Canberra's institutions have been left to "wither on the vine", with the Morrison government yet to respond to a key report on their future 16 months after it was handed down, a Canberra MP says.
However a Coalition MP has blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for the delay.
A cross-party parliamentary inquiry found in April 2019 Canberra's iconic national institutions were facing intense resourcing pressures due to the federal government's efficiency dividend and staffing cap.
The budgetary pressures have meant some institutions are at risk of not fulfilling their legislated mandate.
The National Gallery of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Library, the National Museum of Australia, the Museum of Australian Democracy and even the Australian War Memorial have cut back on travelling exhibitions due to the squeeze.
The Museum of Australian Democracy research library, fellowships and summer scholarship to study Australian prime ministers was scrapped while the National Film and Sound Archive was unable to digitally restore old Australian films or create its own exhibitions without a collaboration with another institution.
Since the report was handed down, the National Film and Sound Archive received $5.5 million to help digitise its decaying collection before it was lost forever.
But in a motion in Parliament on Monday, Member for Bean David Smith said the report had been left to "gather dust" as institutions were forced to slash staff and services.
"Inaction, particularly around the resources of critical skills across the institutions, has already had significant consequences. In June this year the National Gallery of Australia announced that they could make up to 12 per cent of their staff redundant," Mr Smith said.
"In July this year the National Archives warned they were preparing to lose large sections of 100,000 hours of audiovisual magnetic tape archives because they did not have the resources to digitise the archive by 2025.
"In May this year the National Library announced that it removed key Asian countries from its list of collection priorities, it closed its Asian collection rooms and cancelled subscriptions to hundreds of Asian periodicals.
"As James Spigelman, the former chief justice of NSW and former [National Library of Australia] chair put it, this is not a proficuous time to proclaim to the world that Australians are not interested in India, Korea, Japan and the nations of mainland southeast Asia. That however is what the library has done by announcing it would stop the systematic collection of materials about all these nations because of financial restraints."
Fenner MP Dr Andrew Leigh said the institutions had been "starved" of funding.
"It's all here in the report. It outlines concerns on staffing reductions, citing the impact the cuts have had the mental and physical health of those remaining. It warns of concerns for their physical safety, and speaks of how individual institutions don't have the money or the capacity to properly maintain their facilities," Dr Leigh said.
Their plight has only become more desperate because of the coronavirus. National institutions were forced to close between March and June due to the pandemic, and were grappling with inconsistencies in safety advice as they tried to reopen.
"At such a point in our nation's story, it's critical that we support those institutions entrusted to tell our story and give us a better understanding of our place in the world," Mr Smith said.
"The government needs to urgently respond to this report's recommendations before more of our institutions work is lost or left to wither on the vine."
Nationals MP and chair of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories Dr Anne Webster said the government's response to the inquiry would be tabled in coming months.
She said Canberra's institutions had benefitted from $700 million in extra funding over the past three years.
This includes the $498 million Australian War Memorial expansion.
"I look forward to the ongoing investment in these very, very important national structures," Dr Webster said.
Liberal MP Julian Simmonds said while the government had other priorities in recent months, it remained committed to the national institutions.
"I'm sure even the Labor party has noticed we are in the middle of a global pandemic where ... much of the federal government has been diverted in order to make sure that we securely shepherd Australians through that crisis," Mr Simmonds said.