically, Senator Rhiannon, you might disagree with me. The committee has spent two days examining the Department of Defence, which has a $38 billion budget, with about $11 billion spent every year—$11,000 million—on Defence procurement, which our country needs to do. I think these companies have a responsibility to complete the loop and help tell the story of what has been done in our country's name and the impact that it's had on the men and women who have done it. I realise we would disagree on this. What makes me angry are the ones who won't support us. Most of these companies are populated by ex-service men and women, and they regard what they do, whether it's for Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Thales, Raytheon or Navantia, as still being an important part of the Defence of the country and they want their companies to support the Australian War Memorial. When you consider the amount of support they give us, which is greatly appreciated, I can assure you, it's pretty small when you consider the scale of the procurements and the contracts that they are receiving. I might also add, to their immense credit, a lot of these companies are supporting Legacy, Soldier On and the Invictus Games, which I think we're all supporting—a whole range of these things. By the way, not one of those companies has ever said to me, 'Well, we will give you money but only if you do this or you do that.' Not one has ever said, 'We want our name on something.' In fact, all of them have said, 'We don't really want any recognition,' and I have said, 'No, you're going to get recognition because I want your employees to know that you are supporting something good and I also want to send a signal to some of the others who won't support us that there is value in supporting us.' The recognition is really quite discreet.

Senator RHIANNON: Corporations come in all shapes and forms. Do you have some standards, and can you explain the AWM's processes for determining whether to seek or accept offers of corporate sponsorship? Do you have some system in place—a process?

Dr Nelson : It's like a lot of things in life: it’s hard to define it but you know it when you see it. For a start, there is no way I'm ever going to go out and seek support from the tobacco industry. There are perhaps companies involved in certain activities that I would not be approaching.

Senator RHIANNON: What about weapons manufacturers?

Dr Nelson : Well, weapons manufacturers—those who produce aeroplanes and ships and munitions and all of those—yes, we actively seek them. But to answer your question specifically, the ultimate arbiter of whether or not we would or wouldn't seek or accept support from a particular corporation is a matter for the council. It's my responsibility as the director, along with my senior management, to make a judgement about whether a particular company is appropriate or not.

Senator RHIANNON: Have any concerns been raised about the war memorial, considering what your mission is? Have concerns been raised about taking money from weapons manufacturers?

Dr Nelson : Yes, they have. There are some very good people, particularly in the ACT community, who run a peace vigil, which we support, every eve of Anzac Day, on 24 April, every year. Most of them don't think that we should receive support from defence contractors. The Medical Association for Prevention of War: we're all committed to the prevention of war, of course. In fact, I was a member of that organisation myself, during my leadership of the Australian Medical Association in the mid-nineties, and I'm very familiar with it. That organisation in the ACT has argued strongly, including in a submission to the joint standing committee looking at cultural institutions in Canberra, that we should not receive such support. I've also had a small number of individuals write to me in this regard. I certainly respect their point of view but, as I said, my view and indeed that of the council of the Australian War Memorial is that these companies—and we're never going to have a name-and-shame operation, I can assure you—really need to think about supporting us in some way. Obviously we're agreeing to disagree.

Senator RHIANNON: Do those making decisions on sponsorship see any conflict in accepting funds from companies that profit from war and therefore have, in many cases, a vested interest in Australia being at war—at a venue designed, as yours is, to memorialise and reflect on war?

Dr Nelson : Well, there are a number of issues in that. Firstly, I challenge anybody to come to the Australian War Memorial and then leave thinking they can't wait for another war. The whole place is a monument to peace. The paradox, as I say to young people, is that it's called the war memorial but it's not actually about war; it's about love and friendship, love for friends and between friends, love of family, love of country. It's honouring two million Australian men and women whose lives have been devoted not to themselves but to us, in their last moments, to one and another.

