House debates

Monday, 14 July 2014

Private Members' Business

Australian Defence Force

11:34 am

Photo of Teresa GambaroTeresa Gambaro (Brisbane, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House applauds the Government for its resolute commitment to supporting the men and women of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), past and present, by:

(1) honouring its election promise to:

  (a) introduce from l January 2014, free basic health care to all eligible dependents of full-time ADF members and Reservists undertaking continuous full time service; and

  (b) provide ‘fair indexation’ for military superannuants by amending the indexation arrangements for more than 57,000 Defence Forces Retirement Benefits and Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits scheme pensioners from 1 July 2014;

(2) officially launching Project Suakin, which introduces a range of full-time, part time and casual employment categories within the ADF that will offer members increased flexibility to match their changing personal circumstances and enable the ADF to respond to current and future workforce challenges; and

(3) directing Defence Housing Australia to upgrade housing stock available to Defence personnel and reduce pressure on local community housing markets through programs such as the Top End Defence housing strategy which will deliver over 2,300 additional homes in Darwin.

Families of ADF personnel make significant sacrifices in support of their ADF personnel. In recognition of this fact the Abbott government has been supporting families with ADF personnel rendering full-time service by providing free GP and basic allied health care to registered dependants since 1 January 2014. The Abbott government's full rollout of this program fulfils one of the coalition's key defence commitments from the 2013 election. Under the policy, registered dependants of ADF members rendering full-time service are provided reimbursement for all of their out-of-pocket expenses for GP services. Additionally, each ADF dependant will be able to claim back up to $400 per year for allied health and specialist services, such as dentistry, physiotherapy, psychology and podiatry. Importantly, families are able to pool their entitlements for allied health and specialist services to support a dependant with higher needs.

Under the coalition, since 1 January 2014 all 71,000 registered ADF spouses and dependants have been eligible for the ADF Family Health Program. Between 1 January and 1 June 2014 the ADF Family Health Program supported ADF families access 7,548 GP and 30,420 specialist and allied health consultations. The coalition is proud to have delivered on its commitment and to deliver for all of the ADF families.

Labor has flip-flopped on this issue since 2007. Labor delayed the full rollout of the program on at least two occasions for a period of 18 months. Under Labor, the program never progressed beyond the trial stage and was open to only approximately one-fifth of the approximately 71,000 registered ADF dependants.

The coalition has long recognised also the unique nature of military service and has maintained a consistent position on the need to provide new indexation for DFRB and DFRDB military superannuation pensions. True to our commitment in 2010 and 2013, on 20 March 2014 the Abbott government introduced the Defence Force Retirement Benefits Legislation Amendment (Fair Indexation) Bill 2014 into the House of Representatives. The bill's successful passage through parliament during the first six months of the Abbott government is yet another clear demonstration of the coalition's commitment to those who serve in uniform in our name, past and present. As at 1 July this year, DFRB and DFRDB superannuants and their families are now better off and the new indexation arrangements will apply when their payments are indexed in March and September each year.

During their entire six years in government, Labor used every excuse in the book to deny veterans and their families the fair go that they deserve. This approach is very typical of how Labor treats defence and veterans' policy. Labor did not even have a veterans' or defence policy for the 2013 federal election.

Project Suakin is a major workforce reform. It was developed in consultation with more than 10,000 ADF members, reserve and permanent, and is an important initiative that recognises that ultimately the ADF's greatest strategic capability is its people. Suakin was launched by the Assistant Minister for Defence, the Hon. Stuart Robert, and the Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin, on 26 November 2013. It will modernise the way the ADF engages with its soldiers, sailors and airmen and will allow it to build an organisational culture that embraces its changing workforce by redesigning ADF employment to introduce a range of full-time, part-time and casual service options and introducing flexible career options.

