ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja says the half-a-billion dollar Australian War Memorial expansion does not come at the expense of support to veterans, despite criticism that the money would be better spent directly supporting those who have served.
A federal parliamentary inquiry is examining the controversial redevelopment, which includes the demolition of Anzac Hall to make way for more exhibition space.
It has been suggested the money should instead go towards more practical supports for returned service personnel.
However Senator Seselja said the amount the federal government would spend on veterans services and support over the period of the expansion was 200 times greater than the cost of the project itself.
The $500 million investment in the Australian War Memorial project is new funding, part of more than $1 billion in investment in the ACT in the past two years by the Commonwealth, and does not come at the expense of investing in veterans' services," Senator Seselja said.
"Over the same period as the project, the government expects to see around $100 billion spent on veterans' services and support."
The expansion would also help during the ACT's coronavirus recovery he said.
"The commencement of the project could not come at a more important time for Canberrans, with the investment to stimulate jobs and the local economy," Senator Seselja said.
It comes amid criticism of Australian War Memorial Council chair Kerry Stokes' characterisation of opponents to the project as "special interest groups".
"Only after the final designs came out did the special interest groups seem to gather their momentum, and most of those are in Canberra. We will not satisfy every single person. The number of people who claim not to have been involved is very small," Mr Stokes told the inquiry on Monday.
Former memorial director Major General Steve Gower, who also gave evidence to the inquiry, said he was very disappointed with Mr Stokes' comments, someone whom he had worked with closely in the past.
"I was disappointed ... that the memorial's chair disparaged those that objected to the proposed half-billion-dollar redevelopment as special interest groups and being mostly Canberra based," Major General Gower said.
"This is more surprising given he was an important media proprietor of print and television organisations while he was [in Canberra]; perhaps this is what he thought of his audience."
Major General Gower rejected Mr Stokes' claims, saying individuals and groups had expressed concerns regarding the expansion prior to the release of plans and voiced those concerns in writing to the memorial.
He also rejected the memorial's characterisation of those questioning the redevelopment as being against the interest of veterans, saying the memorial had relied primarily on emotional arguments.
"None of them want to see situations where eligible veterans are not included and included properly in the Australian War Memorial," he said.
"But all the people who have put submissions in [to the inquiry] believe this can be done in ways other than running the very strong risk of dangerously jeopardising the integrity of the main building and of the site in which it stands.
"It's a very important place in the heart of veterans, in the heart of many Australians who suffered the consequences of a loved one not coming back, or coming back maimed.
"That's not in contest. But you can do it in ways other than what is proposed."