The second thing is that if we were to accept such a premise, that the defence contractors who make a whole range of defence materiel, who are also engaged in cybersecurity and air traffic management and logistics, and most of them in fact are doing things in the non-defence space—that we would not accept partnership support from defence contractors—then we wouldn't take government money. I know this will sound ridiculous to you, but if you followed it through to its logical conclusion, the defence materiel—this is why your committee's here; you've spent two days going over all of this expenditure in defence—the government makes the decision to equip the nation with its defence capability. The government makes the decision as to whether that's going to be used, and in most cases the equipment that's being used is being used for search and rescue, humanitarian, disaster, relief and, sadly, at times also in the defence of our interests and values. I was Minister for Defence, as you may recall, over a decade ago. I also spent a year earlier than that in a junior part of the Defence portfolio. I have never met a person anywhere in the Defence space that wants to see their equipment used unless it is to fly a C-17 into the Pacific to a disaster. To send our troops with their equipment up to East Timor in 1999 was arguably the most significant thing we have done here in 20 years.

I haven't met anybody who ever thinks that way. There are some people in our country who do think that way, and you and I would certainly agree that those people's views should certainly be refuted.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. Have any concerns been raised with the War Memorial regarding the financial sponsorships from BAE Systems, given it is a major weapons supplier to Saudi Arabia, which is using these weapons in Yemen in attacks that are widely considered to amount to war crimes?

Dr Nelson : I have had, again, the same group that I referred to before. I don't think I've had individual representations, but following what I've just said I suspect I'll now get them! But I have had people who have said that. I can only say to you that BAE Systems in Australia employs 3½ thousand people. It produces and provides some of the most significant capabilities that we need, not just in defence but in the non-defence space.

Coming back to what I said before: BAE Systems—and, again, I'm not here to represent them!—went through a pretty tough time by the standards of defence contractors. When I first arrived—in fact, in 2013, I recall one of the senior representatives of the company coming to see me about their support of our theatre. I'm glad you asked me the question, because the way this has been portrayed in the media, good, decent, open-minded Australians have heard some of this and think that the BAE Systems theatre is like a picture theatre where people are going in to be entertained. It's not, it's a lecture theatre. It has state-of-the-art technology in it which we use for conferences and for the launch of exhibitions. We run our Soldiers in Residence program there, the Q&As about what Australian soldiers have endured on operations for us, amongst other things.

The chief negotiator from BAE Systems himself had spent 30 years in the Royal Australian Air Force. His own father died in the service, in the Royal Australian Air Force. He said to me, 'The company is going through tough times, but I want to make damn sure that whatever else happens we continue to support the Australian War Memorial.' The only reason I say that is because it reflects the fact that much of the support for the memorial isn't just me approaching these companies, it's also driven by them internally because their own employees—veterans themselves—want to see their company making a positive contribution to this iconic national institution.

Senator RHIANNON: But there's also this very ugly side—what is going on in Yemen. You and I are interested in this but we hardly read about it. There are terrible crimes being committed and BAE is involved. Surely you can see that at times corporations undertake these projects to present themselves in a positive light when there are very serious, shocking things happening?

Dr Nelson : I certainly don't disagree with you, not just about Yemen but other parts of the world. But I certainly wouldn't associate myself with the view that BAE Systems, or, indeed, any other defence contractor, is principally responsible for what happens to innocent civilians and the protagonists in these internal conflicts. That's not something that I would do.

Senator RHIANNON: I want to move on to an issue that's been in the news lately. The Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister Chester, has recently said that he would ask the memorial for a detailed briefing about its donations, including the $560,000 donation from Dr Chau, who is allegedly the subject of bribery allegations. What will be the scope of that briefing and when will it be delivered to the minister?

Dr Nelson : We have already provided a briefing to the minister on it, and I'm happy to tell you—going back to what I was saying earlier—that in 2013 I was trying to do what I could to raise funds to support the Australian War Memorial; things we would like to do and would need to do, but simply couldn't afford or, certainly, justify within our existing budget.

