By     Joshua Black


Executive Summary

  • The efficiency dividend has been applied to Australia’s public sector agencies for thirty-five years, and in the case of the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries Archives and Museums) sector, with particularly devastating effects
  • The efficiency dividend has helped to destroy the formerly first-class service provision of Australia’s national cultural institutions
  • Organisations such as the National Archives of Australia are unable to meet their statutory obligations to collect and preserve materials and make them publicly accessible in a reasonable timeframe
  • A variety of measures adjacent to the efficiency dividend, such as corporate sponsorship and user charges, have also failed
  • Urgent funding has repeatedly been required simply to allow these institutions to recover from the effects of budget reductions over the long run
  • To avoid creating problems that it has to subsequently solve, the federal government should exempt these institutions from the public sector efficiency dividend. While the Albanese government’s recent funding boost for the national cultural institutions (to the tune of $535 million) is highly welcome, its pledge to retain the efficiency dividend can only undermine its efforts to restore this sector to its former self



The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition at the National Film and Sound Archive, Irene Dowdy (AAP)

For thirty-five years, Australia’s cultural institutions and memory-keeping agencies have been sacrificed on the altar of “efficiency”. Successive governments of both political persuasions have sought to cut costs on the routine outlays on which agencies such as the National Gallery of Australia (NGA), the National Library of Australia (NLA), the National Archives of Australia (NAA), the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA), the Australian War Memorial (AWM), the Australian National Maritime Museum and the National Museum of Australia (NMA) depend for their survival. There has been widespread, consistent and surprisingly broad recognition that the “efficiency dividend”, the measure that has been responsible for the worst excesses of financial starvation of these institutions, is a blunt instrument wholly inappropriate for determining the funding of small government agencies. Successive federal governments have allowed the measure to decimate these institutions, while ACT senators from both major parties have criticised its egregious effects. It is time that Australia’s national cultural institutions, which have been held back from the proper discharging of their core functions for too long, were exempted from the adverse impacts of the efficiency dividend.


Introducing the Efficiency Dividend

The public sector efficiency dividend was introduced in 1987 for a period of three years at a rate of 1 per cent annually, and subsequently amended by cabinet to 1.25 per cent per year before its implementation.[1] The idea was that government departments and agencies would do the same work with a little less money and a little more efficiency each year. Then-prime minister Bob Hawke argued that “the primary imperative” for the measure was the “efficiency” and “better delivery of government services”, but added that the government would also benefit from “substantial savings in staffing and running costs”.[2] Promoting the measure in parliament, Hawke promised that “the Australian taxpayer” would be “the ultimate recipient” of these savings.[3]

This rhetoric proved highly durable as governments came and went. Liberal finance minister John Fahey defined the efficiency dividend in 2000 in the following terms: “It is a mechanism through which the Government realises for the Budget a share of the productivity gains achieved through the more efficient delivery of services by agencies and through programmes”.[4] The explicit logic of the measure, then, was to squeeze the operational budgets of government departments and agencies over time, and to recoup those savings in the form of budget surpluses. In July 1994 the Keating government relaxed the rate to 1 per cent.[5] It was increased again to 1.25 per cent by the Howard government in 2005.[6]

State governments have also levied these efficiency dividends with a view to reducing state outlays, often with direct impacts on their own GLAM (Galleries, Libraries Archives and Museums) sector. For example, in 2009 the Kalgoorlie Visitor Centre’s local museum reported that it would have to reduce operating hours and opening days in response to the Western Australian government’s efficiency dividend.[7] By 2016 the New South Wales parliament had decided to conduct inquiries into the impact of efficiency dividends on the state’s own museums and cultural institutions, including the Powerhouse and Port Macquarie Museums.[8] The most egregious effects of the efficiency dividend have generally come from that levied by the federal government, but state measures have complemented – or rather, compounded – its impact across the arts, culture and heritage sectors.

The university sector, where plenty of Australia’s historical knowledge and understanding is generated, has also been subject to efficiency dividends. In 2013 the Gillard Government imposed efficiency dividends on universities in the hope of recouping some of the growing expenditure on tertiary students. The dividend was to be imposed at 2 per cent in the first year, and then 1.25 per cent in the following year. The prime minister argued that her goal was to “moderate that growth rate” in federal higher education outlays: “Funding will still go up, it just won’t go up as sharply”.[9] The backlash from the sector was, in Treasurer Wayne Swan’s view, “totally out of proportion”.[10] In 2017 then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who had himself enjoyed the benefits of free tertiary education, argued that the growing student enrolment figures and public expenditure required more stringent “efficiency dividends” that would “return some of that to the taxpayer”.[11] Clearly, the measure brought the higher education sector no closer to a suitable funding arrangement in the intervening years, hence the need for an Australian Universities Accord.


