Pressure mounts on War Memorial half billion dollar expansion as national cultural institutions cut jobs: ACT Greens


Following news that the National Gallery of Australia will lose another 30 jobs due to federal funding cuts, the ACT Greens have reaffirmed their calls for the proposed half a billion dollar expansion of the War Memorial to be otherwise spent on funding our national cultural institutions.

The ACT Greens have long called for this inappropriate and unnecessary spend of taxpayer funds to be shared amongst our national cultural institutions, including as recently as last week. 

The ACT Legislative Assembly last voted on this issue in April 2019.

In a motion brought to the ACT Legislative Assembly by ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury, the Greens called on all parties to note that “that the Federal Liberal Government has provided $498 million to redevelop the Australian War Memorial, despite the protest of leading architects, historians, previous Directors and prominent Australians.”

ACT Labor amended this motion to instead suggest that the ACT Government should “engage with the Federal Government on their investment into the Australian War Memorial to promote good design outcomes.”

Both ACT Labor and the Canberra Liberals also voted against the Assembly “express(ing) its disappointment at successive Federal Government's failure to properly fund Canberra's national institutions” and refused to commit to “tri-partisan support in advocating for fair and equal distribution of federal funding towards Canberra's national institutions”.

Both ACT Labor and the Canberra Liberals also voted against the Greens call to acknowledge “the sponsorship of exhibitions and general funding of the Australian War Memorial by arms manufacturer firms such as Lockheed Martin.”

Comments attributable to ACT Greens Leader Shane Rattenbury:

“Our national institutions are cornerstones of our national cultural life and custodians of our stories. After years of so-called ‘efficiency dividends’, many of our national institutions are now facing further budget cuts from a Coalition Government that is clearly disinterested in supporting our arts, culture and heritage.

“When the ACT Greens called on the other parties to consider how this half a billion dollar expansion could best be spent, including in support of our national cultural institutions, we stood alone in the Assembly as the sole voices opposing this inappropriate use of taxpayer money. 

“It’s even more disappointing that the ACT’s other political parties would support weapons manufacturers funding our places of national homage and reflection.

“For the past three years, the Greens have made clear our opposition to half a billion dollars being spent in this way. This is even more important now, as the country focuses on how we can keep people employed through the COVID crisis. The Federal Government needs to rethink their efficiency dividend and put a moratorium on cutting jobs in our national cultural institutions.”

Comments attributable to ACT Greens campaign spokesperson for the Arts, Jo Clay:

“The loss of 30 jobs at the National Gallery today is yet another example of the dire straits our national institutions find themselves in. At the same time, both major parties are supporting an expensive and unnecessary redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial. The Greens want this massive funding imbalance fixed by creating a National Institutions Council to make sure that our cultural life is protected and supported. We turn to the arts in a crisis. We need these institutions now more than ever.

“The Greens have made clear our position on this important community issue. As an artist myself, I know how hard it is to make a living in this sector and I’ve seen years of institutional funding cuts.”