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Veterans’ Affairs team visits Estimates Committee for another round

Last week, the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee hosted a phalanx of officers from the Defence portfolio which included, as usual, a team from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and a smaller team from the Australian War Memorial. Among the highlights, taken from the Proof Hansard (but easy enough to find in the final version):

No Senator saw fit to ask War Memorial representatives whether they had any views about the recent definition in the Australian National Dictionary of the word ‘Anzackery’, about the Director’s speech-making technique, or about whether the Memorial’s next annual report to Parliament will be less misleading than the last one was about the number of visitors to the Memorial’s website. One wonders if Senators do much homework at all.

For those recently arrived spectators who are surprised that War Memorial representatives appear in Veterans’ Affairs jerseys, this dates back to 1984, when Sir William Keys, then National President of the Returned and Services League, persuaded Prime Minister Hawke that the Memorial was better placed in the Veterans’ Affairs portfolio rather than in a cultural portfolio, where it had resided for some time. (See Michael McKernan’s Here is Their Spirit, pp. 328-31.) This has meant ever since that the Memorial has had a better deal from the Budget than it otherwise would have, because it does not have to directly compete for money with other national cultural institutions. More on this.

David Stephens

25 October 2016