Effects of the Efficiency Dividend on Cultural Institutions

The GLAM sector has been subject to the harshest effects of efficiency dividends since the measure was introduced in 1987. Indeed, it was introduced in what ministers at that time described as a “climate of resolve to contain outlays on culture and recreation” in particular.[12] During a two-year federal review of museums management concluding in 1988, the Department of Finance consistently argued that significant public money could be saved by way of imposing efficiency measures on the NGA [then Australian National Gallery]. A consultant reported to cabinet in 1989 that there were “no major savings immediately available” from this “effective institution”, and that any public savings would come only if the Gallery pursued “fundraising and entrepreneurial activities” or sacrificed the quality of its offerings.[13] A similar external review of the NLA found that “major savings” were “not available”, and that the NLA was run “in an efficient and effective manner”.[14] If anything, the minister argued, short-term investment was required to support the NLA’s physical infrastructure, which was “becoming increasingly obsolescent”.[15] But these were recognised to be first-rate institutions operating in an efficient manner.

The universal application of the efficiency dividend appears to have exacerbated underlying hostility among senior public services toward federal expenditure on culture and the arts. Departmental secretaries complained in the 1990s as the efficiency dividend was extended and made permanent.[16] But they were happy to see cuts and efficiencies imposed on cultural agencies. In 1994, as the Keating government contemplated its Creative Nation statement on cultural policy, the Department of Finance argued for the total abandonment of the government’s commitment to a National Museum of Australia, a proposal debated for much of the 1980s. “Finance suggests that Ministers take a decision now to abolish the National Museum”, the Department’s executives argued: “The resultant savings […] could then be redirected to high priority proposals in the Statement”.[17] The logic seemed to run that, if the departments themselves were making economies, then smaller agencies ought not to be treated any differently.

The Department of Finance employed these tactics with multiple governments. When the Howard Government committed in 1997 to funding the National Portrait Gallery (NPG), the preservation of and public access to Old Parliament House, and the Centenary of Federation celebrations, Finance explicitly expressed its contempt for the outlays. Objecting to the expenditure of $62.2 million over four years, Finance argued that cabinet ministers ought to consider “requiring running costs to be fully offset” by additional savings elsewhere in the Culture and Arts portfolio, along with “the application of user pays principles” to the NPG and Old Parliament House.[18] The demand for efficiencies and economies across the public service arguably left little goodwill among its senior echelons for the cultural institutions that were poorly placed to bear the impact.

Efficiency dividends have at various times left cultural institutions in the invidious position of having to commit to abandon some core functions in favour of others. In 1988, as the measure took effect, the NFSA was required to suspend its “access and acquisition services” and redirect all resources to the urgent preservation of deteriorating colour film reels, silent films and other vulnerable materials. Even with all other activities virtually abandoned, the colour film restoration project remained incomplete when the funding for that program was due to expire in 1992. The Keating government agreed to fund the additional preservation activity, but on the provision that “an evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of the NFSA’s programs and staff resources take place within three years”.[19]

Successive governments have employed scare tactics to reduce institutional resistance to the efficiency dividend and related savings measures. In December 2002, the federal minister for the arts Richard Alston revealed to the media that a review of Australia’s arts and cultural institutions, particularly those in Canberra, would be undertaken with a view to finding additional savings. The Canberra Times reported that administrators felt “a great deal of fear and paranoia” about the prospect of “cost-cutting, possible amalgamations, and entry fees”.[20] The upshot was that, when the Howard Government eventually acted on its secret review (the terms of reference for which were never published), there was relatively little pushback against minor amalgamations and funding boosts for the performing arts at the expense of cultural institutions such as the NGA and NLA.[21]

There were further echoes of this tactic when, instead of heeding the dire warnings of the cultural institutions about the cumulative impact of efficiencies, the Gillard government proposed to raise the efficiency dividend permanently to 1.5 per cent.[22] It would in fact rise to 4 per cent, and the new arts minister Simon Crean told journalists that having “spared” cultural institutions from that additional increase was one of his early achievements.[23] A one-off outlay of $39.43 million to ameliorate the effects of the efficiency dividend followed in 2012, for which the Greens (then formally allied to the Labor Government) claimed responsibility.[24]


Not Neglecting, Strangling

National Gallery of Australia (Simon Peel, via Unsplash)