I wrote to a number of high-wealth individuals, and Dr Chau Chak Wing was one of them. I had had dealings with him professionally in my political life, as I suspect others here have had, and he had a reputation, or has a reputation, for philanthropy, and I thought he might be prepared to support us. I wrote to a number of others, by the way, and didn't even get a reply. That's another matter. He replied, and I invited him to come to the memorial and he did so. I wrote to him in late April 2013. He came to the War Memorial with his family, and I took them on a tour and I introduced them to the memorial. They were unfamiliar with the Australian War Memorial, but I explained it to them. I took them through the commemorative area. I took them through the galleries. I particularly pointed out to him and his family the Chinese Australians who are on the roll of honour and the stories that are told of Chinese Australians through the galleries, as you would expect. I subsequently wrote to him, I think, about mid-2013 with a proposal for $60,000 for, again, something we wanted to do but didn't have the money to do, and that was to produce an ANZAC Diversity project. What we wanted was to have a project that was an online presence—which, obviously, would take resources to research and produce—to explain the non-English-speaking nature of those who've served our country, including Indigenous Australians. The ANZAC Diversity project, which he agreed to fund for $60,000, also provides online teaching tools for classroom teachers.

Having done that, we had this big problem with an old analog studio. This was a place in the basement of the administration building—archaic. If you're into vinyl records and things like that, you'd love it. We were trying to get oral histories. We would bring veterans who had come out of Iraq or Afghanistan in recent years, or the Vietnam War, into this poky little place that was cluttered with, by modern standards, very low quality recording equipment. So we had a proposal for half a million dollars to relocate this to what's called the Bean building, which is the building behind Poppy's, our cafe-restaurant. In that Bean building is our photograph, film and sound area; we have a lot of back-end operations. It was going to cost us half a million dollars to redevelop a space—that's the basic capital infrastructure—and to install state-of-the-art technology for audiovisual recording for live streaming out to universities, to schools and to audiences to create multi-layering, where one of our staff could be walking through a Lancaster, for example, and explaining what it's all about—

Senator RHIANNON: I'm conscious of time, Dr Nelson. I appreciate that. I think—

Dr Nelson : He agreed to fund it.

Senator RHIANNON: Right. I was just after the details about the report. The report that Minister Chester requested has now been provided, has it?

Dr Nelson : Yes.

Senator RHIANNON: So that job's done.

Dr Nelson : Yes, and he'll be able to relate to you what I was relating to you.

Senator RHIANNON: You mentioned, when you were just speaking, Indigenous Australians, and I did want to ask about that. Has the memorial considered dedicating any resources to memorialising the frontier wars, which, I'm sure you're aware, refer to the conflicts between Europeans and Aboriginal peoples, including battles, acts of resistance and open massacres from 1788 to about the 1930s?

Dr Nelson : I have been asked this before. The Australian War Memorial's origins are Pozieres, France, in July and August 1916—23,000 dead and wounded in six weeks. A mortally wounded Australian asked the official war correspondent, Charles Bean, who was at the front, 'Will they remember me in Australia?' From there Bean conceived and resolved that, at its end, he would build this memorial. Our charter, our origin, our mission is to tell the story of all Australians who have served our country, not only fighting wars but, from 1947, in peacekeeping operations, and humanitarian and disaster relief.

The conflicts that occurred between Europeans and First Australians, and the devastation that followed for the First Australians' culture and custodianship, from 1788—all of that, including the violence, at Myall Creek or Coniston, or perpetrated by mounted police, pastoralists or mounted native militia, is a story that has to be told. But the mission for that story to be told is that of the National Museum of Australia.

Senator RHIANNON: Is that in your mission statement that your job starts from 1916?

Dr Nelson : No. In fact, we tell the stories of what happened with the South African wars—the Boer war—including the Indigenous Australians who went to the Boer War—

Senator RHIANNON: That's what I thought and that's before 1916. We are going back to the 1800s there—

Dr Nelson : Yes, that's right, 1898.

