Standing up for Canberra

Labor Herald: Defence Housing under threat

Right now 18,000 Australian Defence Force households across Australia are anxiously waiting to find out what the Government plans to do with their homes.

18,000 households in a state of uncertainty because the Government’s on-again-off-again sale of Defence Housing Australia now appears to be back on.

These are the very same people who were let down by this Government just 12 months ago when it unfairly tried to cut their pay and conditions. And the very same people who the Government has accused of "double dipping" on paid parental leave.

Imagine what is going through their minds at the moment.

Will their rent go up if the Government sells DHA?

Will they receive the same level of service if DHA is no longer a government-owned entity?

Will the specific requirements that come from the unique nature of military service be met?

These are legitimate concerns – and are concerns shared by Labor.

Reports this week suggest the Government is yet again looking to privatise DHA, despite ruling it out earlier in the year.

The reports were sparked by the sudden and unexpected resignation of DHA Managing Director Peter Howman.

His resignation came just days after he won an award for being the Customer Service CEO of the Year from the Customer Service Institute of Australia.

Former Department of Finance Deputy Secretary Jan Mason, who has been involved in privatising government entities previously, is now Acting Managing Director of the agency. Ms Mason played an instrumental role in the first Telstra selloff in the mid-90s.

But it's not just Labor that’s concerned with the possibility of DHA being privatised.

This week we’ve seen the defence community, service associations and the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, all come out to publicly oppose the sale.

In a statement to the ABC, Air Chief Marshal Binskin said the ADF “supports the continuation of DHA as a government-owned entity.”

The Alliance of Defence Service Organisations has also warned against the sale, saying “our fear is that the Department of Finance aims to siphon off capital and operating funds to give the Government a one-off financial windfall and in the process emasculate DHA, to the detriment of Australian Defence Force families.”

DHA provides a vital service to ADF personnel and their families.

It’s an essential and extremely successful part of Defence support arrangements, with a recent survey showing DHA has a customer satisfaction rating of 94 per cent.

And DHA continues to be a reliable and increasing source of revenue for Government.

In the 2013-14 financial year, DHA achieved a net profit after tax of $90.1 million, $5.8 million above budget.

So if ADF families are happy with the service provided by DHA, and it is making money for the Government, what is the business case for the sale?

Labor is calling on the Government to come clean with its plans for DHA and provide ADF families with the certainty they deserve.

Gai Brodtmann is the Federal Member for Canberra and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Defence.