Budget 2015: Honest History Factsheet: centenary spending $551.8 million

Update 14 April 2016: plus another $A5 million from Suncorp. Total now $566.8 million.

Update 11 January 2016: plus another $A10 million from a company whose world profits run at more than $US6 billion a year. Total now $561.8 million.

Bottom line at the top: Anzac centenary spend estimate of $551.8 million and rising

Our previous totting up of the Anzac centenary spend appears here (courtesy of Ben Eltham, Commonwealth, state and territory spend prior to Villers-Bretonneux announcement of $100 million extra) and here (took account of Villers-Bretonneux plus foreshadowed Budget amounts of $35.5 million for general centenary and $8.7 million for official histories. The Budget has clarified a couple of things and this looks like the picture at present:

Description Amount
Commonwealth spend ($189.6m Eltham plus $99.5m Villers-Bretonneux plus $33.5m 2015 additional centenary plus $8.7m official histories) $331.3m
State and Territory spend (Eltham) $140.5m
Corporate spend (Honest History conservative estimate, based on public announcements of pledges; likely to go higher; estimates of pledges since 2013 have ranged from $100m to $300m) $   80.0m
Total (conservative) $551.8m

Sir John Monash Interpretive Centre, Villers-Bretonneux, France

As foreshadowed by the prime minister, this is the ‘biggie’. Here is the fullest statement in the Budget papers (list of sources below) of what is intended:

Sir John Monash Centre – the Government has previously announced that it would provide initial funding of $2.8 million in the Budget to commence the establishment of an Australian interpretive centre at Villers-Bretonneux, near the site of the Australian National Memorial on the Somme. The Government will commit a further $18 million in 2015–16 and $89 million in the Forward Estimates to complete the project. The interpretive centre will provide a focal point for Australian visitors and tell the proud story of the soldiers who served on the Western Front battlefields during World War I.

What is interesting about this statement is that it appears not in the Budget materials of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs but in those of the Department of Defence. Further, it is not new money. According to the Defence Portfolio Budget Statement, ‘The cost of this measure will be met from within existing resourcing of the Department of Defence’.

Burrowing a little further, we find that this resourcing will come from Programme 1.9 Chief Operating Officer – Defence Support and Reform, which is mostly about managing and developing the ‘Defence estate’, that is, bricks and mortar, plus grounds, security and maintenance, corporate services, media relations, nuts and bolts generally. The Programme is the responsibility of a civilian Associate Secretary of the Department, Brendan Sargeant.

Among the Programme’s key performance indicators is this:

Approved Major Capital Facilities Projects are delivered within budget and schedule, compliant with legislative and other statutory requirements, standards and policies.

So the interpretive centre, the ‘immersive’ experience-to-be, will first of all be a ‘Major Capital Facilities Project’. This Defence program may well be where similar projects have been funded in the past – we’ll check [UPDATE 2 June: it isn’t the first time, though previous occasions probably not for as large an amount] – but another explanation might be that this area of Defence is taking on the Monash build in return for not suffering expenditure cuts or for having less sliced off it than might otherwise have been the case.

The Monash spend is not entirely borne by Russell Hill, however. In the Budget papers for Veterans’ Affairs we find this:

Sir John Monash Centre – Villers-Bretonneux, France – the project will be managed by DVA and funding of $88.6m for capital costs will be met by the Department of Defence.

Checking the figures shows that management by DVA will cost $10.9 million over the forward estimates to give us a grand total (so far) for the Monash project of $99.5 million, on top of the $2.8 million already spent. Pretty much the $100 million the prime minister claimed in his speech last month.

Official histories of Iraq, Afghanistan and East Timor involvements

The Australian War Memorial has $8.7 million over the forward estimates to undertake this work. This work is listed under the ‘DVA commemorative initiatives – Anzac Centenary’ in the DVA papers.

Other Anzac centenary expenditure

As previously noted there is an additional $35.5 million for DVA which

will allow up to 10 additional commemorative services to be held at national memorials in Australia, for example for the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, and the 75th anniversaries of the Fall of Singapore and completion of the Thai-Burma Railway. It will also provide for additional international commemorative services at Lone Pine, Fromelles and Pozieres, Polygon Wood, Be’er Sheva, and Le Hamel.

Anzac centenary public fund

This is a misnomer, as it is really the corporate donations wrangled by billionaire businessman, Lindsay Fox. So it is actually private money being put to public purposes. Estimates of how much the fund will raise have ranged anywhere up to $300 million – Opposition Leader Shorten quoted $250 million yesterday – but the DVA papers show that just $24 million has actually landed in DVA’s bank account to date.

This figure pretty much matches the projected expenditure from the fund for the same period, so it may be that corporate money, once pledged, stays in their coffers gathering interest until the Minister, on advice from his department (there was a committee but it has been done away with) decides how to spend it and the money is then whistled up.

As noted elsewhere, if the $250 million target is achieved then the Australian total spend on the Anzac centenary will amount to somewhere around $700 million, about 3 ½ times the amount to be spent on the Great War centenary by every other country in the world combined. This is perhaps what is known as ‘punching above our weight’.


Defence: Budget 2015-16, p. 3; Portfolio Budget Statement: Defence, pp. 18, 59-60; Portfolio Budget Statement: Veterans’ Affairs, pp. 25-27, 72, 102; Key Budget Initiatives, Veterans’ Affairs.

13 May 2015



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