Standing up for Canberra

Australian Defence Force Funding

With all due respect to the member who put up this motion, it is complete nonsense. The member for Batman has gone through it point by point to highlight the farce and nonsense of this motion, and I echo those views and will support the member for Batman in his forensic assessment of this motion. I do so because I find it galling to listen to those opposite complain about decisions Labor made when we were in government, when this government has continued to show a complete lack of respect for Defence personnel since it was elected.

We are already onto our second Minister for Defence, which has caused significant disruption in defence planning, defence procurement and defence sustainment. It causes significant disruption because things need to move to the right, waiting for the new minister to be briefed and for his decisions to be made. But not only have we had two defence ministers under this government; this government has also cut the real wages of ADF personnel. The member who moved this motion said in her speech that the ADF has served this country so well, that it is a debt we can never repay in full. One way that you can start making that repayment is to pay them fairly.

The issue of fair pay for our ADF personnel is an issue I have been campaigning on for months now, and it is a decision that the Australian people are still reeling from. At the end of last year the government cut the real wages and conditions of Australia's service men and women. ADF personnel were offered a below inflation pay rise while at the same time their precious Christmas leave and recreation leave were being slashed. After widespread community outrage at this decision, the Prime Minister backtracked on parts of the offer. While Labor welcomed this backdown, the Prime Minister in our view did not go far enough. He is still cutting the real pay of our service men and women. He is still cutting the real pay of the people who defend Australia and our national interests, who we put in harm's way.

As I said, this unfair pay offer caused outrage in ADF ranks and among their families and the wider community —and rightly so. There was a flood of complaints on social media, a rally in Townsville and a petition presented to the Leader of the Opposition, all opposing the outrageous offer. In fact the petition—created by Tony Dagger, who is the father of a serving ADF member—has collected more than 65,000 signatures. ADF members do not have a voice in their pay and conditions negotiations. They cannot vote and they cannot take industrial action, unlike public servants. That is why Labor has stood up and will continue to stand up for our ADF personnel and fight this unfair pay deal.

But the attacks do not stop with ADF personnel. The government is also targeting Department of Defence staff. Defence staff have recently been offered a below inflation pay increase of 3.16 per cent over the next three years, which averages to just 1.05 per cent each year. Defence staff will not only see their real wages fall under this insulting offer; they will also lose a range of conditions. They will lose two days leave a year, including Christmas leave, and they will have a slower progression through pay rates. This unfair deal is even worse than what was offered to ADF personnel. Even the defence department secretary, Dennis Richardson, has labelled this wage offer 'regrettable'.

Over the last week, we have seen what the government has planned for ADF superannuation. Under ADF Super, the government contribution rate will be 15.4 per cent, increasing to 18 per cent for those engaged in warlike operations. This two-tiered system will undermine the team ethos of the ADF. Last week the Chief of the Defence Force also raised concerns with the government's approach, saying:

My preference would be to try and do a flat rate which is a midpoint, which does not have the clunkiness between the warlike operations and the peace time …

The Defence Force Welfare Association has also criticised the government over its lack of consultation on the new scheme. On ABC Radio last week, the president said, 'the consultation has more been information sessions on what the administration is coming up with rather than listening'. So it has just been talking and not listening. The member for Ryan omitted mentioning the axing of the three-month backdating of veterans' disability pensions for successful claimants, as well as the planned privatisation of DHA. This is a nonsense— (Time expired)

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