Lastly, the motion deals with Defence Housing Australia and the Top End housing strategy. This is an initiative that strikes the balance between the need to retain key Defence land, which is critical to Australia's strategic interests, and delivering housing for Defence Force members. I commend the government on the plan over the next five years to deliver an additional 800 houses for defence members and their families and to deliver 1,500 houses for the general public in Darwin. I commend the motion to the House.

Photo of Karen AndrewsKaren Andrews (McPherson, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

11:41 am

Photo of Alan GriffinAlan Griffin (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion.

I support a number of the initiatives that are part of this motion. I support them because, frankly, they are largely Labor policy. They are not only Labor policy but also they were largely labour initiatives. Before I get interjections from the other side—which I know are coming—I will go to a couple of particular points. The National ADF Family Health Program was introduced by the Labor Party and rolled out by the Labor Party. For example, in November 2013, the Commander Joint Health, Rear Admiral Robyn Walker, confirmed that Labor's plan to deliver improved health care to ADF families was on track to be delivered by 1 January, and no changes have been made to this program since the election—no changes. The fact of the matter is that what we are seeing rolled out is basically what we were doing.

Project Suakin is, again, a program that was developed under Labor; an initiative which was launched by the then parliamentary secretary to defence in August 2011. Once again, it is basically our program. So, I support the initiative. I note that it took some three years to develop. Frankly, the members opposite might remember that they were not in government over the previous three years. So, again, we are seeing an initiative that was rolled out by Labor being rebadged by the coalition.

On Defence Housing, I raise a concern. The government have made it clear that they are seeking to privatise. The government have made it clear that they are looking at scoping the question of getting rid of Defence Housing. I ask them to be very, very careful if they should move down that track. At the moment, as far as I understand it, the details around the scoping study are still not known. But the bottom-line is this: look at the overseas experience and I refer particularly to the UK. In 1996, they privatised their defence housing and a number of concerns were raised about how that operated. I am not saying that is going to happen here, but I am saying that the government needs to be very aware when they move into this area and expose the private sector to this field. As the member for Herbert knows, Defence Housing has a very high approval rating within the defence forces. It provides a very high quality service. But when it happened in the UK, there were significant concerns about poor-standard accommodation and maintenance, and all of those issues had a direct impact on defence personnel. So they need to be very careful.

The last issue I will come to is the question of indexation of DFRB and DFRDB. I absolutely concede that the government—on that one—finally delivered on an election commitment. But in the process of doing so, they neglected to mention to the Australian people that they were going to go the other way with respect to the indexation methodologies for a range of other pensions and benefits. The circumstances are that DFRDB and DFRB recipients will go backwards when changes in relation to the indexation for disability pensions and for income support payments come into effect in a couple of years time. The increase that they may get as a result of improved indexation methodologies for their superannuation payments will be completely negated. In many cases, the penalty will be worse with respect to the changes that will occur around the indexation of other benefits. For example, someone who is a TPI—a totally and permanently incapacitated member of the defence force—who also happens to be a DFRDB recipient will lose more as a result of the changes that the government has foreshadowed with respect to their disability pension than they would receive in respect of any increase to their DFRB payment, unless they are an Air Vice Marshall in terms of their retirement payment. On the average payment in relation to the DFRDB, which as I recall is around $22,000 to $23,000, the circumstances are that it is well below the TPI payment and the impact on them will be worse. So what we are seeing here is the government giving to a few people—under $60,000 with respect to these superannuation payments—while taking from many more, many of whom are Defence Force personnel or ex-personnel and many of whom have served this country well. They do not deserve to be treated in this way.

11:45 am

Photo of Ewen JonesEwen Jones (Herbert, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I always like following the member for Bruce. Can I just say it is not the size of the spend; it is the quality of the spend and it is the actual spend. I like the member for Bruce—he is a good man—but they are big on announcement and small on delivery. In 2007 the then Leader of the Opposition, Kevin Rudd, came to Townsville and announced that there would be a stand-alone medical facility at Lavarack Barracks for the exclusive use of defence personnel and their families. The member for Brisbane is right when she talks about a lot of these things on health, but that thing has still not been delivered. It was never going to be delivered by Labor. The GP superclinic that was promised at the exact same time opened last week, so it took seven years. Labor is great on announcement, but let's get the thing through.

