The War Memorial plays along with Lockheed Martin

Dec 13, 2022
Australian War Memorial, Canberra

Senator David Shoebridge, a new Green from New South Wales, tabled a document in Senate Estimates on 8 November which showed just how keen the Australian War Memorial has been to oblige its corporate donors.

The donor here was Lockheed Martin, in 2020 the world’s largest arms manufacturer by value of sales ($US58.2 billion), but which picks up “corporate responsibility” brownie points by donating small change to the Memorial ($727,000 from 2013-14 to 2019-20: Question on Notice No. 42, 2019-20 Supplementary Estimates, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee).

Formally, the document (dated 2018) the Senator waved around was Lockheed Martin’s, obtained from the Memorial under FOI. Signed by the Memorial’s representative, it enables Lockheed Martin to say it is not making donations to a government body to influence its arms contracts with the Australian government – which are worth squillions. (Lockheed is competing, for example, with Northrop Grumman at present for a contract worth $2.7 billion, and that’s just one of many.)

As the Senator said, “The purpose of having this limitation on behalf of Lockheed Martin is so that Lockheed Martin is not seen to be making financial contributions to governments, or any agency or association associated with a government, that it’s also selling weapons to. It’s an integrity measure.”

What the Memorial’s officer signed was an “international contributions compliance certification form” – provided by Lockheed Martin – that said:

[t]he Recipient Organisation [the Memorial] is not an agency, organisation, association, or instrumentality of the Australian government, any political party in Australia or a public international organisation, and is not otherwise owned, in whole or in part, or controlled by the Australian government or any Australian political party or government official, or an official of a public international organisation. [Spelling slightly revised from the Hansard to match the original.]

There was more in the form about not using Lockheed’s donated money to “improperly influence” Australian officials or obtain an “improper advantage”.

Senator Shoebridge asked War Memorial Director Anderson to admit that the statement signed off by the Memorial officer was “plainly wrong”, in that the Memorial clearly was “an agency, organisation, association or instrumentality of the Australian government”. The Director pointed out instead that the Memorial had inserted words (in red, indeed) in the form: “The Memorial is a statutory authority of the Australian government, with an independent governing council”.

The Department of Finance two page “Flipchart of PGPA Act [Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013] Commonwealth entities and companies, dated 15 November 2022, shows lots of statutory authorities, but the term “statutory authority” simply means “an Australian Government body established through legislation for a public purpose“. It is not defined in the relevant current legislation, the PGPA Act, which is written in terms of “Commonwealth entities” and divides all except 17 of the 190 entities listed into “corporate” or “non-corporate”. (The other 17 are companies under the Corporations Act.)

The Flipchart classifies the Memorial as a “Corporate Commonwealth entity”, one of 72 in that category. The category also includes the Australian National University, the ABC, the National Gallery, the National Library, and the National Museum, each of them with its own Act and similar words about the powers and functions of their governing Boards or Councils as are found in the Australian War Memorial Act 1980.

In essence, the Memorial representative who signed the form – and Director Anderson at Estimates – were using the generic but legally meaningless category “statutory authority” as a fig leaf to cover the Memorial’s paving the way for Lockheed. The fact that the Memorial can be called a statutory authority does not mean it is not at the same time a “Commonwealth entity” as on the PGPA Flipchart or, in Lockheed’s terms, “an agency, organisation, association or instrumentality of the Australian government”.

What fibs bureaucrats have to tell to cadge a dribble of funds out of donors. To complete the story, though, we need to mention that other evidence we have seen, dated 4 October 2022, is a letter where a Memorial officer admits (to someone not Lockheed but in reference to this case), “The ongoing relationship the Memorial has with Lockheed Martin would lead a reasonable person to understand the Memorial is funded by and a part of the Australian Government”.

So, what the Memorial says depends upon to whom it is writing – sometimes it’s not Australian, sometimes it is. By the way, Kim Beazley, newly elected and appointed as the Chair of the War Memorial Council, former Defence Minister, former Ambassador to the United States, former Governor of Western Australia and promoter of its defence industries, was also from 2016 to 2018 a member of the Board of Lockheed Martin Australia. Another example of what has been called “the military-industrial-commemorative complex” or simply “the revolving door”.

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