In 2005, one journalist reported that the efficiency dividend had cost the major cultural institutions – the NMA, the NLA, the NGA, the Australian National Maritime Museum and the NAA – between $200,000 and $500,000 each for that budget year.[25] When the Australian Labor Party proposed before the 2007 federal election to increase the efficiency dividend, the director of the NMA Craddock Morton publicly warned them of the looming “museum crisis”, and noted the perversity of the measure’s impacts on the sector. “Governments of both persuasions have long used this tempting and heavy-handed device”, he wrote. “It punishes efficient agencies while leaving the bloated and inefficient ones […] virtually untouched”.[26]

Upon winning office, the Rudd Government increased the efficiency dividend by 2 per cent to a total of 3.25 per cent for one year. This placed a significant and disproportionate burden on Canberra’s cultural institutions. The move was opposed by public sector unions, key stakeholders, and the federal Labor and Liberal senators for the ACT among others.[27] The NMA announced that vacant positions would not be filled again in many cases and that travelling exhibitions would be downgraded. The NLA and NGA voiced similar concerns.[28]

Dissatisfaction with the effects of the measure have often been met with callousness on the part of governments determined to prove their fiscal prudence by way of punishing Canberra’s national institutions. Asked at a press conference about the impact of the measures in 2008, Rudd told journalists: “we fully accept that that’s going to cause some pain and dislocation across Government agencies”.[29] The Director-General of the NGA, Ron Radford, told journalists that the institution would cut its travelling exhibitions from fifteen to nine, and would defer its schedule of art publications for the foreseeable future.[30]  In response, arts minister Peter Garrett expressed his confidence that the agencies would find “the capacity to adjust to circumstances that present themselves when we do need to have some emphasis on fiscal prudence”.[31] Speaking out against the added imposition, national secretary of the Commonwealth and Public Sector Union Stephen Jones told the Canberra Times that cultural institutions were more vulnerable because “they have a significant proportion of their budget quarantined for protecting the collections”.[32]

The Australian National Maritime Museum found itself in a similar situation. Required to produce efficiencies each year, it now found itself cancelling some exhibitions, deferring others, and minimising others still.[33] The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) told a parliamentary inquiry that staff were “racing against time” to preserve materials that would be “lost forever” when analogue technology became permanently obsolescent: “Yet we have had to reduce our staffing in this program by eight positions to comply with the requirements of the dividend”.[34] Disturbingly, AIATSIS also reported that it would have to “compromise” its repatriation program in order to adhere to the efficiency dividend in 2008, the year of Rudd’s apology.[35]

The NLA reported in 2008 that it had abandoned “outreach programs”, introduced a “moratorium on loans for exhibitions for all borrowers except other Commonwealth institutions and state libraries”, and reduced “investment in new technology”.[36] The effects of the efficiency dividend on the NLA were registered not only by that organisation, but by entities around the country who depended on its services. These included the Australian Dictionary of Biography (at the Australian National University), the Victorian Public Library and Information Network, and the Australian Map Circle. And when it came to the enormous public demand for digitised materials and services, the NLA and the NAA reported that “staffing restrictions” and resource limits imposed by the efficiency dividend were preventing them from rising to the “digital deluge challenge”.[37]

Perversely, the agencies have often been told to do additional work even as their resources are economised. In 2010 the Rudd Government decided to reduce the closure period of cabinet papers from thirty years to twenty. The new regime, supposed to be a boon to historians, was to be phased in over a decade. This meant releasing two years’ worth of cabinet records every year for ten years. Speaking on the occasion of his resignation in February 2011, Director-General Ross Gibbs described that work as “by far the biggest challenge we’ve got”.[38] In the meantime, the NAA was failing to meet its statutory obligations, often failing to process document examinations for public access within the legislatively required timeframes. In his 2020 review of the functioning and efficiency of the NAA, David Tune was unambiguous in saying that the institution was now “failing to deliver”.[39]


Large Challenges, Small Savings

The 2014 National Commission of Audit recorded Australia’s national cultural institutions as the home of $10.5 billion worth of “heritage and cultural assets”.[40] And yet, efforts to economise in this sector have come up against the same set of problems over the past thirty-five years. As public sector advocates and scholars have noted, “features that distinguish cultural institutions from other public sector entities include the large number of valuable assets held and the high proportion of fixed costs to maintain collections and the buildings in which they are housed”.[41] Moreover, they are disproportionately impacted by the counting of depreciation funding as part of total agency expenditure.[42]