It is not the size of the spend; it is the quality of the spend. I acknowledge the member for Bruce, since we are talking about DFRDB, but let's get a bit of perspective here. I think both Labor and Liberal have a long history in this. It is a symbolic gesture more than anything, I always thought, for this group of people who were shafted by both sides of government for a long time, since the early 1970s. It has gone all the way through. We took it in 2010. I know Labor made a series of promises and the then Minister for Defence Materiel, Mike Kelly, said just before the election that he was going to fully fund it, and poor old Warren Snowdon, the member for Lingiari, was left hanging out there to dry all the way through.

But we are talking about a finite number of people. We are talking about a superannuation scheme, so it is going to get smaller and smaller as we go through. If we were not faced with the debt and deficit problems that we have and, going into the future, the problems we have with our structural spending, we would not have to make the announcements in relation to the changes to everyone's pensions. Everyone must help pay back our structural debt and make sure that we bring our budget spending back into order. That is the issue here and everyone must pay a price. I do not know anyone who has been able to pay back a loan without making a payment.

I am actually proud to say that my nephew has just received notification that he has been accepted into the Army. At the end of this year he finishes year 12 at Burdekin Catholic High School. He is looking to become a fitter and turner and he is going to do that through the Army. He wants to blow things up, so hopefully he will end up in cavalry or armoured.

I would like to spend my time talking about a couple of things here. Once again I think it is about the quality of the spend and where we spend the money. In Townsville we have RAAF Base Garbutt. It used to be home to the Caribou. The de Havilland Caribou was a great aircraft—quick take-off, quick landing, or short take-off, short landing. That aircraft has since been retired. The replacement, the C27J, has been earmarked to come to Australia by about 2018 or 2019. The then Prime Minister Howard said that the plane would come to Townsville. We understand that RAAF want it to go to Amberley.

My issue if it comes through to Amberley is that we have a situation where we have a superbase where defence will spend money building a facility on defence land and then charge defence rent. You just have this money churning, not benefiting anyone. If you brought it to Townsville you could have proper, private investment. Put the investment in Townsville and develop an aviation hub in northern Australia. It would be perfect for it. We have the land. We have the quality. RAAF Base Amberley is already a superbase. I think we need to look at those sorts of things as we go forward.

I would also like to put the government on notice that I think cadets, reservists and the string of people who are part of this motion are the way that we should employ people. I know that under the previous government we cut cadets' hours continually. So you will never have a budget blow-out in reserves; you just have fewer and fewer hours, fewer and fewer facilities and less and less commitment. What we must do is ensure that we have a way of transitioning people out of the Army and still keeping them in the service so that you do get the reserves and so that cadets are supported.

There should not be one person in this place who does not support our cadets and trying to get more people involved in this—because cadets are good people and I think there is a good way through this. So I would like to ensure that our government continues to support cadets, support reserves and support the many people who work in our defence forces. I congratulate the member for Brisbane on bringing this motion forward. I support it wholeheartedly.

11:50 am

Photo of Gai BrodtmannGai Brodtmann (Canberra, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

As mentioned by the member for Bruce, in reading this motion his initial thought, and mine, was that the member for Brisbane was actually asking the House to congratulate the previous Labor government for its commitment to supporting the men and women of the ADF—congratulations that would be well deserved. The first item concerns free basic health care. As I said at the time of the announcement by the government on 31 January, I welcome the Abbott government's decision to proceed with Labor's National Australian Defence Force Family Health Program, which provides free basic medical services for Defence families. I thank the member for Brisbane for giving me the opportunity to do so again.

In April last year, Labor committed to the national rollout of this program after a four-year trial in regional locations found it to be incredibly effective. Under the program, all dependants of permanent ADF members and reservists on continuous full-time service will be eligible to receive full reimbursement for their medical out-of-pocket expenses when visiting a general practice, and up to $400 each year per dependant towards allied health and specialist services.

