Standing up for Canberra

Transcript: ACT Capital Hill with Julie Doyle

SUBJECTS: Defence pay negotiations

JULIE DOYLE: Gai Brodtmann thanks for coming in. I want to talk to you about the pay offer that's been made to Defence service men and women.

Firstly, if I could just ask you what you thought of the language that Tony Abbott used yesterday when he was referring to wanting to shirt-front Vladimir Putin at the G20? What did you think of that?

GAI BRODTMANN, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: Well, the language is incredibly pugilistic. I know there's been a lot of discussion about the origins of shirt-front. But, it was incredibly pugilistic. As someone as a former diplomat, I prefer these discussions to be done at a diplomatic and civil fashion. So it was incredibly confrontational.

DOYLE: Did you think it was inappropriate?

BRODTMANN: Well, I think that the best way of dealing with issues, addressing issues, is actually dealing with them through a diplomatic fashion, actually having conversations in a civil fashion, and talking them through.

DOYLE: Let's talk about areas in your portfolio now, and that's the pay offer that's been made to Defence staff. The increase of 4.5 per cent over three years, now, Defence says it's fair and reasonable. But the Opposition disagrees. Why do you think that?

BRODTMANN: This is a huge slap in the face to our Australian service men and women. It's essentially asking them to take a pay cut. It's asking them to take a 1.5 per cent increase over the next 12 months, which is below inflation. So, the Abbott Government is essentially asking those service personnel, who are doing a great job in terms of defending our country, defending our national interests to take a pay cut.

DOYLE: What kind of increase do you think is reasonable?

BRODTMANN: We essentially want the ADF service personnel to enjoy a pay rate that is actually in keeping with inflation.

DOYLE: And what figure would you put on that, then?

BRODTMANN: Well, at the moment inflation's around 3 per cent, so essentially that's where we think it should be tracking. But what is on offer at the moment is just an absolute slap in the face. It's a complete insult. Don't take it just from me, don't take it from the Leader of the Opposition, the RSL has also come out today and condemns it.

The Defence Force welfare association has been running a survey since last Friday on the issue. They have had an enormous response rate. Over 5,000 responses, 33,000 hits on their Facebook site and 90 per cent of the people that have responded of their members have said that they are strongly opposed to this pay offer.

DOYLE: So are you talking then at something around the margin of 3 per cent a year? So double what's on the table at the moment - can that be afforded at this time, Defence are saying this is a reasonable offer, taking into account the Government's financial position and the clear need for wage restraint?

BRODTMANN: Well, our view is that wages should keep up with inflation - that they keep up with costs of living. This is a slap in the face to our service personnel, who - many of them are deployed at the moment, who are out defending the country, defending our national interest.

It's a slap in the face to them and to their families, the fact that they should deserve fair conditions, fair wages and conditions.

DOYLE: So should Defence be immune from wages restraint, then?

BRODTMANN: Well I think it’s a matter of priorities. I think the Government actually has to show its priorities and what it prioritises. We have seen a number of those priorities through the budget process in terms of education and health and cuts to education and health. Now we are seeing their priorities in terms of how they value the Australian service men and women.

And I mean – what are the priorities? Multi-billion dollar paid parental scheme or fair and decent conditions for our service men and women.

DOYLE: Gai Brodtmann, we’ll leave it there. Thanks very much.