Categories: Media Releases
      Date: Feb 23, 2011
     Title: Smoke and mirrors on War Memorial funding exposed

The community now fully understands Labor’s disgraceful smoke and mirrors exercise in relation to funding at the Australian War Memorial.

The community now fully understands Labor’s disgraceful smoke and mirrors exercise in relation to funding at the Australian War Memorial.

Shadow Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs, Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson, said the Gillard Labor Government has exhibited no urgency despite being warned 12 months ago about the ‘crippling’ financial crisis facing the Australian War Memorial.

“In March and May last year, the Chairman of the Australian War Memorial wrote to the former Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin, outlining his deep concerns with the Memorial’s financial situation.

“In his May letter, General Cosgrove pleaded with the Minister for a meeting between himself, the Minister and the Prime Minister to discuss their ‘struggling’ situation.

“One month later, an ‘independent verification of the Memorial’s budget position’ was requested.  DVA and the Department of Finance were ‘working with the Memorial to understand the funding arrangements and impacts’.  At the time the Red Book was delivered to the new Minister, the Report had still not been delivered.

“Then, in early September, DVA Secretary Ian Campbell sought an ‘informal’ review of the Memorial’s financial situation by the Department of Finance.  The Secretary of Finance replied on 16 September 2010 telling the Mr Campbell it was DVA’s problem to solve.

Senator Ronaldson said this was only the beginning.

“The Red Book given to new Veterans’ Affairs Minister. Warren Snowdon, on 14 September outlined a ‘crippling’ financial situation at the Memorial.  However, the new Minister apparently chose not to act, probably hoping the issue would go away.

“But as political pressure began to mount on the Government over funding cuts and the potential weekly closure of the Memorial, Prime Minister Julia Gillard ‘ordered’ a review of the Memorial’s finances by Finance and DVA.

“This was a political fix, not delivering an urgent response to an urgent situation.  No timeframe was put on the delivery of the report and more than four months later the report has still not been delivered.

“And now, four months later, we learn that the Prime Minister’s review order will at best receive attention in the Budget process.  And even that is not guaranteed, because as Finance Minister Penny Wong declared in Senate Estimates yesterday, it will only be ‘considered’ in the Budget context.

Neither Ms Gillard, Senator Wong nor Mr Snowdon are in any way interested in the crippling financial crisis engulfing the Australian War Memorial.  Senator Ronaldson said their smoke and mirrors hide nothing but failure.

“Yesterday and today, Labor’s misinformation about the War Memorial continued.  The Prime Minister claimed, incorrectly, that the Memorial’s $38 million was ‘comparable with previous financial years’.

“But what the Prime Minister did not say was that more than $7 million of this cannot be regarded as ‘ordinary’ revenue, and comes with strict rules governing its expenditure.  Finance confirmed in Senate Estimates that using these funds: “… to just supplement general operations … would not be legitimate.”

“Finance also confirmed that operating revenue in 2010-11 was $31,417,000.  They confirmed that an additional grant of $7.209 million was ‘equity’ funding which could not be used to supplement general operations.

“This confirms that operational funding to the Memorial has declined by more than 20 per cent under Labor.

“Gillard, Snowdon and Wong must end the spin.  I call on the Prime Minister to match the Coalition’s funding commitment to ensure the Australian War Memorial continues to meet the reasonable expectations of all Australians”, Senator Ronaldson said.