Billionaire Kerry Stokes picked up the tab for last year’s launch of the Australian War Memorial’s upcoming half-billion dollar redevelopment.
Hosted by former Sunrise host Melissa Doyle, the invite-only event was attended by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, shadow veterans’ affairs spokeswoman Amanda Rishworth, Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith and other invited guests.
Managed by Sydney based company Imagination (Australia), the event cost more than $800,000, but it has been revealed that the memorial only spent $34,000 with $740,000 coming from Stokes, who is chair of the War Memorial Council.
“When I was minister for defence, I was then first introduced to Kerry Stokes’ deep commitment to and passion for the men and women who wear and have worn the uniform of the Australian Defence Force,” memorial director Brendan Nelson told The Canberra Times.
“He has done and continues to support veterans, veterans’ organisations, families in a myriad of ways that are unknown to the public.”
The redevelopment has been criticised for the amount of public money to be spent and for the plan to demolish the currently standing Anzac Hall, which was only completed in 2001.
However, Stokes defended the amount of public money allocated to the project.
“[Cultural institutions] are looked after better in this country than any other country,” the Seven West chairman said at the event.
“There’s always a demand for more funds than there are available. Goodness, wouldn’t it be nice if we could satisfy expectation and every desire? We can’t, priorities have to be made. The priority at the moment is for the war memorial.”