The core function of these agencies also clashes with the very principle of efficiency dividends in the long run. As the parliamentary Joint Committee on Public Accounts and Audit reported in 2008, the “smaller agencies are often established to fulfil a specific function or purpose. This limits their capacity to reprioritise or trim discretionary activities”.[43] By definition, the core missions of the NAA, the NLA, the NMA and the NGA each require growth rather than streamlining over time: “most of them have a legislated mandate to grow and develop their collections. This does not sit well with the efficiency dividend’s goal of harvesting their resources for government priorities”.[44]

Further, the cultural institutions are poorly placed to absorb the impact of the efficiency dividend in a flexible manner. Aside from mandatory collecting policies and the cost of depreciation, the institutions are unable to displace or reduce the costs of electricity, property lease, temperature control facilities, offsite storage costs and so on. NAA Director-General Ross Gibbs told the Joint Committee in 2008 that the efficiency dividend, on top of rising energy costs and property lease costs, was taking its toll on the institution.[45]

The cultural institutions have often been told to find new sources of funding, such as philanthropic donations or bequests. While a few institutions have developed their external funding capabilities, most have not. Kristin van Barneveld and Osmond Chiu have shown that “over the period 2009–2015, the split between government funding and funds raised from donations, fundraising, and commercial activities has not changed significantly”.[46] Collecting institutions have also been reluctant to place too great a premium on large donations because of the risk that influential donors or corporate partners would exert disproportionate influence on the direction of these institutions’ acquisitions programs.

The savings derived from the imposition of efficiencies and economies on the cultural institutions has been negligible in the long run. For that reason, and given the unlikelihood that the smaller agencies could produce further meaningful efficiencies without harming core functions, the Joint Committee’s Report argued in 2008 for the exemption of the first $50 million of smaller agencies’ outlays from the efficiency dividend. For agencies with a total eligible expenditure of less than $50 million, this effectively meant exemption from the efficiency dividend completely.[47] The proposal was never adopted.


Giving with One Hand, Taking with the Other

Governments have benefited from the competition and mistrust that the efficiency dividend has exacerbated between Canberra’s cultural institutions. When the Gillard government ordered a review of the AWM in late 2010 to ensure its efficacy ahead of the centenary of Gallipoli, frustrated communities wrote to the Canberra Times to protest against any possible special treatment. Repeated media commentary on the AWM’s funding drew the ire of the directors of other cultural institutions. “[O]ther cultural institutions are doing it just as tough”, Sally Pryor wrote in Canberra Times: “It’s just that the memorial is the one shouting the loudest”.[48] In March 2011 the government committed an irregular $8 million boost to the AWM’s funding for the centenary of ANZAC, along with an additional $1.8 million investment for renewing the World War I gallery.[49] Warwick Cathro, the acting Director-General of the NLA, went public with his grievance at Gillard’s special treatment of the AWM.[50]

The episode was largely rerun in 2018 with the announcement of a $500 million investment in upgrading the AWM. Dr Brendan Nelson, then-director, told the Canberra Times that his institution “reveals more” than others about the character of the Australian people, and that funding arrangements made by governments for other cultural institutions was “a matter for those governments”.[51] AWM council chairman Kerry Stokes also took the opportunity to claim that other cultural institutions enjoyed funding that was better than it would be in “any other country”.[52] Historians, leading voices from other institutions and even former directors of the AWM voiced their concerns in a public letter signed by 83 signatories: “Should further money be spent on these extensions rather than on other needy cultural institutions or direct benefits to veterans and their families?” they asked rhetorically.[53]

Even as the extension and redevelopment took place at the AWM, the NGA was required to make 30 staff redundant in response to a $3.6 million funding shortfall.[54] Further, as Nicholas Brown noted, the NAA had explicitly told parliament that economies and efficiencies meant it could no longer meet the deadlines required of it by law.[55] Even though the NAA held countless records relating to Australia’s military history and service personnel, the AWM would continue to enjoy a monopoly on the funding that governments disbursed in the name of national memory and Anzac.

