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Staff cuts loom in Canberra as cultural institutions slash expenses

National cultural institutions in Canberra will cut jobs again as they deal with the Turnbull government's efficiency dividend.

The savings drive will cut $20 million from the budgets of six institutions over four years and Labor senator Katy Gallagher said the demand to find $3 million of it by June was an "impossible ask".

The National Museum of Australia, National Portrait Gallery, Museum of Australian Democracy, National Film and Sound Archive, National Gallery of Australia and National Library confirmed they would need to find significant savings by job cuts and changes to operations.

In an Estimates hearing on Tuesday evening they said there were few alternate options to find savings other than job cuts because most of their budgets were spent on employing workers.

Some savings could be made on the margins by finding other ways to operate the institutions.


Museum of Australian Democracy director Daryl Karp said: "we've cut fat, we've cut muscle, now we've got to look at what we stop doing."

National Portrait Gallery director Angus Trumble said he might investigate the savings which could be collected by closing the gallery on Mondays but doubted it would be worthwhile. 

There was also reticence to change the times the gallery was open. 

"We very much hope to maintain existing programs and opening hours," Mr Trumble said.

He expected to cut three jobs from the 55 full time equivalent staff at the Portrait Gallery.

The National Gallery expected to reduce 10 positions from its 240-person full-time equivalent workforce. The National Library forecast eight to 10 would be lost from its 403 staff.

National Museum director Matthew Trinca said he would spend money from a separate capital works budget to redeploy staff.

Senator Gallagher said the boards and staff of these institutions had no alternative but to look at job losses, reducing program and turning to private supporters as a way of ensuring they can continue their service to the Australian community.

"None of the institutions could rule out job losses because of an efficiency dividend that was imposed on them, with the swipe of the Treasurer [Scott Morrison's] and Minister for Finance [Mathias Cormann's] pen without notice just before Christmas last year," she said. 

"The $20m savings will not be able to be found without impacting on services or on Canberra - it's as simple as that.

"$20m of cuts was allocated across these six institutions without the government having any understanding of what these cuts will actually mean in practise."