Budget summary: Anzac centenary winds down, War Memorial digitisation gets thumbs up, Captain Cook rewarmed, non-MSM comments

Honest History has done some work on past Budgets, tracking the Commonwealth spend on Anzac centenary commemoration (which had reached $342 million spent by June last year, plus another $260 million or so by the States and Territories and corporate donors). Not bad, you might think, and at that stage there was still a year to go.

At the going down of the Anzac centenary sun

This time around, though, it’s difficult to find in the Budget anything that qualifies as Anzac centenary spending. The Budget papers mention some commemorative events still to come, but the centenary officially ends on Remembrance Day. As it should, if only to leave time to work up to whatever is being planned for the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Digitisation

Meanwhile, the Australian War Memorial receives $13.1 million in new money over the next four years for

an enhanced digitisation program under the Australian War Memorial – digitisation and sustainment program measure to preserve archival and film, photo and art collection material. Focusing on First and Second World War materials in high demand and obsolete media at risk of deterioration, the program will improve conservation outcomes and promote access for users online and onsite. (DVA, Portfolio Budget Statement, p. 86)

The Memorial already has a digitisation program, as do other national cultural institutions, but this new spend will be of interest to the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories’ Inquiry into Canberra’s National Institutions, submissions to which closed on Budget day. (Honest History made a submission: submission No. 14.)

Looking at annual funding for the national institutions, the Canberra Times thought it detected a decrease in funding for the War Memorial, but if we add in the standard equity injection from government under Appropriation Bill No. 2, the Memorial actually does slightly better this Budget than last:

Total funds from Government 2017-18:

$62.270m

2018-19:

$62.333m

Source: DVA, Portfolio Budget Statement, p. 89

The figure does not include funds from donors: during 2016-17, ‘the Memorial generated $13,018,049 in partnerships, major donations, and bequests’ (AWM, Annual Report 2016-17, p. 91). The figure should be similar this year, including donations from arms manufacturers. (The Canberra Times piece is a useful summary on staffing impacts of the Budget.)

Other national institutions also do better on this ‘Total funds from Government’ number, compared with last year, and compared with the Memorial. For example, National Gallery $47.8m in 2017-18 up to $53.9m in 2018-19 (including an equity injection of $22.7m); National Library $61.9m up to $65.6m; National Museum $43.9m up to $47.9m; National Portrait Gallery $11.2m up to $12.1m.

Cooking

Some of the national institutions will be involved in the biggest cultural-commemoration initiative arising from the Budget, the Captain Cook Memorial (in the Treasurer’s electorate) and associated events to do with the 250th anniversary of Cook’s landfall at Botany Bay. Esther Anatolitis in Eureka Street has a useful article on this and there’s this background in The Conversation from Tracey Ireland. John Molony’s recent Cook book was reviewed by John Myrtle.

Good stuff for afterwards

The other thing we noted – and welcomed – was the War Memorial’s confirming that it will run a temporary exhibition on the aftermath of World War I.

A new temporary exhibition exploring the aftermath of conflict, ‘After the War’, will be on display from October 2018 to September 2019, complementing the Centenary of Armistice commemorative program and examining the impact of all wars on those who served and those at home over the past 100 years. (DVA, Portfolio Budget Statement, p. 85)

This is good. The only question is, why not make it a permanent exhibition?

The Brendanbunker

A little bit further down in the Budget paperwork is part of the answer to that question: lack of space. The Memorial wants more space, as this coded – and syntactically jumbled – paragraph says:

The AWM Redevelopment Plan, which addresses the future exhibition, access and collection storage required to provide appropriate facilities to effectively tell the stories of the Australian experience of war for the next fifty years, will undergo detailed development in 2018-19. This will include delivery of a Detailed Business Case, including a Gallery Master Plan, for Government consideration. (DVA, Portfolio Budget Statement, p. 86)

If the Budgetspeak code defeats you, think a large excavation providing parking space for big items of military kit (but not for after-the-war permanent exhibits). If the Memorial believes this is a mischaracterisation of its vision, it could bring out, as soon as possible, a notional breakdown of how the projected 5000 square metres would be taken up. Plenty of space for war aftermath and effects – and less space for superannuated aircraft – would be a great advance.

Chester-nuggets

Minister Chester’s Budget media release was a little slow coming out but is now available (also with ropey syntax). The release concentrates, as it should, on measures to assist live veterans and their families. Commemoration, let alone the Anzackery version of it, rates nary a mention.

Finding it

The best references for the Budget are the overall Budget Measures table and then the Portfolio Budget Statement (PBS) for each portfolio. We found our way fairly easily through the PBS for the Veterans’ Affairs and Communications and the Arts portfolios, using appropriate Search terms. (There seemed to be a problem with the link to DVA but you can go to the DVA site direct.)

The whole nine yards

And finally, for a non-MSM take on the Budget as a whole, try Ian McAuley in New Matilda. Then there is John Falzon of St Vinnies and Michael Keating, former senior public servant, both on Pearls and Irritations. (Keating has two parts still to go.)

David Stephens

11 May 2018

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