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Game of Mates. The Australian War Memorial and its military industrial conflicts.

by Michelle Fahy and Elizabeth Minter | Jul 9, 2024 | Government, Latest Posts

Why does Kim Beazley, chair of the $550 million Australian War Memorial upgrade, appear to hide his board roles at multinational weapons companies sponsoring the project? Who else is involved? Elizabeth Minter and Michelle Fahy go digging.

Australian War Memorial Council website makes no mention of chair Kim Beazley’s roles with multinational weapons companies Luerssen and Lockheed Martin and is very coy about another Council member’s full-time role with French weapons multinational Thales, which has just been referred to the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

A recent report by the national auditor general into the development of the Australian War Memorial found serious deficiencies. Steps were taken to dodge ministerial oversight; conflicts of interest were not adequately documented and declared; known conflicts were not adequately managed; key personnel did not declare prior employment with tenderers; and there were deficiencies in the quality of advice to the minister.

One draft contract for $1.05 million was split into two contracts with the same supplier, with both contracts being signed on the same day. Another contract under an official order for a maximum value of $319,572 was later varied upwards to $999,999—one dollar under the $1 million threshold required for ministerial approval.

The Australian War Memorial’s purpose is to commemorate the sacrifice of those Australians who have died in war or on operational service and those who have served our nation in times of conflict. It was designed as a place of quiet reflection and contemplation.

Military Disneyland

However, thanks to long-running sponsorship deals over the years with global weapons manufacturers, including BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Thales, the AWM is being transformed into a military Disneyland, which boastfully celebrates combat triumph with displays of military hardware and exhibitions.

We now honour our dead in a place sponsored by the companies that are so handsomely rewarded financially by the wars that kill our citizens.

In its report, the Auditor-General further noted that an entity’s culture will be determined by the “tone at the top” set by its leadership, noting that the AWM’s Council members and Senior Executive Service officers declare interests annually.

However, the Auditor-General stated that “AWM did not undertake any specific probity planning or review its processes for Council and staff to reflect the increased probity risks arising from the scale and volume of the procurement activities relating to the $498 million development project.”

Kim Beazley’s many roles

Should the public be told, for example, that Labor luminary Kim Beazley, the chair of the War Memorial Council, which is responsible for the conduct and control of the Memorial’s affairs, is an adviser to Lockheed Martin and that he was also on the board of Lockheed Martin Australia for almost two years (2016-2018) in between his roles as ambassador to the US and Governor of WA?

Lockheed Martin manufactures the lethal F-35 fighter jet that Israel is using to drop bombs on Gaza.

Beazley’s 349-word profile on the website of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), where he is a distinguished senior fellow, similarly contains no mention of his roles with Luerssen Australian and Lockheed.

ASPI’s mission is to contribute an “independent voice to public discussion” and “bring alternative sources of advice”  to “key strategic and defence policy issues”. Beazley writes regularly for ASPI, including this article on naval shipbuilding earlier this year, but he and ASPI neglected to mention that he is on the board of Luerssen Australia, which has the $3.6 billion contract to build offshore patrol vessels for Australia’s navy.

Why is there no mention of Beazley’s close engagement with these multinational arms companies in his 350-word profile on the AWM website? Beazley’s profile mentions his role as Governor of WA, his dedication to federal politics for nearly 30 years, his ministerial portfolios, his Companion of the Order of Australia honour, his advocacy for Indigenous people and the community, his educational achievements, his US ambassadorial role, his roles in academia, and his distinguished fellowships, all of which indicate a lifetime of public service.

The media release announcing Beazley’s role as Council chair on 2 December 2022 also omitted his Lockheed Martin and Luerssen roles.

Conflicts of interest

Also, why wasn’t the public told for a long time that another member of the War Memorial Council is a Key Account Manager with the French multinational weapons manufacturer Thales?

Daniel Keighran, a Council member for eight years, has been employed for at least five years by Thales, a sponsor (corporate partner) of the War Memorial and one of the top handful of suppliers to the Defence Department in Australia.

Thales was last week referred to the National Anti-Corruption Commission after the national auditor-general released yet another excoriating report into procurement by the Defence Department, finding evidence of “unethical conduct”. Thales received a $1.2 billion contract to run two Commonwealth-owned munitions facilities in 2020 despite an assessment that found its bid was “deficient”, “high risk” and did not offer value for money.

Until recently, there was no mention in Keighran’s Council profile of his Thales role, as is evident from a snapshot taken on February 22, 2024, by the Wayback Machine, which takes snapshots of websites over the years.

While the Council has since updated Keighran’s profile, his full-time employment at Thales is still only obliquely referred to as a ‘current association’.

Memorial Rorts: how the Australian War Memorial expansion was rammed through despite public opposition

War Memorial Council

Sitting alongside Keighran and Beazley at War Memorial Council meetings are the chiefs of each military service, who are ultimately responsible for arms procurement. They are Chief of Army Lieutenant General Simon Stuart; Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Mark Hammond; and Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Robert Chipman.

Notwithstanding the deficiencies outlined earlier, the Auditor-General found that the management of the development project had been largely effective. In a media release, the Australian War Memorial welcomed “the positive findings of this report,” which “illustrate the significant achievements, particularly across critical matters involving probity and transparency.”

The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Matt Keogh, said the government was concerned by the report and that “an urgent briefing” had been requested from the ANAO on its findings and recommendations,“ and we will discuss these with the Australian War Memorial’s management as a priority.”

Australian War Memorial: from keeper of the flame to hider of shame?

Michelle is an independent writer and researcher, specialising in the examination of connections between the weapons industry and government. She writes for various independent publications and on Substack on

A 30-year veteran of the mainstream media, Liz was the editor of MWM until June 2021. Liz began her career in journalism in 1990 and worked at The Age newspaper for two 10-year stints. She also worked at The Guardian newspaper in London for more than seven years. A former professional tennis player who represented Australia in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Liz has a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Letters (Hons).

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