Greens’ opposition to War Memorial expansion to put Labor on spot in Canberra

Ian Bushnell 29 March 2019 56

The Government and Labor have got their priorities wrong supporting the Australian War Memorial expansion, say the Greens.

The Greens have thrown a potential hand grenade into the ACT Labor camp ahead of the Federal election with a policy announcement opposing the massive expansion of the Australian War Memorial and supporting the redirection of the $498 million cost to other national institutions.

Labor backs the AWM expansion, which has been under fire from a range of groups and has become a sore point in the national capital where the other national institutions have suffered regular funding cuts through the efficiency dividend program.

80 prominent Australians ranging from author Thomas Keneally to former Department of Defence secretary Paul Barrett, and even the Australian War Memorial’s former director Brendon Kelson have come out against the proposal, which over the next nine years will double the size of the 77-year-old institution’s visitor areas and includes demolishing Anzac Hall.

The Greens believe they have a good chance of taking the new central seat of Canberra and knocking Liberal Senator Zed Seselja out of the Senate, and the War Memorial issue will likely play well for them in the ACT and wedge Labor.

The policy announced today by federal Greens leader Richard di Natale with candidate for Canberra Tim Hollo, Senate hopeful Penny Kyburz, and former leader Christine Milne, would see the $178m earmarked for the expansion currently in the forward estimates redirected in reverse cuts to all national cultural institutions and boost their funding, as well as a National Institutions Council established to determine funding.

The Greens also advocate an end to arms manufacturer sponsorship at the War Memorial; commemorating the Frontier Wars, and recognising and funding the Tent Embassy as a national institution.

Mr Hollo acknowledged the policy would be a key point of difference with Labor in Canberra but said it wasn’t just political opportunism, it was about doing what was right.

“What I’ve found in the past few months talking to people around the Canberra community about this idea is that this position is one that the community at large will support,” he said.

He rejected the notion that even if the Government was defeated, Labor’s support for the project meant the Greens’ ideas were going nowhere.

“What the Greens do very effectively is to put ideas on the agenda and work hard over time to try to get them adopted and very often that works,” he said. “This is one of those that is absolutely achievable over time.”

He denied the Greens were disrespecting veterans, saying the most powerful memorials around the world were those that were extremely simple.

“I absolutely respect those who have given so much for the country and so do the Greens at large but you don’t do that necessarily by splashing around huge amounts of resources,” he said.

Respect wasn’t about building another massive room filled with helicopters and other military hardware, he said.

Mr Hollo said favouring one institution over all the others was disrespecting all the other Australians whose stories needed to be told.

A render of the expanded War Memorial.

He said that while the War Memorial was proposing to tear down an award-winning building in good condition, other institutions, that were starved of funds, needed maintenance, such as the National Gallery of Australia with its leaky roof.

“They simply cannot do their jobs, meanwhile one institution which has a ‘new’ building in the best condition of all is being given such a vast sum of money to rebuild, and it’s simply not an appropriate balance to be struck there,” he said.

The proposed National Institutions Council, comprising representatives from each institution, would take a cooperative approach to identify spending priorities and recommending appropriate funding to government.

This approach would create economies of scale and reduce the cost of work, for example, digitisation programs that make collections accessible to all Australians and the rest of the world.

Mr Hollo said the War Memorial needed to stop taking money from arms manufacturers and that needed to be embedded in its charter, saying there was much disquiet in the community about the issue.

“Talk about respecting or not respecting our veterans, the Memorial is a place of contemplation and commemoration, it’s not a space for the commercialisation of war in any way whatsoever,” he said.

On the Frontier Wars, the Greens were proposing a memorial in the precinct along Anzac parade, not necessarily in the War Memorial itself.

“Building a memorial and recognising and funding the Tent Embassy are a small part of working genuinely with Indigenous people, in full knowledge of our past, towards a future together,” he said.

Senator Di Natale said the Government’s priorities were all wrong.

“The Liberal Government’s planned a half-billion-dollar expansion to showcase military hardware is deeply inappropriate,” he said.

Ms Milne, who battled cuts to the national institutions when in the Senate, said it was time to abolish the annual efficiency dividends and fund the cultural institutions properly.

Dr Kyburz said the institutions were the cornerstones of the nation’s cultural life.

