DAVID STEPHENS. Did the War Memorial deliberately mislead the Parliament about the money it gets from arms companies – or is it just careless about accountability? (Honest History 26.10.2018)

The Senate Hansard for 25 July 2018 contained the Australian War Memorial’s answer to Question 166from the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (FADT) Committee (question asked by then Senator Rhiannon in Estimates). The answer included a table that purported to show figures for the value of financial contributions that the Memorial received from military and defence companies over three years. 


Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are both military and defence companies. Both appear in the authoritative Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s list of ‘arms-producing and military services companies’ (p. 3).

Northrop Grumman is missing from the War Memorial’s table. Yet, Northrop Grumman appears as a donor to the Memorial in the Memorial’s annual report for 2016-17 (p. 92; donation amount not given). As well, War Memorial advertisements (‘for we are young and free’) at the Canberra Airport during 2017 included the words ‘proudly supported by Northrop Grumman’, as reported by Honest History in Apriland October of that year.

Raytheon is also missing from the War Memorial’s table. Yet, Raytheon appears in the Memorial’s annual reports for 2016-17 as a donor (p. 92; amount not given) and 2015-16 (p. 145; amount greater than $20,000).

On 18-19 October, Honest History provided the above evidence to the secretariat of the FADT Committee, which said it would be passed on to members of the Legislation Committee (which considers Estimates): Senators Abetz (chair), Gallacher (deputy chair), Fierravanti-Wells, McGrath, Moore and Patrick. On 22 October, Honest History also gave the evidence to the Australian Greens, given that Senator Rhiannon represented the Greens when she asked the original question. So, the material was available to Senators prior to the appearance on 24 October of Australian War Memorial representatives at Additional Estimates.

Despite the above efforts, Senators at the hearing (Abetz, Gallacher, Fierravanti-Wells, and Moore) did not press War Memorial Director Nelson on this matter. The Memorial’s half hour was taken up with soft questions –  and lengthy answers – on the Memorial’s plans for the Armistice centenary and its proposed extensions. At one point, Senator Gallacher facetiously asked the Director whether anyone ever said ‘No’ to him (the Director) but the Director evaded the question.

Honest History has previously commented on the accountability standards reached by the Memorial. In 2016, the Memorial’s website carried a ‘charter letter’ (sub-heading ‘Dead parrot in Limestone Avenue’) setting out ministerial expectations of the Memorial, but the letter carried the name of no minister and referred to a Commonwealth Act that had been repealed almost two years earlier. The Memorial’s annual reports for 2014-15 and 2015-16 contained questionable statistics on actual and online visitors and the 2015-16 annual report used out-of-date information.

Finally, it is worth noting that, while the War Memorial assiduously seeks donations from arms companies, the amounts those companies give the Memorial are no more than small change when compared with the companies’ turnover: for example, Lockheed Martin’s donation of $A100,000 in 2016-17 compared with its sales worth $US40.8 billion in 2016; Boeing’s $131,900 in 2016-17 compared with $US29.5 billion in 2016. Rather puts it in perspective.

* David Stephens is the secretary of the Honest History coalition. For his other posts, a number of them on the links between the War Memorial and arms manufacturers (commonly given the nickname ‘gunrunners’ by Australian Defence Force members), use our Search engine or our listing of posts by author.

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3 Responses to DAVID STEPHENS. Did the War Memorial deliberately mislead the Parliament about the money it gets from arms companies – or is it just careless about accountability? (Honest History 26.10.2018)

  1. David Brown says:

    War and weapons are a great opportunity for politicians and business people

    My Dad was a stretcher-bearer in Flanders in WW1 (he was 50 when I was born in 1942)
    He reckoned it was only us ordinary people that knew what war was really about.

    He used to take me along to secret Hiroshima memorial day meetings of the Quakers in Melbourne and I have always been sad and despairing as Liberal governments keep destroying Australians civilising instincts.

  2. Jim KABLE says:

    I have to concur with your thoughts Pamela – as well as the disturbing matters anyway raised here by David Stephens. That our national shrine of war remembrance has become such a Disneyland-of-Delights – currying favour (gifts of funding) from the very companies responsible for the maiming and other injuries of our young men and women – is reprehensible – and I charge the grinning Nelson for this travesty. There are few if any of my age and ethnic cohort who cannot claim grand-parents and other kinsfolk who served in the Great War and/or World War II. Political glorification other than the true sacrifices of bodily and mental integrity of those who were sent (under all kinds of guises – patriotism/white-feather bullying) seems to be the go for Nelson and his political thug-masters. And if I hear one more politician (and it IS only politicians or their henchmen shock jocks who are crass enough) state that those young people died for our way of life or our “freedoms” I shall scream so loudly that it will be heard deep within the depths of the Memorial. I had a pair of grand-fathers who fought 1916-1918 in France and Flanders. One was English-born – arriving in Australia a mere two years before the War began – aged then about 19 – the other born in rural central western NSW. Neither were able to enlist in the first year or two because they did not have the required height. Both enlisted once that height restriction was removed. Both survived – albeit with lots of G.S.W. and other trauma. The one from central western NSW brought back a teacher wife from Scotland. The injection of learning. It certainly helps me look back over the family and national history with an eye for the jingoism and “sparkle” and the subversive degree of complicity that Nelson is bringing to the War Memorial courtesy of his gunrunner big-biz mates. Hideous!

  3. Pamela Curr says:

    Very Interesting- Thank you. Amidst the hundreds of issues of concern the War Memorial was low on mine until my attention was drawn through the World War 1 anniversary. Apparently I had a great uncle who happened to be in Sarajevo as a Doctor with the Red Cross at the outbreak of war following the assassination. I provided some photos and background material to a researcher which led me to investigate the war memorial site.
    It appears to be the Luna Park of war with events, festivals and heaven knows what in serial succession. I found it very disturbing and disrespectful of the tragedy of war and its effects on the young men sent off on the “great adventure” by politicians as related to me by a grandfather and others who have now gone.
    The legacy of war in this country is not being accorded gravity and respect in my view.

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