House debates

Monday, 22 February 2021


Public Works Committee; Report

3:15 pm

Photo of Tony ZappiaTony Zappia (Makin, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—I thank the House for allowing me to make some brief remarks, and I speak for myself and the member for Bean in respect to the dissenting report. Let me state from the very outset and make it absolutely clear that the member for Bean and I support, in principle, the refurbishment of the Australian War Memorial. We accept the need for doing so as outlined by the Australian War Memorial.

The Australian War Memorial is indeed an iconic national institution which attracts 1.1 million visitors each year, and it serves as a monument, a museum and an archive for Australian military history. It honours the lives of men and women who have served in Australia's armed forces. We are conscious that not all military engagements are presently adequately recognised in the Australian War Memorial. We also note that what is proposed, at a cost of half a billion dollars, will be the most significant redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial since its opening in 1941 and will very likely remain in the design form selected for decades to come. It is therefore critical that we get it right and that the refurbishment respect the views of all of the people who have a deep interest in the memorial.

The Australian War Memorial advised that four redevelopment options were considered after an extensive redesign process was undertaken. I also note that the Australian War Memorial's preferred redevelopment option has attracted considerable public and media interest. It has been controversial. Not surprisingly, therefore, there were numerous submissions made to the Public Works Committee from individuals and professional organisations representing dozens of people, with recognised experience, expertise, knowledge and credibility, that raised concerns about the redevelopment options chosen by the Australian War Memorial. In particular, there was strong opposition to the replacement of the award-winning Anzac Hall, built only 18 years ago at a cost of $11.9 million. Labor members of the Public Works Committee are not satisfied that those concerns have been adequately considered or responded to. All but one of the submissions made to the committee are public documents and therefore are there for all to read. Labor members therefore recommend that the Australian War Memorial consult further with representors who made submissions questioning the benefits of replacing the existing Anzac Hall, in an endeavour to reach a consensus on the way forward. Preserving Anzac Hall may also result in a lower-cost redevelopment option for the Australian War Memorial that still achieves the objectives being sought.

The Australian War Memorial redevelopment proposal has also attracted concerns about heritage matters and the EPBC approval process, which ultimately came with a long list of conditions. As to whether those conditions are able to be met or not, I guess time will tell.

It has been a difficult inquiry. In fact, it's been the most controversial inquiry in my time on the committee, which now spans several years. There were changes made to the committee membership in the course of the inquiry as well. I therefore thank the committee secretariat for their valuable work and assistance in supporting the Public Works Committee and in the preparation of our dissenting report.


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