Radio Interview - ABC Radio Canberra - 23 February 2021

Radio Interview - ABC Radio Canberra - 23 February 2021 Main Image

By David Smith MP

23 February 2021


SUBJECT: Australian War Memorial redevelopment.

LISH FEJER, HOST: David Smith, Labor member for Bean and member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, joins me this morning. Good morning.

DAVID SMITH MP, MEMBER FOR BEAN: Good morning, Lish, how are you?

FEJER: Very well, thanks. You've broadly supported the expansion, but you want to make changes. What's at the heart of your dissenting report?

SMITH: Look, that's right, Lish. Tony Zappia and myself, are both broadly supportive of redevelopment of the War Memorial, and there's a need to update some of the facilities and to provide some additional space. But in doing so, now we've listened to the record number of witnesses and read the submissions that came into the Public Works [committee] for consideration, we thought there was an opportunity to look at alternatives. They could have, first of all, preserved the award-winning Anzac Hall. Something that's only effectively an 18-year-old building that had won national architecture awards. We thought there was capacity to still incorporate that into the design, as well as thinking about how you might get better use of the Treloar Centre out in Mitchell which is where currently many of the big things, if you like, reside.

FEJER: Now, one of your recommendations is to consult further; that the government should consult further on this. Already extensive consultation has been done. What else can you do?

SMITH: Well, one of the concerns that certainly Tony and I had was that effectively, most of the initial alternatives didn't require Anzac Hall to be demolished and it was only really one of the key designs that went forward which had that incorporated. We understand we're on the dissenting side of report here, but we still think there's an opportunity to continue those conversations---and those conversations with many Canberrans that have got particular expertise in this area, both in terms of former historians with the War Memorial and in terms of understanding both museums and infrastructure.

FEJER: What's your timeline for this? Do you think it will get some traction?

SMITH: It's difficult to know, Lish, but one thing I will say is that certainly we were impressed by the way the Australian War Memorial staff actually engaged with the Public Works consideration and they were quite respectful in terms of the questions that were asked, and look we'd hope that the government does give some further consideration to this.

FEJER: What do you want to see happen to Anzac Hall?

SMITH: Well, my view, Lish, is that it can continue on. It can actually be incorporated into a couple of the broader proposed designs. So it's actually quite an amazing space as it is now.

FEJER: How much clout does a dissenting report like you've written here have?

SMITH: The obvious clout that we don't have is that we weren't the majority report on Public Works; but we have a statutory responsibility to report as we see it, to meet both the public interest and also the public costs requirements of our consideration.

FEJER: David Smith is my guest this morning on ABC Radio, Canberra. Just coming up to the 7:30 news, we're talking about the redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial. What is the next step for approvals?

SMITH: The next steps for approval is to go to the National Capital Authority, so there are still some considerations that have to be taken by the National Capital Authority.

FEJER: And the role of the dissenting report in that next step with the NCA?

SMITH: It's as it is; it sits on the table. But we're more than happy to engage in conversations with the National Capital Authority. 

FEJER: Have you had those yet?

SMITH: No, given the report was only tabled yesterday afternoon. 

FEJER: But you might have been setting some up?

SMITH: I don't think it's appropriate to actually move ahead of those formal mechanisms. But, Lish, I'm also on the Territories Committee as well. So it's not unusual for me to have conversations with the National Capital Authority either.

FEJER: Well, we'll watch closely. As you say, it is of great interest to the Canberra community as well as the community of veterans and the country. Thanks so much for joining me.

SMITH: Thanks.