“Researchers like me rely on them for our work, and we all rely on them to safeguard our national heritage and bring the world’s cultures to Canberra. It’s unforgivable that they have been starved of funds for a decade and more while the War Memorial is the beneficiary of an unnecessary cash splash,” she said.

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56 Responses to Greens’ opposition to War Memorial expansion to put Labor on spot in Canberra
Maelinar Maelinar 11:08 am 05 Apr 19

I agree that the war memorial should be expanded. While its certainly not bursting at the seams it is appropriate that every conflict zone that Australian Defence Force personnel have been deployed to is represented in the memorial, not just picking certain favorites, I’m looking at you world war 2.

ADF personnel have been busier than ever in the recent 2 decades after a period of relative stagnation after the Vietnam conflict, and all the stuff we stole from the battlefield needs to go somewhere..

Also, given that our migration programmes are bringing in wave after wave of non-Australian born immigrants, how else are they going to adopt our values and way of life ? A trip to peace park isn’t going to cut it.

Andrea Lloyd Andrea Lloyd 4:56 pm 30 Mar 19

I’m opposed to the expansion of the War Memorial too. Demolishing the Anzac Hall is ridiculous. It seems to be Brendan Nelson’s empire building is in overdrive. Totally unnecessary!

Jeff Gadd Jeff Gadd 3:20 pm 30 Mar 19

Un-Australian Greens always out of touch and contrary with true Australians.

Peter Major Peter Major 11:29 am 30 Mar 19

Time to stop wasting your time voting Green at any level

Tim Cole Tim Cole 11:22 am 30 Mar 19

About time the ALP had a genuine challenge in the ACT. Whether or not I agree with the policy stance from either, the contempt of how the electorate has been treated by Labor deserves a kick in the arse

Maria Greene Maria Greene 9:15 am 30 Mar 19

Now if they could only oppose stupid trams and decimated bus timetables. Oh wait. ACT Greens are in govt in the ACT and the stupid tram was their idea.

    Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 10:08 am 30 Mar 19

    They aren't trams. They don't run on the road. The light rail network is future proofing the city

    Maria Greene Maria Greene 10:37 am 30 Mar 19

    19th century unadaptable technology which is waaaay slower than buses. It was a joke right?

    Ryan Hemsley Ryan Hemsley 11:59 am 30 Mar 19

    Maria Greene What on earth gives you the idea that Canberra's LRVs are slower than buses?

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 12:56 pm 30 Mar 19

    Maria Greene NOT in peak hour. The bus can't move any faster than the cars around it. Do you actually use public transport, especially in peak hour?

    Maria Greene Maria Greene 1:08 pm 30 Mar 19

    Until they cancel them I do. They are cancelling 3 buses we use. IDIOTS . Our neighbours are now buying second cars

    Maria Greene Maria Greene 1:27 pm 30 Mar 19

    Ryan Hemsley if we get a southside one woden to civic will take 3 times as long and they will abolish the direct bus. Utter stupidity

    Ryan Hemsley Ryan Hemsley 3:23 pm 30 Mar 19

    Maria Greene The reason the light rail route to Woden will take longer than the current Blue Rapid is because it will include stops at Curruthers Street, Kent Street and Hopetoun Circuit, which were planned to be added to the bus route regardless of whether it would be upgraded to light rail. It has nothing to do with the relative speeds of buses over LRVs.

    Maria Greene Maria Greene 3:29 pm 30 Mar 19

    Ryan Hemsley it has to do with how long it will take any southside resident to get around. And it will move them INTO cars . Don't you get that? The new timetable will as well

    Ryan Hemsley Ryan Hemsley 3:50 pm 30 Mar 19

    But that isn't what you said, Maria. You made a sweeping statement that "trams" are slower than buses, which they aren't.

    Maria Greene Maria Greene 4:04 pm 30 Mar 19

    Ryan Hemsley sorry. The proposed tram route is waaay slower than current buses. Having said that I've never been in a tram travelling at 110k per hour but have been in buses which do. Maybe somewhere in the universe

    Trams do this?

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 7:25 pm 30 Mar 19

    No bus in Canberra should be doing "110k per hour". My bus route certainly doesn't come even close to that. Please tell us the local bus route you are referring to, or was this just a throw away comment with no basic in reality?

