National

Weapons companies use Australian War Memorial in Canberra for celebrations

Concerns have been raised about the world's biggest weapons companies hiring a shrine to thousands of Australia's war dead for their parties. 

Senate Estimates heard on Wednesday night that American company Northrop Grumman used the Australian War Memorial's Anzac Hall in December to "increase its profile" and celebrate its expansion in Australia. 

Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, whose grandfather was commemorated at the memorial, said he had been approached by a member of the Canberra veterans' association who was unhappy about it. 

Senator Whish-Wilson said profit-making private arms manufacturers should not be using such a sensitive location for their parties.   

"I'm raising this as an ethical issue given what the memorial symbolises to the Australian people," Senator Whish-Wilson said. 

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"Some of the biggest companies in the world are using our shrine to promote their business." 

About 250 people including defence industry heavyweights and those from the intelligence community turned up to the Northrop Grumman event three months ago. 

Memorial director Brendan Nelson said he ultimately authorised such events and confirmed other defence industry giants such as Lockheed Martin had used the memorial.  

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Dr Nelson said hiring out function rooms and support from private industry enabled the memorial to do important work such as the creation of its Afghanistan exhibition. 

Veterans' Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson criticised Senator Whish-Wilson.

"Are you saying their activities are illegal?" Senator Ronaldson said. 

The Greens senator said he was trying to approach the issue sensitively. 

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