Anzac commemoration spending around $500 million – and rising: Factsheet

Update 7 May 2015: local spinoff in latest spend? (updated; later update estimating spend at $551.8 million)

Minister Ronaldson (lifetime resident of Ballarat) has announced that $8.8 million of the additional $35.5 million (below) will go towards ceremonies including ‘major Australian commemorations marking the 75th anniversaries of the Fall of Singapore and the completion of the Thai-Burma Railway [to] be held at the Australian Ex-Prisoner of War Memorial in Ballarat’.

“During the Centenary of Anzac period (2014–2018), we not only commemorate those who served in the First World War, but also those who have served our nation in all subsequent conflicts and peacekeeping operations over the last 100 years. Remembering the service and sacrifice of those who were detained as POWs, those who died in these camps and acknowledging the effects this had on their family and loved ones is an important part of this commemorative period,” Senator Ronaldson said.

Further information from the portfolio confirms that the $8.8 million will go towards commemorations of these events in other places as well as Ballarat, that the Ballarat events are to be held in February 2017 (Singapore) and some time in 2018 (railway), and that it is too early to calculate local tourism impacts of the Ballarat events. Senator Ronaldson was member for Ballarat 1990-2001 and was elected to the Senate in 2004.

Update 3 May 2015: snuck out on Sunday – more commemoration dollars

Minister Ronaldson announces an additional $35.5 million, taking the total (government and corporate) to well over half a billion dollars, with additional corporate donations probably depending as much on the state of the economy as on commemorative commitment. We may have missed this one from David Tyler in Independent Australia – apologies. Great illustration.

Update 27 April 2015: pissing it in to half a billion

The prime minister has announced that Australia will spend $100 million to build an ‘interpretive centre at Villers-Bretonneux in France to ‘remember our victories’. This brings the total government (federal, state and territory) spend to an estimated $430 million (see Ben Eltham’s work further below) plus at least $70 million from private donors. (Latest news is that BHP Billiton is kicking in $10 million and corporate heavyweight Lindsay Fox is still rattling the tin for more from his business colleagues.)

So the Australian total is over $500 million; all the other countries in the world between them are only spending about $200 million. Commenting on Australian initiatives, an English historian said recently, ‘The Australian Government is going to erect a monument everywhere a Digger took a piss during the war’. At least Prince Phillip’s knighthood, ridiculous as it was, didn’t cost much.

David Stephens

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Spending on Australia’s Anzac commemoration-celebration looks like being at least $400 million, according to detailed research by New Matilda‘s Ben Eltham. Eltham has made the research available to Honest History and his spreadsheet is attached.

The research shows budgeted new spending since 2009 by the Australian, state and territory governments on the Anzac centenary standing at $330 million, though this does not include spending in the A.C.T., Northern Territory and Tasmania, where the information is unobtainable from budget papers or media releases.

Nor does the figure include centenary-related operational funding for the Australian War Memorial, Shrine of Remembrance, and similar institutions, or ongoing commemoration funding in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Nor does it include anticipated new spending, for example, on the proposed Western Front memorial interpretive centre.

Even more importantly, the spreadsheet does not include money donated by corporates to the Anzac Centenary Public Fund, wrangled by Lindsay Fox. Estimates of how much this whip-round would raise have ranged from $100 million to $300 million though the actual figure coming into the kitty may turn out to be much lower.

Perhaps the wariness about Anzackery has affected corporates as well as the general public. We’ll probably not see much more detail about the whip-round and it is not known whether Woolies have kicked in. (It seems a little ironic to see government laying into corporates for trying to cash in on Anzac; one wonders what pay-offs there are in political Anzackery.)

Projecting a conservative $70 million for the whip-round and adding that to the budgeted new money figure and allowing for spending still to be announced, the bottom line is that Australian expenditure on the Anzac centenary will be more than $400 million.

While international comparisons are difficult, at that figure Australia will be spending roughly twice what is being spent by all other countries combined.

We have asked Minister Ronaldson’s office for comment.

17 April 2015

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