Often, governments have pushed the cultural agencies to the brink of dysfunction with additional efficiency dividends, only to be asked by the same institutions and interested stakeholders to deliver special funding months later in order to save them. In December 2015, the Turnbull government imposed an extra 3 per cent efficiency dividend across the national cultural institutions, promising to recoup $36.8 million.[56] The Canberra Times pointedly warned that “the point at which the efficiency dividend (as it’s applied to these institutions) became a false economy was some time back”.[57]

In response, the NGA announced that it had prepared a restructure that would make several senior staff redundant within a matter of days.[58] For its part, the NLA reported that it had once again cut staffing levels, and would now reduce the subscription services available to users. It would also conduct a review of all “public education programs” and stop publication of its quarterly magazine. More opportunities for subcontracting would be sought too, it said.[59] In 2016, the NLA began to charge partnering institutions for the public provision of records and materials through Trove.[60] The Department of Communications and the Arts told inquirers that the NLA could expect “contributor funding” from third-party entities to maintain and grow the Trove database.[61] In the lead-up to the 2016 federal election, the Australian Labor Party promised an additional $3 million annually for four years to support the ongoing maintenance of Trove in a more sustainable manner.[62] Advocacy (internal and external) grew louder over time, until the Turnbull government agreed to pay for the upgrade of Trove to the tune of $16.4 million over four years in December 2016.[63] Efficiency would seem to be better served if governments ceased engendering operational crises within these institutions with their heavy-handed efficiency measures in the first place.

Average Staffing Level caps have also been a mandatory efficiency mechanism reducing the effectiveness of cultural institutions. By 2019 many of them had “either reduced or intended to reduce staff numbers to comply with the ASL cap”.[64] One of the results has been that temporary staff are called upon in order to perform core functions of the institutions which would be better performed by permanent staff who would acquire institutional memory over time.[65]

The principle of user pays has often been invoked as an alternative to efficiency dividends or as a contributory component of them. In September 1982, the Fraser government imposed a $2.00 entry charge on the NGA, with a view to using the revenue to fund acquisitions.[66] In July 1983 the Hawke Government decided to retain the entry fee, even as it recognised that just 40 per cent of users had in fact paid the charge, given the variety of concessions available. The complaint from the Canberra community, cabinet noted, was that “the imposition of entry charges […] amounts to double billing”.[67] Entry charges were removed by the Howard Government in 1998.

The AWM has also been subject to periodic debates about fees and charges. In 1991 the institution’s governing council led by Dame Beryl Beaurepaire decided to introduce an entrance charge. While the revenue would “mean little” on its own, it seemed a way of proving internal economies to prospective donors.[68] The Returned and Services’ League exerted so much pressure on Liberal Senators that the measure was eventually overturned in the Senate.[69] Later, when the AWM was making economies under the pressure of the Rudd Government’s one-off efficiency dividend increase, there was a proposal for user charges on access to historic records.[70] This efficiency measure never came to pass.

Charges at the point of public entry have not been a favoured approach in this sector given the consequences for visitor numbers, but commercialisation of some minor functions and charges on third-party partners (as occurred with Trove in 2016) have been tested and implemented over time. Digitisation services have been a particular target for user charges. As Tim Sherratt has shown, the federal government introduced a charge on the NAA’s national digitisation service in 2007, with the fee rising by 600 per cent over the following fifteen years.[71] A single fee increase in 2016 saw “a 50 per cent drop in digitisation requests”.[72] Clearly, fees and charges have done no good for these institutions’ relationships with their clients, nor any good for governments who hoped that such measures would make the institutions more sustainable.


National Cultural Institutions Today

In late 2018, the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories launched a review of Canberra’s cultural institutions. The findings in April 2019 echoed those of reports past. The NGA reported that false efficiencies were harming “staff morale, brand perception and the ability to foster a culture of new ideas and innovation”.[73] Most of the institutions reported “fewer travelling exhibitions” over time, reduced community outreach, and fewer scholarships and fellowships for researchers. The NFSA reported that it was once again “unable to digitally restore old Australian films” without external partnerships or collaboration.[74]

When minister for the arts Paul Fletcher announced a $23 million package to support the cultural institutions in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns and their impact on revenue, the reality was that the funding boost was barely enough to allow the institutions to keep pace with the efficiency dividend and its impacts.[75] In 2021 Michelle Arrow, Gideon Haigh, Graeme Davison and others warned publicly that essential audio-visual materials at the NAA were at risk of falling off the “digital cliff” without being preserved, thanks to the ongoing impact of cuts and the efficiency dividend.[76] Haigh and Davidson organised an open letter, signed by 150 writers, all of whom argued that the efficiency dividend had “weakened the National Archives’ capacity” to perform its core functions, namely the facilitation of access to archival records and the preservation of fragile materials.[77] The writers urged the Morrison government to support the findings of the David Tune’ review of the NAA, which recommended urgent funding for a 7-year to conserve “at-risk” records.[78] After much prevarication and evasion, the Morrison government committed $67 million to save the vulnerable audio-visual records, but refused to commit the hundreds of millions required to meet the other pressing priorities identified in that Review.[79]