    Maria Greene Maria Greene 7:54 pm 30 Mar 19

    Julie Macklin he objected to me saying trams were slower than buses. I wasn't talking about local buses. I was just being equally pedantic. Can trams go that fast? I have no idea. I love public transport and hate having useful buses on the southside being cancelled for no good reason

ACT Greens ACT Greens 9:11 am 30 Mar 19

Here's our full alternative plan. All our national institutions are desperate for support, and their funding shouldn't be determined by one government's priorities - we shouldn't be losing staff and leaving buildings unrepaired at our most precious national cultural hubs.

Read our plan here:

Drew Reis Drew Reis 9:01 am 30 Mar 19

Why oh why can’t Canberra have nice things?? So many wack jobs interfering against this city and yet this city is so hated by all Australians. It makes no sense at all and it’s insane...🤷‍♀️🤷🏻‍♂️

Gisela Conechado Gisela Conechado 7:28 am 30 Mar 19

Info on the peace park if you’re interested to check it out. As is often the case, peace is not as well funded as war.

Marek Krol Marek Krol 2:43 am 30 Mar 19

Stop the veteran industry.

Geoffrey John Randal Geoffrey John Randal 9:32 pm 29 Mar 19

All parties are 'on the spot' when it comes to elections. For some a bloated war memorial and shrunken other national institutions might comprise the first priority; others will care more about health, education, inequality, the social fabric and good governance.

Christopher Goyne Christopher Goyne 9:10 pm 29 Mar 19

The greens are hopeless.

    Maria Greene Maria Greene 9:17 am 30 Mar 19

    Christopher Goyne yes. Look what we got federally after they destroyed Julia Gillard

    Hugh Campbell Hugh Campbell 8:36 am 01 Apr 19

    I do enjoy a well-reasoned comment.

    Christopher Goyne Christopher Goyne 9:43 am 01 Apr 19

    Hugh Campbell any time Hugh.

Roderick Saunders Roderick Saunders 8:42 pm 29 Mar 19

Is this issue really going to determine how many people vote? Not exactly the biggest concern for voters

Shayne Borger Shayne Borger 7:39 pm 29 Mar 19

We can do both! The Greens are out of touch with what the real issues are. Bunch of kill joy block jocks. Bring back Natasha n the Democrats to keep Aussie politics honest

    Hugh Campbell Hugh Campbell 9:05 am 01 Apr 19

    Please do tell us, Shayne, “what the real issues are.” As far as a lot of people go, $500 million on the War Memorial is a waste of money and shows totally wrong priorities.

George Brenan George Brenan 7:32 pm 29 Mar 19

On this one I couldn't agree more. Idolisation of veterans is no substitute for addressing the more profound social and cultural barriers to national unity. If you didn't want to do anything else you could start with doing something about a first nations cultural institution here in the capital. It's arguably at least 50 years overdue ( thinking of the referendum)

    Jonno Hasselhoff Jonno Hasselhoff 10:43 pm 29 Mar 19

    To question the idolisation of veterans is to be labeled disrespectful and un-Australian. It’s a difficult conversation to have.

    Andrea Charlton Andrea Charlton 8:06 am 30 Mar 19

    George Brenan isn't there an Aboriginal culture institution right next to the national museum? Surely we should be expanding that.... If that's how we can best benefit our first nations. I agree that the war memorial is fine as it is.

    George Brenan George Brenan 2:52 pm 31 Mar 19

    It's a research institution and I think something which can replace the tent embassy is needed. The location would need to be in the triangle with scope for being a strong cultural voice.

    Kat Watson Kat Watson 5:01 am 04 Apr 19

    I question replacing the tent embassy. Adding to or extra to its but the embassy is there representing how bad things are across the country. Gentrification of the space might not really be right. There are sacred fires there. I'm not the person to ask I'm not Aboriginal but just questioning.

    George Brenan George Brenan 8:46 am 04 Apr 19

    A permanent replacement had long been on their agenda - just not one tucked away out of sight

    George Brenan George Brenan 7:26 am 05 Apr 19

    Brendan Grondahl the consequence of your approach - which is not inconsistent with a specific institution- is that there will often be no institution in Canberra with indigenous leadership shaping what is presented. I think inclusion of indigenous themes is important but insufficient

Dominic O'Sullivan Dominic O'Sullivan 7:28 pm 29 Mar 19

Is there any polling to suggest that the Green challenge is ‘strong’? The Greens are certainly taking it very seriously, but that is not the same thing.