Under the Abbott government's new, unfair Medicare co-payment, the Medicare rebate is reduced by $5 for all GP services, which appears to suggest that ADF family program beneficiaries are likely to be affected. If the beneficiary is bulk-billed, a $7 patient co-payment will be imposed, again affecting ADF personnel and their families. The government must clarify whether or not Defence families will be worse off because of its unfair Medicare co-payment.

I also read that the member for Brisbane asks the House to applaud the government for 'officially launching' the Suakin project on 26 November last year. The member for Brisbane would of course be aware that Plan Suakin was an initiative of the previous Labor government and indeed was originally launched in August 2011 by my energetic colleague the member for Batman. As the member pointed out at the time of the second 'official launch', this plan had been on the Defence website for over a year and was referenced in the Defence white paper published in 2013.

While the member for Brisbane is quick to applaud these initiatives, which I welcome, of the previous Labor government, she conveniently makes no mention of the retrograde steps that have been taken by the Abbott government over the last 10 months—for example, the ideological decision to conduct a privatisation scoping study on Defence Housing Australia. I say 'ideological' because the government has so far not been able to come up with any evidence or explanation as to why privatisation should be pursued or that there is a case that it would improve the effectiveness of provision of housing to ADF personnel. In fact, at a Senate estimates hearing on 26 June, the Minister for Defence said Defence Housing Australia is—to quote him—'well run'. Why is the government insisting on a disruptive process to consider the privatisation of a business that is well run, according to the Minister for Defence, knowing that it is creating uncertainty among ADF personnel and their families?

The member for Brisbane also ignores the deferral of phase 3 of the Single LEAP, or Living Environment and Accommodation Precinct, project. Single LEAP is a multiphase project that was to have provided 4,410 accommodation units and supporting infrastructure at 20 sites across 17 ADF bases. Single LEAP phases 1 and 2 were delivered under the former Labor government, significantly improving accommodation for single personnel. The deferral of phase 3 is an unnecessary setback for our serving men and women.

The member for Brisbane also conveniently omits mention of the Abbott government's decision to cut the indexation of veterans' pensions to CPI only. The member for Brisbane also omits to mention the axing of the three months backdating of veterans' disability pensions for successful claimants and the scrapping of the seniors supplement for 29,000 war veterans.

Just this morning I was going through the Vietnam veterans peacekeepers and peacemakers journal, running through page 4, the bad news. It mentions a range of things—a slap in the face for veterans, pensions under attack, service pension concessions under attack, backdating of pension claims scrapped, the $211 a year income support payment to children of a dead or injured parent with overseas service axed, DVA offices closing in regional areas and veterans being sent to Centrelink, senior supplements scrapped, military super to be counted as income, and phonebook cuts. These are just some of the areas that Vietnam veterans and other vets are very concerned about.

In closing, the member for Brisbane also completely ignores the disappointing performance of the Abbott government in failing the Australian shipbuilding industry. (Time expired)

11:55 am

Photo of Jane PrenticeJane Prentice (Ryan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to support the motion moved by my colleague the member for Brisbane. The coalition has a long history of supporting and bolstering the Australian Defence Force. It is one of our core policies. The Abbott coalition government is in fact increasing defence spending, improving defence capability and providing better support for current and past defence personnel.

With Gallipoli Barracks in my electorate of Ryan and with many of the defence personnel as constituents, I know how the life of defence families, with routine postings every three years, is constantly disrupted. It is important that we acknowledge the vital and sometimes difficult pressures placed on defence families who support their uniformed loved ones.

The Assistant Minister for Defence's announcement about the government's initiative to provide dependants of ADF members around Australia with free basic medical services was warmly welcomed by my residents. Under the government's national program, every dependant of full-time ADF members and reservists on continuous full-time service will be eligible no matter where they live in Australia. Each eligible ADF dependant will be reimbursed for their out-of-pocket expenses when visiting their local general practitioner and, in addition, may claim up to $400 per year for allied health services such as physiotherapy, dentistry and mental health support.