Senator RHIANNON: Therefore, if you're are going back to those wars—and we're talking about sensitive issues here and I appreciate that—why aren't you dealing with those tragedies like—

Dr Nelson : Our mission isn't to tell the stories of conflict and violence within our country; it is to tell the stories of Australians going overseas to serve our country.

Senator RHIANNON: Who decided that?

Dr Nelson : It's in our act. It is also, as I say, in our charter and mission. Having said that, what we have been doing is we have been collecting artworks. I sent our people out to purchase Rover Thomas's Ruby Plains Massacre 1. We have got Queenie McKenzie's Horso Creek Killings. We are presenting the stories of some of the violence that occurred in the 19th century and early 20th century, so that Australians can think about and reflect on this remarkable group of Australians—that they endured all of that and then they enlist to fight and die for the young nation that took so much from them. I should also add that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans & Services Association itself is totally opposed to the idea of the Australian War Memorial having an exhibition relating to the violence on the frontier in the 19th century. It too is of the strong view that it should be the mission of the National Museum of Australia.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you take it on notice and supply us with the section of the act that spells that out in terms of how you arrive at those decisions?

Dr Nelson : Sure.

Senator RHIANNON: Moving on, in April it was reported that there is a plan to expand the War Memorial with more weaponry on display. How will the planned additional displays of weaponry help fulfil the memorial's mission, 'to assist Australians to remember, interpret and understand the Australian experience of war and its enduring impact on Australian society'?

Dr Nelson : Everything the memorial does is based around our collection. Of course, increasingly we've embraced new technologies and ways of presenting artefacts and relics. Five and a half years ago, I wouldn't have known any of this but I do now. It's not about the object; it's the stories of the men and women that are behind it. So, whether it is a Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle, whether it is a First World War tank or whether it is a weapon used by a commando in Afghanistan it's the story of the person and the people that were using those, and their personal stories. That's what we intend and we need to present and display. As you know, with the Afghanistan exhibition, for example—of which we're proud, but is still inadequate given what our nation has given there—you see the cowling from the Black Hawk helicopter that was used to carry out three of our dead in 2010 in Kandahar. We have the ScanEagle suspended from the roof that was used as a drone, basically doing surveillance before our troops would do operations. In terms of weaponry, as you describe it, that's what we're looking at.

Senator RHIANNON: I've read that the cost could be half a billion dollars, is that your expectation?

Dr Nelson : As I said to Senator Gallacher earlier, in response to his question on this, it's in that order over a seven year period. Our nation spends $12 million a year on veterans. If it were in that vicinity of $500 million it would be over a seven year period, but until we complete the detailed business case we can't be absolutely certain of cost.

Senator RHIANNON: When will the business case be completed? And will there be any opportunity for the public to have input into the decision?

Dr Nelson : The detailed business case will be completed by the end of this calendar year and, indeed, there will shortly be a public consultation in terms of what would go into any expanded gallery space. The decision itself is a matter for the government, so—

CHAIR: Senator Rhiannon, questions on that have been asked. You will find them in Hansard.

Senator MOORE: This year is a significant anniversary of the sinking of the Centaur off Brisbane. I know there is some material in the Australian War Memorial about the Centaur, but I don't think it's currently displayed. What is available at the War Memorial and where is it? You might have to take this on notice—I know you are pretty good on everything that's in the War Memorial, but I don't know whether you can pick up a particular issue like that. The Centaur stuff is of particular importance to so many people because it was nurses and hospital and medical people who were on that ship.

Dr Nelson : There is a small display on Centaur. It's in the Hall of Memory above the female servicewoman of the Second World War. Again, it's an illustration of why we need more space.

Senator MOORE: Absolutely.

Dr Nelson : Every single day I get this. We're underdone on Coral-Balmoral and the Vietnam War, we've just gone through that. With the Catalinas, I'm embarrassed about the inadequacy of the display on that. There is also peacekeeping, as I said earlier. What you just said is another one, and there is the nurses' story generally.

