Radio Interview - ABC Canberra Drive

The Hon Matt Keogh MP
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel


SUBJECTS: Expressions of Interest for the Australian War Memorial Council.

HOST, ROSS SOLLY: Yes, we have. Thank you. I think that's Matt Keogh. I think I can hear him. Hello, Matt Keogh.

MINISTER FOR VETERANS’ AFFAIRS AND DEFENCE PERSONNEL, MATT KEOGH: Hello. Great to be with you. I'll let you sort your desk out. 

ROSS SOLLY: No, well you are the problem Matt Keogh.

MINISTER KEOGH: Oh, there's the story of my life. 

ROSS SOLLY: You came to air five minutes earlier than you're supposed to and the desk is wired up for some reason. You're coming through live in the middle of my chat with Julia Baird about Princess Kate. So, unless you have anything interesting to add to that, Matt Keogh, we might move on to the Australian War Memorial. What do you reckon?

MINISTER KEOGH: I think that's a great idea. I think Julia knows a lot more about those other issues than I do.

ROSS SOLLY: Yeah. Look let's soldier on because we have got an issue and hopefully you can hear me, I can hear you and the listeners can hear us both, which is the important thing. Matt Keogh, you've called for expressions of interest to fill the Australian War Memorial’s Council positions. What sort of people are you looking for?

MINISTER KEOGH: I have indeed. And look, what we're doing here is calling for expressions of interest so that we can really make sure that we're reflecting the breadth of people we need on the governing body for the Australian War Memorial Council. So, we're looking for people that can bring corporate governance, financial management, project management, cultural institution experience. But of course, those that may have a defence service experience, an interest in historical research, people that have got connection to defence families, legal experience as well. Because when you look at the Australian War Memorial, everyone knows that it is our national memorial, and many people would appreciate that it also has museum and exhibition elements to it as well. But it's also a key area and place of research. It's also an archive body for our war service records. And as I'm sure many people in Canberra are very well aware, it's undergoing a very significant expansion project at the moment as well. So, we need to make sure we've got a good breadth of skills across the War Memorial.

ROSS SOLLY: Do you feel that we need a new direction, Matt Keogh? By the way, Matt Keogh is, because we've got a bit distracted by all the different noises and stuff I didn't properly introduce Matt Keogh. He's not just a bloke we found off walking past these ABC Canberra studios. He actually is the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. Do you think the Australian War Memorial needs a new direction, Matt Keogh?

MINISTER KEOGH: Well, I'm very happy with what the War Memorial is doing under the leadership of Kim Beazley as the Council Chair there, and Matt Anderson as the Director. And it's important also that in terms of the issues you speak of, in terms of direction, the War Memorial is independent of Government. We appoint the Council, and that's very important. We want to make sure it's got that right mix and the breadth of people on the Council. But it's also important that it does operate independently of Government in the decisions that it makes about how it operates the memorial and performs its very important national task of being that key national place of remembrance.

ROSS SOLLY: Has there been enough diversity previously on the board, do you think?

MINISTER KEOGH: Well, the current board certainly has a degree of diversity if you look at the backgrounds of the people on the Council, some from business, some that have been involved with veteran family organisations, some veterans themselves, which is great. But we have a number of vacancies that are coming up over the course of this year. And so I wanted to make sure, as the person who is responsible for guiding that appointment process, that I have access to as many people as may be out there that are interested and have good skills and experience to bear as potential members of the War Memorial Council. Making sure, I listed off a range of different areas of expertise we might like to see reflected there and we want to see a bit of geographical diversity as well. So, this presents an opportunity where we have a number of vacancies all arising in one year, to undertake this expression of interest process, where people can put their hand up and explain their background, their expertise and skills, and we can look at that as a Government in making these appointments.

ROSS SOLLY: Would you expect that all the applicants or the people you choose to fill these positions will have had some military experience or at the very least, had some interest in our military history?

MINISTER KEOGH: I would expect all of them to have an interest in our military history and commemoration and the important work of the War Memorial, but I would not necessarily expect them all to have a military background themselves. And, of course, it's worth remembering that the makeup of the War Memorial Council includes as ex officio members, the three Service Chiefs from the Navy, Army, and Air Force. So, there is a direct military position on the War Memorial Council already under the legislation that establishes it. And that's why, in terms of the remaining members of the Council, it's important to get a diversity and a mix across those different areas.

ROSS SOLLY: You mentioned there the role of Kim Beazley and also his views on certain things, there's been a lot of debate about what sort of recognition should be given to the Frontier Wars. Kim Beazley has been very open about it, very public about it. Would you expect that those appointed to the Board should have similar views to Kim Beazley about how the War Memorial deals with Frontier Wars?

MINISTER KEOGH: Well, I'm not expecting that the War Memorial Council or the War Memorial is going to be changing its direction on those issues. That is a matter for the Council, and this is the important part about getting a diversity of background and experience, and not just those that have got a background in service, but including those, but also those that have got a familiarity with issues confronting family members of those that have had service, as well as across those, what you might call more technical governance areas of financial management, project management, involvement in cultural institutions, because it is a cultural institution, legal backgrounds as well, and that are able to take on good expert advice, as is provided to the War Memorial Council by those researchers, historians and experts in this area that work for the War Memorial and provide that advice to the council as well.

ROSS SOLLY: I'm going to leave you with this text Matt Keogh. I don't expect deep breathing on the Drive show. Very funny. Yes. You were coming through during my Julia Baird interview. We could hear you breathing in the background Matt Keogh, it was very soothing, shall we put it that way? One of the more interesting interviews I'm sure you've ever done, not for the content, but just for the lead up. Great to have you on the show. Thank you, Matt Keogh. 

MINISTER KEOGH: Great to be with you, thanks so much for having me.

ROSS SOLLY: Bye bye. Matt Keogh, he is the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs on ABC, Canberra Drive.


Media contact

Stephanie Mathews (Minister Keogh’s Office): 0407 034 485
DVA Media: 

Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling provides 24/7 free confidential crisis support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families on 1800 011 046 or the Open Arms website. Safe Zone Support provides anonymous counselling on 1800 142 072. Defence All-Hours Support Line provides support for ADF personnel on 1800 628 036 or the Defence Health Portal. Defence Member and Family Helpline provides support for Defence families on 1800 624 608