I have spoken many times in this place about the importance of the coalition's promise to our veterans to fairly index the DFRDB and DFRB. We promised prior to the 2010 election to give veterans a fair go. We even pushed for it while in opposition and the Labor government refused. It refused to give our veterans the respect they deserve for putting their lives on the line to fight for our freedom and our rights.

So we took the policy of fair indexation to the 2013 election. On winning government, we quickly delivered on our promise and I am proud to stand on this side of the chamber today knowing that thousands of veterans on the DFRDB and DFRB are now receiving a fairly indexed pension. Since 1 July we have received numerous calls and emails from retired defence personnel very pleased to now receive a fairer dollar amount each week to help ease their cost-of-living pressures.

The Suakin workforce reform intends to introduce a range of full-time, part-time and casual employment categories that will offer ADF members more options and more employment flexibility as their circumstances change. The reform aims to improve the ADF's ability to respond to current and future workforce challenges, as well as changes in the security environment and the economy, by giving it a more flexible workforce structure. After a considerable amount of research and consultation with both permanent and reserve ADF members, the coalition government has learnt that there is substantial capacity and willingness among reservists to contribute more than they do at present, while the permanent ADF workforce aspires to greater career flexibility.

The Suakin reforms focus on retaining a trained, experienced and highly skilled workforce. This aim is vital to a sustainable, affordable and deployable people capability. ADF personnel living in my electorate, based at the Gallipoli Barracks within Ryan, have commended these reforms. The outcome will be a better engaged ADF workforce and is therefore an excellent outcome for the nation. While the ADF expects to have the framework for the service model in place this year, it is anticipated that it will take a number of years for it to reach a fully mature operating state. I again commend the proactive action of this coalition government and I look forward to seeing the benefits of the Suakin reforms realised.

As someone who has visited our defence facilities in Darwin on a number of occasions, I was pleased to hear of the Assistant Minister for Defence's recent announcement of the Top End defence housing strategy, which will deliver more high-quality housing for defence members while also delivering more land for residential developments that will benefit the general community. The government's plan will deliver an additional 800 houses for defence members and their families and, importantly, more than 1,500 houses for the general public in Darwin. I know my colleague the member for Solomon also welcomes this decision.

As someone whose family has been actively involved in the Australian Defence Force since Federation I am proud to stand on this side of the chamber where I can continue to speak about the positive policies the coalition has for a strong Defence Force and the support we give to current and veteran ADF personnel and their families. I commend this motion to the House.

12:00 pm

Photo of David FeeneyDavid Feeney (Batman, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Justice) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on this motion from the member for Brisbane and I guess in my opening remarks I should pay her a compliment. It is quite typical when a new government comes into office that they will desperately try and take the credit for the achievements of the previous government, but generally speaking there are some approaches when undertaking that task which the honourable member for Brisbane has set herself apart from. The first thing one often does when trying to take the credit for the work of one's predecessor is change the name. It is very important if you are going to take the credit for the work and if you are not going to acknowledge the work that was done previously that you change the name of the program. With a new name and a new program the government can then desperately claim it as its own. But, to be fair to the honourable member for Brisbane, she and her colleagues have eschewed that tired old stratagem and instead are keeping the same name that we had under the former government. There really is absolutely no pretence here about their plagiarism: they have leapt into the future armed not just with Labor policies but, indeed, with the same name for those Labor policies.

Let me bring a little bit of detail to this. Firstly, they ask us to congratulate the government for the changes in health care. Of course I join with them in congratulating the Gillard Labor government for those changes—they were superb changes. Under that program we saw all dependants of permanent ADF members and reservists on continuous full-time service receive the health services that have been described. This was all Labor's National Australian Defence Force Family Health Program, a fine and upstanding program. As with so many policy elements in Defence, we saw those opposite complain and hark about it and, in their own desperately ham-fisted and childlike way, try and poke holes in these programs in estimates. But now, having come into government, they have not only embraced them, they have not only come into this place and congratulated these policies for their work, but they have not even gone to the effort of changing the name of these policies.

