Jeff Sparrow in the Sydney Review of Books:
While all men might be equal in death, all sponsors must all be thanked in appropriately sized font. The memorial courtyard now contains an eternal flame, a donation from AGL, Santos and East Australian Pipelines. The gas for the eternal flame is ‘generously’ provided by Origin Energy under a sponsorship agreement. The gas industry’s ‘sacrifice’ in funding a tiny fraction of the local cost of the Australian War Memorial receives far more prominence than the names of Australian who gave their lives for our country. Lest we forget our sponsors. … While the irony of sponsorship by the oil industry, a fuel over which so many wars were fought in the twentieth century, might be missed by some, surely no one could miss the irony of BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Thales and other weapons manufacturers sponsoring the Australian War Memorial.
That striking passage comes from Richard Denniss’ new book Dead Right: how neoliberalism ate itself and what comes next. For Denniss, the evolution of the Australian War Memorial into a giant billboard illustrates the logic of neoliberalism, something that, he says, ‘has wounded our national identity, bled our national confidence, caused paralysis in our parliaments and is eating away at the identity of those on the right of Australian politics’.
Certainly, Lockheed Martin’s involvement with an institution purportedly commemorating battlefield deaths represents a particular crass commercialism, an unapologetic assertion of corporate interests over human sensibilities. Yet does that make it neoliberal?