Senator MOORE: A number of us have had the opportunity to attend functions at the War Memorial. It is a splendid place for having any form of function. Can I get some indication of how popular it is as a venue for people to hire, and what is the process for doing that. It seems to me the things I've attended have been fairly large, very formal occasions. But do people use it for other purposes? Do they have other personal functions there?

Dr Nelson : We encourage anybody—individuals, private groups, companies—that wishes to book our ANZAC Hall. They can book Poppy's, by the way, our cafe restaurant. They go through Trippas White, our contracted service company, to make the bookings. It often introduces a new audience to the War Memorial, I find, because I often speak at these events, and it's often the first time people have been there—or at least they haven't been they since were in grade 6—and it is an eye-opener for them. We also derive an income of about $100,000 a year from the events held in ANZAC Hall. The more events that are held, the more it supports us, which would relieve Senator Rhiannon. We also derive some revenue from our cafes and so. Last year there was just under $400,000 a year in non-government revenue from having events there. I should say there are certain things we don’t have, like 21st birthdays and weddings. It's a bit hard to define—like with which companies we might accept—but you know it when you see it. It's anything that has the potential to get out of control and is inappropriate for that environment.

Senator Payne: Some of those functions I've attended, Dr Nelson, could have fallen under that heading!

Senator MOORE: Dr Nelson was at all of them!

Dr Nelson : Yes, well—

Senator MOORE: But there are some guidelines for how it happens.

Dr Nelson : Yes, that's right.

Senator MOORE: I was wondering about memorial services for people who have been service people who have died. It's one of the things that happens in special places of remembrance—people like to have some ceremony. I didn't intend asking a question about this, but you made me think of it. It could be a special memory for someone who had been in the services to have some form of memorial service at the War Memorial. Do you have that?

Dr Nelson : One of the things that I introduced in April 2013 was the Last Post Ceremony. The RSL in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales have been very supportive of that. That is one avenue, and, as you know, they're very moving. Two out of three stories are requested by families. We try. We are under the gun. We are extremely productive, with, as Senator Gallacher just established, fewer staff. We have had some requests to have individuals recognised, and our staff are fantastic. In fact, we recently did one for an officer, I think, who was either killed in Vietnam or died recently. He had served very honourably in Vietnam, and his mates wanted to have a bit of a commemorative service.

Senator MOORE: That was the kind of thing I was thinking of.

Dr Nelson : So, yes, we put it on. There's a limit to what we can do but we bend over backwards to do whatever we can to accommodate people.

Senator MOORE: My last question is about their national institutions. I asked this to a number of the institutions over a series of estimates. There is a grouping of the national institutions where people get together and look at issues that impact on all of you. In this afternoon's questions we mentioned digitalisation, which is something everyone I'm aware of is struggling with, the cost and the need to digitise. Who attends those meetings for the War Memorial?

Dr Nelson : There are a couple of things. There's a Council of Australasian Museum Directors. The first year I was in the job I used to go to them all. Now I don't have time—I'm so busy—but one of the assistant directors would normally attend. There is also an informal meeting, of my fellow directors of cultural institutions, which we have here regularly and we exchange notes about various issues. I think the nation needs a fund specifically dedicated to support digitisation across the board. This is like rail infrastructure. If this were the 19th century, we'd be saying we've got a national approach to rail infrastructure. We need a national approach to digitisation.

Senator MOORE: It seems to me also that a number of the issues are shared by the institutions, and the issues you raised about space, storage—

Dr Nelson : ASLs, efficiency dividends, space and digitisation; we have common interests.

CHAIR: Are there any more questions of the Australian War Memorial? As there are not, that concludes examination of the Australian War Memorial. I sincerely thank Dr Nelson and all of the officials for the extraordinary job they do in capturing and telling those stories of our service men and women. Thank you very much.

Dr Nelson : It's our honour.