Standing up for Canberra

The Prime Minister’s refusal to sack the Minister for Defence

Talk about 'spare us the sanctimonious lectures'! Not once did the speaker mention the minister's name, and this is all about the performance, or the lack thereof, of the Minister for Defence.

What we saw last night and over the past 24 hours from the Minister for Defence is absolutely outrageous. His comments were a complete kick in the guts to the highly skilled and dedicated workers of the AFC—and not just the AFC; a range of industries support the AFC in South Australia. There are hundreds and hundreds of workers in industries throughout South Australia who were supporting those workers. What the minister did last night was kick them in the guts. We heard from the former speaker about what it actually felt like to be one of those workers, to hear the minister's view of those workers. It is absolutely outrageous. It is complete kick in the guts and a complete insult.

Australia expects more from its defence minister. Australia expects more, particularly when we are dealing with capability that is incredibly significant for the nation's security. And we are talking about jobs that are incredibly significant for the nation's security—3,000 South Australian workers, and what did he do to them last night? He gave them a significant kick in the guts. And it is not just them; it is also the families of these people that go, each day, and do great work in supporting capability to defend our nation.

What do you think those families thought when those people came home? It is absolutely outrageous. And, as the member for Batman said, what about the families of those submariners who are out there serving the country, defending our nation, doing it tough away from their families? Imagine how their mothers felt; imagine how their fathers felt; imagine how their brothers and sisters felt when they heard that the organisation that is there to support the capability that they are serving the nation in could not build a canoe. How outrageous were those comments from the minister. How insulting. What a kick in the guts to workers.

This minister has form on this. We have seen what he has done in terms of ADF pay and conditions—cutting ADF pay and conditions so that the pay deal that has been offered by this minister and this government is below inflation. It means that these people are expected to basically take a pay cut. And it is not just that. It is the cut to conditions that is even more insulting—hard-fought-for conditions after many, many years. These include cuts to recreation leave, cuts to Christmas leave and cuts to opportunities for families who have not seen each other throughout the year to get together. That has all gone as a result of what this minister and this government has done in the outrageous pay deal—the slap in the face that you have delivered through the ADF pay deal and the cut to conditions, as well.

You have until 1 December to turn back this ridiculous decision. We have been calling on you to reverse this decision and to reverse these cuts to pay and conditions. The ADF community has been calling on you to do it. We have been calling on you to do it. Are you going to make a reversal of that decision by 1 December? Time is running out, everyone. Are you listening to your constituents? Are you listening to the ADF members in your electorates? Are you listening to the families and the children of those ADF members? They are outraged. What they are most outraged by is the fact that they see this as them being part of collateral damage when the real target is cuts to pay and conditions for public servants. These guys just see themselves as, absolutely, collateral damage in the real quest to cut the conditions and pay for public servants. You have until 1 December to reverse the decision. Reverse that decision, listen to your constituents, listen to the ADF members, listen to the families and listen to the children of those families.

On the weekend—although I do not know whether those opposite actually took any notice—there was a major rally in Townsville. Two hundred people turned out—ADF members in civilian clothes, ADF family members and parents of ADF members. They were absolutely outraged at what you have done on this. They are going to maintain the fight. The DFWA is going to maintain the fight. The RSL is going to maintain the fight. ADF members and their families right across Australia are going to maintain the fight. And we will maintain the fight to ensure that ADF members and their families get decent pay and conditions.

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