    Jennifer Faerber Jennifer Faerber 10:02 pm 29 Mar 19

    Taylor Warwick the seat boundaries have changed. It's definitely between the Greens and Labor

    Dominic O'Sullivan Dominic O'Sullivan 10:25 pm 29 Mar 19

    These are the 2016 results from polling booths within the boundaries of the new seat. The Greens would need to get ahead of the Liberals, then hope for a disproportionate share of Liberal preferences. An unlikely scenario especially if the overall swing remains in Labor’s favour.

    Party %

    Labor 42.5

    Liberal 32.8

    Greens 18.

    Ben Davis Ben Davis 6:04 pm 31 Mar 19

    They are long shots. Haven't even seen them campaigning yet.

Meg Bollen Meg Bollen 6:43 pm 29 Mar 19

Many have suggested the money could be better spent on those who have served and are serving! Research into and treatment of PTSD for example (and extending this to all PTSD sufferers).

    Hugh Campbell Hugh Campbell 8:33 am 01 Apr 19

    “From the approximate five billion adults worldwide in 2015, we estimate that about one billion, or about one in five, were residing in a country or region that has been directly affected by war between 1989 and 2015. Our findings suggest that 354 million adult war survivors suffer from PTSD and/or MD and, of these, about 117 million suffer from both conditions.”

    Perhaps surprisingly, this 2019 paper is “the first attempt to estimate in absolute numbers how many adult war survivors globally may suffer PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and/or MD (major depression)”. The number of people in the world right now who have experienced war is extraordinarily large, and the resulting prevalence of PTSD and MD are correspondingly enormous.

    We need to realise that when Australia follows America into its unnecessary wars of choice, often based on deception (e.g., Vietnam, Iraq), there are very serious long term consequences for our own people, but also for the surviving people in those nations so needlessly attacked, where casualties are huge, and almost the entire population experiences the stress of war.

Rebecca Kriening Rebecca Kriening 6:14 pm 29 Mar 19

Josh just in case you haven’t seen it

James Eveille James Eveille 6:11 pm 29 Mar 19

I mean it’s possible to do both? You can literally invest in the war memorial and the other institutions at the same time. This policy from the Greens really buys into the Liberal’s economic agenda that we can’t invest across the board, which is frankly incorrect.

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 7:08 pm 29 Mar 19

    I think their issue is more to do with the fact the Libs cut funding for every other institution, but found 500 million for the War memorial. They also have an issue with what they are planning to build and it ruining the serenity of the memorial.

    Rick Collins Rick Collins 7:10 pm 29 Mar 19

    Certainly we need to start somewhere. We've got to set about undoing the damage done to our national institutions by successive Labor and Liberal governments cuts to them, and this seems like a good way to start.

    James Eveille James Eveille 7:11 pm 29 Mar 19

    Sure the cuts are horrendous. But that doesn’t mean we should shed investment from the war memorial for other institutions when we can just fund the other ones anyway. The planning proposal for the war memorial mightn’t be great (I haven’t seen it) but that $500 million can be used for a variety of purposes for the war memorial and is a worthwhile investment.

Ray Ez Ray Ez 5:44 pm 29 Mar 19

Greens oppose “insert any good idea here”....

    Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 10:09 am 30 Mar 19

    The memorial just got renovated for the Centenary. Why add more now?

    Adam Rustowski Adam Rustowski 3:30 pm 30 Mar 19

    Ray Ez Good idea - opposing silly and irresponsible projects. As an American thinker once said curtly we , the citizens, should "resist much, obey little". Sapienti sat.

    Hugh Campbell Hugh Campbell 8:23 am 01 Apr 19

    Ray, there are much better uses for half a billion dollars. My father fought the Japanese in Borneo and New Guinea, and ended up with what we now call PTSD. He despised the RSSAILA (now RSL) with all their marches and memorials and political jingoism. He was also a Menzies Liberal. He would have hated this.

    You are dead wrong about the Greens opposing “any good idea”. This simply is NOT a good idea at all. The Greens have lots of excellent policies. Why not have a look at them rather than believing the lies and distortions that get printed? You might be surprised:

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