Tuesday, 17 October 2023
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, Senator Wong. Just yesterday the Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell, announced an increase in Australian Defence Force pay of 11.2 per cent over the next three years. In the first year diggers will get four per cent, or 1.2 per cent less than current inflation. With inflation running rampant in our economy, this increase does not keep up with the cost of living. This is a pay cut to the diggers. At the same time, the CDF has announced an increase in the vehicle allowance for the senior commanders. This means that the brass—yes, once again, those senior officers that mark their own homework—will receive an increase in the vehicle allowance that is equal to about 10 per cent of their annual salary. Why do the Chief of the Defence Force and this government want to acknowledge the cost-of-living crisis for the top brass but not for their diggers?
Thank you, Senator Lambie. In relation to the point you make about a pay cut: can I be clear that the pay increase that is recommended, on the advice I have, is above the RBA's estimates for inflation over the next three years. We know where inflation is currently, and you are correct to raise that as a concern.
In terms of how this pay increase has been assessed: this is a pay arrangement which, firstly, is the highest pay increase in over a decade and, secondly, is above the RBA estimates for inflation over the next three years. If those estimates are correct, that is a good thing because that will be a real pay increase. I note also that the advice to me is that the pay offer that has been made reflects the same offer as provided to the ADF.
Pay rises for non-public officeholders are determined by the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal. The tribunal agreed to joint submissions from the CDF and the Commonwealth for a new workplace remuneration arrangement for 2023-26. The arrangement aligns with the revised APS offer of 11.2 per cent over three years and applies to both star rank and non-star rank members, with effect on 9 November 2023. In addition, many ADF personnel will receive allowances to recognise the unique environmental conditions in which they operate, as Senator Lambie would know, including operating in land, maritime and air domains. (Time expired)
Thank you, Madam President. I see your government is not recognising the national security situation that we're in right now. Let's go to that, shall we? Our Defence Force is facing some of the worst morale, retention and recruitment numbers it has ever had. This Chief of Defence Force can't attract people, and he sure as hell cannot hold onto them. The Defence Force Welfare Association said in its submission, 'This offer will do little if anything to enhance recruitment and retention.' Why is this government teaming up with the CDF to be the Christmas Grinch and give diggers a pay cut before Christmas?
(—) (): First, I would say I respect your advocacy for our ADF personnel. You have been consist throughout your whole life, I'm sure, but certainly in all your time in the parliament. Second, I disagree with your assertion as to a pay cut. I understand why you put it, but I refer to my earlier answer that this pay increase—and it is a pay increase—is calculated above the inflation estimates that the RBA has put in place. But you are right: we have a retention issue and we have challenges in meeting the targets that were set, before we came to government, for the recruitment of personnel. We have worked— (Time expired)
Way back in 2014, then Prime Minister Abbott used the ADF as a stick to keep APS pay below inflation. He said:
… I would be very surprised if anyone in the Commonwealth public sector receives more than is received by our Defence Forces.
Prime Minister Abbott eventually backed down on that deal, stating:
The Australian Government understands that the work performed by members of the Australian Defence Force is unique and crucial to our nation and our security.
Which Tony Abbott does this government want to be—carrot Tony or stick Tony?
Well, I don't think any Labor person wants to be anywhere near to being a Tony, Senator Lambie, as you know. Most of us do remember the 2014 budget—I was here for that budget—and we remember the extent to which that Abbott government, despite telling the Australian people the contrary, cut health, cut funding for Indigenous affairs and cut funding for broadcasting. It was a horror budget. It was a budget which was full of betrayal, but perhaps I digress.
We respect our ADF personnel. We support our ADF personnel. We recognise the important role they play. We honour their service. We have put in place a pay offer which is assessed to be above inflation. We have put in place a retention bonus. I appreciate you are critical of that because we understand — (Time expired)