The policy settings that govern the GLAM sector, and especially Australia’s national cultural and collecting institutions, must change. A positive step was taken by the Albanese government when, on 3 April 2023, it announced a substantial boost to the funding of Trove.[80] This was followed two days later with the far bolder announcement of $535 million in new funding for nine cultural institutions, including all of those I have discussed here.[81] But even as they offered the cultural institutions a vital lifeline, ministers refused to end the asphyxiation they have suffered at the hands of the efficiency dividend. In his review, David Tune noted that the cost to the NAA of the efficiency dividend over a five-year period equated with $8.9 million in 2014–15 values.[82] Defending the measure, finance minister Katy Gallagher told journalists that having “a productivity efficiency component” in public expenditure was simply “a responsible part of government”.[83] The chief effect of the efficiency dividend today is to harm these institutions and create new inefficiencies, undermining the impact of each round of emergency funding poured into them. Gallagher, who bears a special responsibility for many of these institutions as a Senator for the ACT, surely knows this.

If there is one lesson in this long and sorry history for the cultural institutions to learn and remember, it is the importance of securing advocates among the nation’s news providers. With the exception of the Canberra Times, whose journalists have consistently reported on the decimation of these institutions and the role of the efficiency dividend in that process, most news providers have shown a paucity of interest. Moments of heightened controversy have occasionally attracted the attention of other newspapers, particularly the former Fairfax papers. News Corporation has, by way of contrast, shown far less interest in the abuse of cultural institutions by successive treasurers and prime ministers, with one key exception. In 2021 News Corporation outlets, particularly the Australian newspaper, gave Haigh (a longstanding contributor to News Corp newspapers and a widely respected one at that) and Davison their platform with which to press upon the Morrison government the urgency of additional funding for the NAA to save valuable audio-visual records from oblivion. In that instance, it seems that the threat of losing wartime radio recordings of John Curtin and Robert Menzies, as well as the personal debt that some claimed then-treasurer John Frydenberg owed the Archives for its role in helping him prove his citizenship during the Section 44 crisis of 2017, helped to attract media attention and government action.[84] But if the cultural institutions had always enjoyed the active interest of national media outlets in the way that they have in the past few weeks, then the present crisis would never have been allowed to materialise in the first place.



[1] Cabinet Decision 9530, Efficiency Dividend, Without Submission. National Archives of Australia (hereafter NAA): A13979, 9530.

[2] Robert J. L. Hawke, Address to Australian Financial Review Post-Budget Dinner, Sydney, 16 September 1987. PM Transcripts,, accessed 20 March 2023.

[3] Robert J. L. Hawke, Statement to Parliament on Public Sector Reforms, 25 September 1986. PM Transcripts,, accessed 20 March 2023.

[4] Cabinet Submission JH00/0094, Proposal to Remove Indexation and the Efficiency Dividend for Departmental Outputs. NAA: A14370, JH2000/94, p. 3.

[5] John Wanna, Joanne Kelly and John Forster, Managing Public Expenditure in Australia (London: Routledge, 2020 [2000]), p. 211.

[6] Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, Report 413: The Efficiency Dividend and Small Agencies: Size Does Matter (Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia, December 2008), p. 2.

[7] “Visitors to ‘Miss Out’ on Museum Experience”, ABC Regional News, 15 July 2009.

[8] Peter Daniels, “Museums are the Poor Cousins of Arts Funding”, Port Macquarie News, 19 November 2016.

[9] Julia Gillard, Transcript of Sky News People’s Forum, 22 April 2013.

[10] Wayne Swan, The Good Fight: Six Years, Two Prime Ministers, and Staring Down the Global Recession (Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2014), p. 296.

[11] Malcolm Turnbull, Interview with Belinda Varischetti, ABC Perth Radio, 2 May 2017.

[12] Clyde Holding, Cabinet Submission 6407, Review of the National Library of Australia. NAA: A14039, 6407, p. 1.

[13] Cabinet Submission 6578, Review of the Australian National Gallery. NAA: A14039, 6578, p. 2.

[14] Holding, Cabinet Submission 6407. NAA: A14039, 6407, p. 1.

[15] Holding, Cabinet Submission 6407. NAA: A14039, 6407, p. 1.

[16] Wanna, Kelly and Forster, Managing Public Expenditure in Australia, pp. 208–9.

[17] Department of Finance coordinating comments, Submission 1843, 1994 Cultural Policy Statement – National Institutions Initiatives. NAA: A14217, 1843, p. 29.

[18] Department of Finance coordinating comments, Cabinet Submission JH97/0429, Funding for Old Parliament House, the National Portrait Gallery and the Centenary of Federation Council – Decision JH97/0429/CAB. NAA: A14370, JH1997/429, p. 11.

