Miller, Nick: If you could put a price on WWI fallen, it wouldn’t be $100 million

Nick Miller

If you could put a price on WWI fallen, it wouldn’t be $100 million‘, The Age, 5 December 2018 updated

An FOI claim on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs reveals that visitor numbers to the Monash centre at Villers-Bretonneux are ‘tens of thousands’ below target. For example, the online graph based on DVA figures shows 4000 visitors for October, compared with a prediction of 9000.

Annual projections of 110 000 visitors are compared with a likely figure for this year of around 70 000. Australians seem to make up less than half of the visitors, confirming some sceptical suggestions while the project was under way that the centre would be mostly visited by French and other European school groups.

As well as costing $100m to build ($90m from the Defence budget), the centre will cost $2.6m a year to run. There was a difference of view during the project between the then Minister, Stuart Robert, and the senior bureaucrat responsible for the project, retired Major General Dave Chalmers, as to where the costs lay: the Minister said because the hole was so big; the bureaucrat said because the technology was so good.

For extensive Honest History coverage of this project from the beginning, including thorough analysis of the PWC hearings – which were more favourable to the project than Miller’s piece suggests – use our Search engine with the terms ‘Monash’, ‘Villers-Bretonneux’, ‘Chalmers’, ‘whizzo’, and ‘boondoggle’. Most of the links can be found by working back from here.

Miller’s piece is also in other Fairfax titles, and in hard copies with different text. The above post has drawn upon the Canberra Times hard copy. A longer online version (with lots of comments). The Drum (from 38.0).

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