My personal favourite on this front is Plan Suakin. I am absolutely delighted to join with those opposite in congratulating the government for Plan Suakin because this was an outstanding policy of the Gillard Labor government and, indeed, I might say an outstanding policy of the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence at the time—hang on, that was me! We are invited to congratulate the government for the launch of Plan Suakin. Of course, Plan Suakin was launched in August 2011 and it was launched by me. The program was then run by the Cadet, Reserve and Employer Support Division of Defence. Major General Brereton led that division at the time. Plan Suakin was built on a reference from me about how we could normalise terms and conditions between reservists and full-time service members. I thought this was an important piece of the work the Gillard government was doing in the reserves space. I am sure we will see the fruits of that work continue to be desperately taken by the other side as their own accomplishments, but let me congratulate the member for Brisbane for being big-hearted enough to congratulate me on this piece of work.

It is perhaps a sad thing that responsibility within Defence for Plan Suakin has now moved from CRESD to the People Group. Of course those opposite would not have a clue about that, but as they desperately try and take credit for this program that me remind them that not only was Plan Suakin initiated under our government, it was launched under our government, and you have not even had the good manners to change the name. What you have had is the good manners to move this from being a responsibility of the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence—as I said, it was my program as parliamentary secretary in government—to now being something looked after by the Assistant Minister for Defence.

In the absence of Stuart Robert having a portfolio of responsibilities in the context of the Minister for Defence having kept everything for himself and not delegated anything, we now see this fine and outstanding accomplishment of Senator David Feeney not even changing its name, not even changing its terms but now moved to a different member of government. Here you are, big hearted folk that you are, in the place congratulating me and the former government for that program. We thank you for your generosity of spirit; absolutely outstanding stuff!

Not to be outdone, you have then congratulated yourselves for your changes to DFRB and DFRDB, and desperately you cling to this policy life raft. There are 57,000 former ADF members in that scheme that ended in 1992— (Time expired)

12:05 pm

Photo of David ColemanDavid Coleman (Banks, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am very pleased to speak on this motion by the member for Brisbane and follow that very selfless speech from the member for Batman. We do need to take a step back and reflect on why these areas are so important. They are so important because they affect the lives and conditions of people who sign up to potentially risk their safety and their life on behalf of the people of Australia. There obviously can be no higher calling in Australian life than to represent the people in the sense of security, and we only enjoy the freedoms that we have because we have people who are willing to do that. We must never forget that the deliberations that occur in this place and the freedoms that we enjoy as a nation can only exist so long as we have a military to keep us secure. We have seen that in our history, and history teaches us never to forget that that can occur again.

Most people do not risk their lives in their jobs whether it is the public sector or private sector. I certainly do not and have not, and most of us have not. But some of us have, and they are people who deserve the very highest standard of care. That is why these initiatives are so welcome and why the motion as put by the member for Brisbane is such an important one. It goes to how we as a society care for the people who put their lives on the line for us. The family health initiative is a particularly important one because people who are dependants of people in the military often experience difficulty, long separations and emotional separation from people who are in training or overseas, and it is entirely appropriate that we make sure that those people who are dependants of military personnel are well treated. So the full reimbursement of GP services is very important, as is the $400 for the allied health and specialist services.

Despite the comments of the member for Batman before, this program was, of course, only operational on a trial basis under the previous government, and it has taken the current government and, indeed, the Assistant Minister for Defence, to fully operationalise this program. It is a very welcome initiative, as is the fair indexation of DFRB and DFRDB. Again, for many years this was talked about. No doubt you would have observed the public statements by previous governments about introducing this indexation, but it was never acted upon under Labor. It is long overdue and something that I know veterans in my community of Banks are very pleased about and supportive of.