[19] Submission 442, Expenditure Review Committee, 8 July 1992. NAA: A14217, 442.

[20] Emma MacDonald, “Cuts to Arts Feared”, Canberra Times, 11 December 2002, p. 10.

[21] Cosima Marriner, “Breathe Easy: Arts Gets a New Start”, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 May 2003, p. 18.

[22] Richard Willingham, “Budget Broken Promise to Hit Public Sector”, Sydney Morning Herald, 22 April 2011,, accessed 3 April 2023.

[23] Matthew Westwood, “Culture to Connect the Dots”, Australian, 17 January 2002, p. 12.

[24] Joyce Morgan and Adam Fulton, “Meanwhile the Plot Thickens and Budget Matters Add to the Denouement”, Age, 10 May 2012, p. 18; Chris Johnson, “Milne Takes Aim at Major Parties for Making PS an Easy Target”, Canberra Times, 13 September 2012, p. 4.

[25] David Uren, “Dying to be Efficient”, Australian, 31 March 2005, p. 14.

[26] Craddock Morton, “Fear, Loathing and a Blind Eye to Rudd’s Razor-Cut Promises”, Canberra Times, 24 November 2007, p. 1.

[27] Andrew Fraser, “Senator Slams ‘Lazy’ Efficiency Dividend”, Canberra Times, 26 June 2008, p. 7.

[28] James Massola, “Culture Vultures: Rudd Razor Gang Targets Capital’s Top Institutions”, Canberra Times, 21 February 2008, p. 1.

[29] Kevin Rudd, Press Conference, Parliament House, Canberra, 29 February 2008. PM Transcripts,, accessed 20 March 2023.

[30] “Cultural Institutions Tell How They Are Handling Budget Cut”, Australian Associated Press newswire, 21 August 2008.

[31] Peter Garrett quoted in James Massola, “Culture Vultures: Rudd Razor Gang Targets Capital’s Top Institutions”, Canberra Times, 21 February 2008, p. 1.

[32] Stephen Jones quoted in James Massola, “Budget to Cut Into National Programs”, Canberra Times, 10 May 2008, p. 5.

[33] Australian National Maritime Museum quoted in Joint Committee, Report 413, p. 41.

[34] Steven Larken quoted in Joint Committee, Report 413, p. 41.

[35] Steven Larken quoted in Joint Committee, Report 413, p. 50.

[36] National Library of Australia submission, Joint Committee, Report 413, p. 42.

[37] Dr Warwick Cathro quoted in Steven Larken quoted in Joint Committee, Report 413, p. 52.

[38] Ross Gibbs quoted in Sally Pryor, “Long-Time Archives Chief Heads Home to Melbourne”, Canberra Times, 22 February 2011, p. 4.

[39] David Tune, Functional and Efficiency Review of the National Archives of Australia, 30 January 2020,, accessed 27 March 2023, p. 9.

[40] National Commission of Audit, Toward Responsible Government: The Report of the National Commission of Audit, Phase One (Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia, 2014), p. 36.

[41] Kristin van Barneveld and Osmond Chiu, “A Portrait of Failure: Ongoing Funding Cuts to Australia’s Cultural Institutions”, Australian Journal of Public Administration, vol.77, no. 1 (2017), p. 6.

[42] Joint Committee, Report 413, p. 36.

[43] Joint Committee, Report 413, p. xix.

[44] Joint Committee, Report 413, p. xxi.

[45] Ross Gibbs quoted in Joint Committee, Report 413, p. 39.

[46] van Barneveld and Chiu, “Portrait of Failure”, p. 8.

[47] Joint Committee, Report 413, p. xxv.

[48] Sally Pryor, “Tough Times for Cultural Institutions”, Canberra Times, 16 December 2010, p. 5.

[49] Tim Leslie, “Gillard Pledges Extra Millions for War Memorial”, ABC, 3 March 2011, online.

[50] “War Memorial Gets $8m as Others Miss Out”, Canberra Times, 4 March 2011, p. 4.

[51] Brendan Nelson quoted in Sally Pryor, “No Apologies on Size of Funding, Says Director”, Canberra Times, 2 November 2018, p. 7.

[52] Kerry Stokes quoted in Sally Pryor, “No Apologies on Size of Funding, Says Director”, Canberra Times, 2 November 2018, p. 7.

[53] Doug Wingwall, “Chorus Against War Memorial Expansion”, Canberra Times, 23 March 2019, p. 1.

