House debates

Thursday, 30 October 2014


Australian War Memorial Amendment Bill 2014; Second Reading

9:47 am

Photo of Stuart RobertStuart Robert (Fadden, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I am pleased to present legislation that will give effect to the government's election commitment to prohibit the imposition of parking and entry fees at the Australian War Memorial.

The Australian War Memorial, as this House well knows, is the nation's home of reflection, remembrance and commemoration.

It houses our national story of service in times of war and peace.

Every year, close to one million Australians, and over 200,000 school students, visit the memorial to pay their respects to the fallen, as well as to visit the world-class museum. I acknowledge the schoolchildren in the gallery this morning on their visit to parliament; I expect they too will be visiting the War Memorial as part of their visit to Canberra. Every year, so many of those schoolchildren enjoy that marvellous experience.

Indeed, a visit to the War Memorial has been ranked by TripAdvisor as Australia's No. 1 tourist destination and is the only Australian location listed in the group's world top 20 destinations.

The government is determined to ensure that current and future generations of Australians, as well as current and future generations of our schoolchildren and international visitors, can continue to visit the Australian War Memorial at no charge.

As we enter the centenary of Anzac this decision takes on greater meaning as more and more people plan to visit Canberra to learn about Australia's military service during the First World War.

The bill will amend the Australian War Memorial Act 1980 to prohibit the levying of parking and entry fees at the memorial's Campbell site.

The Australian War Memorial combines a shrine, a world-class museum, and an extensive archive.

The memorial's purpose is to commemorate the sacrifice of those Australians who have paid the ultimate price and died in war.

The memorial's mission is to assist Australians to remember, interpret and understand the Australian experience of war and its enduring impact on Australian society.

The concept of a national memorial and museum was first conceived by Charles Bean, a war correspondent and the official historian of the First World War.

His words, recorded after the Battle of Pozieres in 1916, captured the importance of this national memorial:

Many a man lying out there at Pozieres or in the low scrub at Gallipoli, with his poor tired senses barely working through the fever of his brain, has thought in his last moments: "Well—well—it's over; but in Australia they will be proud of this."

At the memorial, visitors can see and experience the Roll of Honour, the Hall of Valour, the dioramas and the Hall of Memory which contains the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier.

The names of more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and in other conflicts are remembered on the Roll of Honour in the cloisters that line the Commemorative Courtyard, which contains the Pool of Reflection with its eternal flame.

The Hall of Valour honours Australian recipients of the Victoria Cross and the George Cross.

The government has invested over $27 million in the redevelopment of the First World War galleries at the Australian War Memorial, a key project as part of the centenary of Anzac.

These redeveloped galleries will complement the galleries telling Australia's story of service and sacrifice in the Second World War, Korea and Vietnam, as well as in peacekeeping operations and the war in Afghanistan.

This bill will ensure that entry to, and parking at, the Australian War Memorial remains free for everyone for evermore.

Debate adjourned.