With regard to Project Suakin, the military obviously operates in a competitive labour market, and that means it has to offer the flexibility and opportunities that other industries offer. That means for some people part-time work is appropriate. Casual work is appropriate for others. It should no longer be the case that somebody who signs up must be full time and must be able to be sent off on a moment's notice. That cannot fit with everyone's lifestyle. Introducing that flexibility under this project is very important. It is also important that such extensive consultation has occurred with members of our military about what they require.

Indeed, the fourth matter mentioned in the member for Brisbane's motion in relation to housing in Darwin is very important. Of course, the Darwin housing market has really exploded in recent years, partially due to a lack of supply and the huge LNG projects and so on going on in that area. This sensible use of Defence land for housing for Defence personnel and also some other homes is a very welcome initiative. I am certainly very supportive of the member for Brisbane's motion, as it goes to supporting the people who are the very finest Australians.

Photo of Don RandallDon Randall (Canning, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Banks. Before calling the member for Wakefield, I alert the chamber that a division in the House is imminent. The question is that the motion be agreed to.

12:11 pm

Photo of Nick ChampionNick Champion (Wakefield, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Deputy Speaker. I was only going to be nice to the member for Brisbane anyway, and celebrate her very bipartisan motion, congratulating the member for Batman on his good work in government. It is important that we do not hype up any partisan differences in this chamber when discussing matters of defence. The previous member for Banks was right in that these very brave men and women do give extraordinary service with extraordinary professionalism in a range of tasks in the service of our country. They deserve absolutely the support of this parliament in all its many variations and colours of partisanship that we might find, but we should find common cause celebrating their efforts.

In my own electorate of Wakefield there is RAAF Base Edinburgh, which is a very important military base and has been the home of 92 Wing for a long time. It is a unit that has done a lot of service over the last few years, particularly in border protection and in other areas, which has been very important to the country. It is now home to 7RAR, who, again, have served this country with distinction in places like Afghanistan. It is great to have them in the electorate. They certainly change the colour of the shopping centre, because you see a lot of uniforms around the place. I remember being with the member for Batman opening up the Single LEAP housing, which was a very important series of projects to basically improve service men and women's housing on bases. They were very important projects. I remember being with him and opening the Single LEAP housing project at Edinburgh, which has really updated the accommodation at that base.

We know the government likes to congratulate itself, and I think the member for Batman was talking about pensions and he was about to, I think, point out that from 2017 there are many pensions that are now going to be indexed to CPI only. I have had Leon Eddy, President of TPI Association SA, and Ian Swan in my office last week discussing this matter and worrying about it. We hope that the government, in its presentation of the budget to the Senate, does think clearly about some of the changes they have made, because, of course, they are very serious changes and have a big effect on all those who are on fixed incomes over a period of time.

Nothing can be more damaging for a government to go around the place saying that they have absolutely fulfilled the commitment in one area only to have broken their commitments in another and think that one is somehow a defence of the other. My experience has been that that sort of tortured logic only harms a government and does not help it. You are better off—if I could provide some advice to those opposite—giving up the tortured logic and the broken promises and clearly think about what you are doing to ordinary people in this budget.

These are not the only areas, of course, where defence is important. In my state, the defence industry is particularly important. We have seen the government completely misjudge the importance of shipbuilding to South Australia. This is a vital national capacity. It will become more vital in the future. We are now seeing some great maritime challenges and so it is sensible for this country to have a shipbuilding industry. It is sensible for it not to fall into disrepair. For the government to exclude Australian companies from tendering for the two Navy supply ships—in effect exporting jobs and expertise to places like Spain and South Korea—is foolish in the extreme. We now see the same sort of softening up in terms of the submarine project as well. These are critical issues for South Australia and for jobs in South Australia.

While I commend the member for Brisbane for bringing the motion to the House, this government has got little to be proud of and should look to embrace bipartisan matters.

Debate adjourned.