[54] Josh Dye and Nick Galvin, “War Memorial Expansion Draws Ire as National Gallery Forced to Cut Staff”, Sydney Morning Herald, 27 June 2020, p. 16.

[55] Nicholas Brown, “Never Enough: The Australian War Memorial Redevelopment”, Australian Historical Studies, vol. 50, no. 2 (2019), p. 256.

[56] Australian Government, Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, December 2015 (Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia, 2015), p. 152.

[57] “Groundhog Day for the Institutions”, Canberra Times, 18 December 2015, p. 2.

[58] Henry Belot, “Frustration as NGA Job Purge Hits Institutions: Efficiency Dividend”, Canberra Times, 23 September 2016, p. 2.

[59] Henry Belot, “Library Jobs, Programs to Go as Razor Cuts Deep”, Canberra Times, 23 February 2016, p. 4.

[60] Stephen Jeffery, “Library Cuts Force Trove to Charge Fees”, Canberra Times, 11 December 2016, p. 4.

[61] Jeffery, “Trove to Charge Fees”, p. 4.

[62] Henry Belot, “Labor Promises to Restore National Library’s Funding if Elected”, Canberra Times, 16 June 2016, p. 2.

[63] Jennifer Rajca, “Library Gets Boost to Help Deliver Trove”, AAP Bulletin Wire, 20 December 2016.

[64] Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, Telling Australia’s Story—and Why It’s Important: Report on the Inquiry into Canberra’s National Institutions (Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia, April 2019), p. 95.

[65] Joint Standing Committee, Telling Australia’s Story, p. 95.

[66] The NGA was known at that time as the Australian National Gallery.

[67] Cabinet Submission 200, Australian National Gallery, Entry Charges and Amendments to the National Gallery Act. NAA: A13977, 200, p. 3.

[68] Michael McKernan, Beryl Beaurepaire (St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1999), p. 290.

[69] Hugh Lamberton, “Memorial Fee Protestors Win a Battle, If Not the War, With a Free Visit”, Canberra Times, 2 January 1991, p. 3.

[70] Sarah Parkes, “War Memorial May Charge for Access to Archives”, Canberra Times, 14 April 2009, p. 1.

[71] Tim Sherratt, “Digital Revolutions: The Limits and Affordances of Online Collections”, in Paul Ashton and Paula Hamilton (eds.), The Australian History Industry (North Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2022), p. 83.

[72] Sherratt, “Digital Revolutions”, p. 85.

[73] Joint Standing Committee, Telling Australia’s Story, p. 91.

[74] Joint Standing Committee, Telling Australia’s Story, p. 93.

[75] “Cultural Institutions Left ‘To Languish’”, Canberra Times, 8 October 2020.

[76] Michelle Arrow, “Let’s Press Pause on the Nation’s Memory Loss”, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 May 2021, p. 34; Gideon Haigh, “Writers, Researchers and Thinkers Sign Letter to Scott Morrison in Protest for National Archives of Australia”, Australian, 10 June 2021, p. 2.

[77] “Saving the Nation’s Memory Bank: An Open Letter to the Prime Minister”, 12 June 2021,, accessed 27 March 2023.

[78] Tune, Functional and Efficiency Review, p. 13.

[79] “Archive Funds Welcome But More Needed”, Age, 5 July 2021, p. 22.

[80] Kelly Burke, “Trove: National Library of Australia’s Digital Archives Thrown $33m Lifeline by Federal Government”, Guardian, 3 April 2023,, accessed 3 April 2023.

[81] Linda Morris, “National Gallery Wins Funding Reprieve to Avert Building Crisis”, Sydney Morning Herald, 4 April 2023,, accessed 6 April 2023.

[82] Tune, Functional and Efficiency Review, p. 88.

[83] Katy Gallagher quoted in Michelle Grattan, “May Budget to Boost Cultural and Historical Institutions with $535m Four-Year Injection”, The Conversation, 4 April 2023,, accessed 6 April 2023.

[84] Shane Wright and Katina Curtis, “National Archives Poised to Get Funding to Save Disintegrating Records”, Sydney Morning Herald, 19 June 2021,, accessed 20 March 2023.

Joshua Black
Joshua Black

Joshua Black is a PhD candidate in the School of History and National Centre of Biography at the Australian National University. His thesis is a cultural history of the political memoir genre in Australia. His research has been published in various Australian scholarly journals, and has featured in the ConversationInside StoryAustralian Book Review and ABC Radio. He has taught undergraduate courses at multiple Australian universities. He is currently the Administrative Officer of the Australian Historical Association.