The Centenary of Anzac

Budget Review 2015–16 Index

Dr Nathan Church

New funding for commemorations

As part of its ‘Anzac Centenary Program’, the Australian Government has announced $35.5 million in funding for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) to provide for further commemoration services.[1] This is in addition to approximately $140 million already committed by the Government for DVA to administer the overall program.[2] The $35.5 million in new funding includes $9.1 million allocated for 2015–16, with a slight increase the following year before a peak in 2017–18 of almost $11.5 million.[3]

In total, DVA has $88.7 million in budgeted funding for its War Graves and Commemorations program (including Anzac Centenary commemorations) in 2015–16.[4]

Comparisons with other nations’ commemorations

According to Monash University academic Dr Carolyn Holbrook, the British and French governments are each spending $90 million on commemorating the centenary of the First World War, while Germany is spending $7 million and Canada is not spending any new specific money.[5] This broadly correlates with figures noted in a Financial Times article from July 2014.[6]

Specific projects

Sir John Monash Centre

The Abbott Government’s commitment to establish the Sir John Monash interpretive centre at Villers-Bretonneux in France is the single most expensive element of Australia’s ‘Centenary of Anzac’ commemorations, at a cost of over $100 million. According to the Department of Defence’s ‘Budget snapshot’, the Government has committed $18 million in 2015–16 and $89 million across the forward estimates to construct the centre.[7] However, no specific expenditure for the centre is recorded in the 2015–16 Department of Defence Portfolio Budget Statements, only a statement that ‘the cost of this measure will be met from within existing resourcing of the Department of Defence’.[8]

The 2015–16 Defence ‘Budget snapshot’ states that ‘the Government has previously announced it would provide initial funding of $2.8 million in the Budget to commence the establishment of an Australian interpretive centre at Villers-Bretonneux’.[9] In fact, this $2.8 million in funding (for what was to ultimately become the Sir John Monash Centre) was actually announced almost a decade earlier in April 2007 by Prime Minister John Howard, following an earlier commitment of approximately $300,000 in the 2006–07 DVA budget for a ‘strategic and design study for an interpretive centre on the Western Front’.[10]

Despite the initial progress of the project announced by Prime Minister Howard—the full construction of which reportedly had been projected to cost up to $35 million—the Rudd Government shelved the project in 2009 due to the impact of the ‘current financial environment’, with then Veterans’ Affairs Minister Alan Griffin noting that other commemorative centres on the Western Front had cost between $2–3 million.[11] Accordingly, it was indicated in February 2009 during Senate Estimates that DVA would probably return more than half the $2.8 million allocated for preliminary work on the centre, which remained unspent.[12]

However, through the support of Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott in both Opposition and as Prime Minister, the project has now been renewed, with anticipated completion by 25 April 2018.[13] Approximately $6.9 million was allocated in the 2014–15 DVA budget in ‘initial funding’ for the centre, while the 2015–16 DVA budget includes almost $10.9 million across the forward estimates in expenses related to the centre, notably in managing the project. An additional $88.6 million in capital costs will be met by the Department of Defence.[14]

Anzac Centenary Public Fund

Established in June 2013, this fund provides an opportunity for corporate and public donors to support Anzac Centenary commemoration projects, as distinct from any federal government funding. These projects include spending of up to $48 million in redeveloping Anzac Square in Brisbane, the Hyde Park Memorial in Sydney and the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.[15] According to its 2015–16 portfolio budget statements, DVA’s administered Special Account for the fund received an estimated $24 million in 2014–15, of which all was transferred out of the account in payments.[16] DVA also anticipates approximately $22.4 million to be allocated in payments from the fund in 2015–16, with an additional $36.6 million in expected payments across the forward estimates—making a total of approximately $83 million.[17]

Anzac Day commemorative services at Gallipoli

The annual Anzac Day commemorative services held at Gallipoli cost approximately $5.8 million in 2014–15, which included prior planning work and management of related reviews and research.[18] This is almost $800,000 below the amount noted in the previous year’s budget.[19] However, the 2015–16 budget estimate for this event will be slightly higher than the previous year at $5.9 million, despite the centenary of the Anzac landings having already occurred.[20] This amount is almost double the $3.1 million noted in the previous year’s forward estimates.[21]   

[1].          Australian Government, ‘100 years of Anzac’ website; Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Key 2015–16 Budget initiatives, p. 2.

[2].          Australian Government, ‘Frequently Asked Questions’, 100 years of Anzac website.

[3].          Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2015–16: budget related paper no. 1.4B: Defence Portfolio (Department of Veterans’ Affairs), p. 26.

[4].          Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Key 2015–16 Budget initiatives.

[5].          C Holbrook, ‘ANZAC spirit, modern warfare and marriage’, Q&A, transcript, Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), 27 April 2015.

[6].          J Smyth, ‘Australia’s First World War commemorations raise questions’, Financial Times online, 30 July 2014.

[7].          Department of Defence, ‘Budget 2015–16: Defending Australia and its national interests’.   

[8].          Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2015–16: budget related paper no. 1.4A: Defence Portfolio, p. 18.

[9].          Department of Defence, ‘Budget 2015–16’, p. 3.

[10].       J Howard (Prime Minister), Western Front interpretive centre, media release, 24 April 2007; Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2006–07: budget related paper no. 1.4B: Department of Veterans’ Affairs (Defence Portfolio), p. 37.

[11].       Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Official Committee Hansard, 31 May 2007, p. 164; J Massola, ‘Plans for $35m war memorial ditched’, Canberra Times, 21 January 2009, p. 1.

[12].       Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Official Committee Hansard, 25 February 2009, p. 142.

[13].       T Abbott (Leader of the Opposition), Address to the 2012 RSL national conference, Sydney, media release, 25 September 2012; T Abbott (Prime Minister), Address to the Anzac Day National Ceremony, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, media release, 25 April 2014; T Abbott (Prime Minister), Sir John Monash Centre design unveiled, media release, 26 April 2015.

[14].       Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2014–15: budget related paper no. 1.4B: Defence Portfolio (Department of Veterans’ Affairs), pp. 26–7; Portfolio budget statements 2015–16: (DVA), op. cit., pp. 25 27.            

[15].       Australian Government, ‘Anzac Centenary Public Fund’, 100 years of Anzac website.

[16].       Portfolio budget statements 2015–16 (DVA), op. cit., p. 72.

[17].       Ibid., p. 67.

[18].       Ibid., p. 70.

[19].       Portfolio budget statements 2014–15 (DVA), op. cit., p. 70.

[20].       Portfolio budget statements 2015–16 (DVA), op. cit., p. 70.

[21].       Portfolio budget statements 2014–15 (DVA), op. cit., p. 70.


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