Fiery words were exchanged over Australian War Memorial cuts during Question Time in Parliament today.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed the Australian War Memorial’s budget had been slashed by $800,000 which had led the War Memorial to cancel its Travelling Exhibitions Program immediately.
Since the program began in 1997, over 40 exhibitions have travelled to locations in every State & Territory. The program reached over 3.8 million people around the country since its conception.
In Question Time today, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten questioned Mr. Abbott about his cuts to the War Memorial, with Abbott admitting that the travelling program “won’t be funded over the next few years.”
The Exhibitions Program is funded by the Department for Veterans’ Affairs at a cost of $800,000 a year. The Department has also recently approved $810,000 in media monitoring and market research programs.
Prior to the 2013 Federal Election, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that “the Coalition will take the action necessary to preserve, protect and enhance the Australian War Memorial.”
It appears that the axing of the program happened without consultation with the War Memorial.
A Memorial spokesperson told the media on Wednesday night that “at no stage before Thursday, 14th of August, were we given any indication that future funding for the travelling exhibitions was at risk.”
In addition, a media release sent out by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Senator Michael Ronaldson on the 6th of August said that the travelling exhibition Remember Me: the Lost Diggers of Vignacourt would be “touring Australia over the next few years.”
Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs David Feeney told ABC’s Capital Hill that axing the program in the lead-up to the ANZAC Centenary in 2015 was “cruel and unfair.”
“There has never been a year, for a hundred years, that has mattered more than this one… [to] talk about how World War One was such a seminal moment in our national history,” continued Feeney.
Supporters of the Australian War Memorial have been encouraged to sign this petition showing their opposition to the cuts, with Feeney planning to present the petition to Parliament.