News State ACT News Australian War Memorial fights to keep donations

Australian War Memorial fights to keep donations

Dr Nelson says donations could dry up if the Federal Government takes control of the AWM's finances.
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The Australian War Memorial (AWM) is concerned new legislation will make it much more difficult to attract private donations.

AWM director Brendan Nelson says laws passed before the election will soon see the Finance Department remove all money from the accounts of government agencies each night.

The agencies, including the AWM, will then have to apply to get it back.

“On a nightly basis, the monies that are held in government agencies and government-funded agencies, including the War Memorial, would be swept up by the department of Finance and then kept by government,” Dr Nelson said.

The legislation was passed in the last days of the Labor government to improve the accountability of government agencies.

But Dr Nelson says some private donors give money to the memorial on the condition that it does not end up in the Government’s hands.

“There are people that want to donate to the memorial, that’s in everyone’s interests,” he said.

“But if they don’t do it because the money is being swept up daily just to support the government’s budget bottom line and then bizarrely we have to reapply for our own money, many individuals won’t donate to any institution, the memorial or anything else, under those circumstances.”

Details of the bill are expected to be finalised in December before it comes into force next year.

Dr Nelson says he wants a written assurance from the Government that the memorial will not lose control of its finances.

“This violates the principle of autonomy and particularly the management of its own resources by the Australian War Memorial and it also diminishes incentives for corporations and individuals to donate to the Australian War Memorial,” he said.

He says former prime minister Julia Gillard assured the AWM would not be affected and he expects the current government will do the same.

“It would seem very strange for the Government to act in a way which is hostile to getting private sector support,” he said.