'What makes me angry is the ones who won't support us'
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'What makes me angry is the ones who won't support us'

Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson has defended donations to the memorial from weapons manufacturers and called out companies that do not financially support the memorial.

Under questioning at Senate estimates, Dr Nelson said the memorial had recently signed a partnership deal worth $375,000 with Lockheed Martin, had a $30,000 donation from Thales for the Napier Waller art prize, and $450,000 from Leidos Australia to develop a virtual reality tour of five large technology objects. He also detailed $100,000 of in-kind support from Kinetic Australia for engineering and scoping services on a project.

Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson told senators he seeks donations from weapons companies.

Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson told senators he seeks donations from weapons companies.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Boeing provided $500,000 for an exhibition about the Afghanistan war, Dr Nelson said.

"I actively seek [donations from weapons companies]," he said.

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Weapons companies had a responsibility to support the memorial he said. "I worry about the ones that don't."

"What makes me angry is the ones who won't support us," he said.

Companies generally asked not to have their names associated with elements of the memorial, Dr Nelson said, but he insisted that they were given "discreet" recognition, as with the BAE Systems Theatre.

"I want to send a signal ... that there's value in supporting us," Dr Nelson said.

The memorial didn't have a policy about what organisations it would or wouldn't accept donations from, he said, but judged each offer on its merits. Dr Nelson said the memorial wouldn't accept donations from a tobacco company for example.

"It's hard to define, but you know it when you see it."

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon asked Dr Nelson about the total donations to the memorial from weapons companies for the past two financial years, and this year to date, which was taken on notice.

Dr Nelson said that he had already given Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester a briefing on the donations to the memorial from Chinese-Australian businessman Chau Chak Wing. He said that he had approached Mr Chau about donating to the memorial because he had encountered him in his time as a politician, and knew of the businessman's reputation for philanthropy. It was Dr Nelson who suggested the amounts of money to be donated and what projects they were for.

Sally Whyte is a reporter for The Canberra Times covering the public service.

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