Federal spending on the Anzac centenary is to go up by $35.5 million in this month’s 2015-16 Budget. Anzac centenary minister Ronaldson has announced the additional spend today ‘as planning for commemorative events marking the 100th anniversary of major battles on the Western Front gets underway’. There is also new money of $8.7 million going to the Australian War Memorial to write the official histories of Australia’s involvement in Timor Leste, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Over the next three years, there are commemorative events planned for Lone Pine, Fromelles, Pozieres, Hamel, Polygon Wood and Beersheba. As well, there will be commemorations of the fall of Singapore, the Burma railway and the battle of Long Tan.
The minister’s announcement is strong on the Western Front and on military history since 1999. Some readers may not realise that the current festival of commemoration is to mark ‘a century of service’, not just the centenary of the Gallipoli landing. (We understand there was some politics in the planning stages of the centenary and it was resolved by a decision to go hard on both ‘the centenary’ and ‘the century’.)
Honest History (and others) will try to work out the impact of this additional spending on the overall estimated federal commemoration spend, which stood at $290 million following the announcement of the $100 million for the interpretive centre at Villers-Bretonneux. There may be double counting of some of that $100 million in the latest $35.5 million – the Budget papers may make that clearer – but, in any event, the latest tranche puts federal spending at around $300 million, plus another $141 million in the states and territories, plus perhaps $80 million (and rising) for corporate donations.
With the inexorability of a Great War tank, Australian spending is moving towards $600 million. There is a poem which we half-remember which ends with words along the lines of if they could see us now, would they ask why? Seems apt, if ‘they’ is the men and women of the Great War.
3 May 2015 updated