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Both major parties were suckerpunched into supporting the $500m war memorial expansion

4 56 0
22.04.2019

Australia has not witnessed a more profligate cultural expense proceed with such a shamefully reckless absence of political scrutiny as the proposed half billion dollar expansion of the Australian War Memorial.

That is because both sides of federal politics – the Coalition government and the Labor opposition – have been cowed into supporting this needless $498 million project for fear of being seen to disrespect that most overblown shibboleth of Australian national identity, Anzac.

The truth is that the director of the war memorial Brendan Nelson – a former defence minister who is cosy with weapons manufacturers to the point that he scouts out their sponsorship for one of the nation’s most revered cultural institutions – has played both the government and Labor off a break.

They have been sucker-punched into falling in behind a proposal that is unnecessary, has arguably been devoid of proper executive evaluation and has drawn the ire of everyone from the nation’s most esteemed architects, historians and writers to the memorial’s own respected former officials.

Only the Greens have opposed the memorial plans so far.

Rewind to April 2018, in the lead up to the last Anzac Day, when Nelson – thanks to what was effectively a PR job by the ABC – made a soft announcement about the expansion plans.

Nelson told the ABC, “As a nation we have a responsibility perhaps to do better and in this regard we have received very strong support from our government, supported by our opposition.”

Hello! “Supported by our opposition ...”. When and how did federal Labor commit its support? Where was the rigorous Labor public or, indeed, behind closed doors, scrutiny of this proposal to spend so much money on an institution that has, because it is Anzac’s shrine of........

© The Guardian