PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
MONDAY, 1 DECEMBER 2014
SUBJECT: Tony Abbott cuts to the real wages of ADF personnel
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I just want to thank the Defence Force Welfare Association, Veterans’ groups, individuals who’ve stood up said that the Government’s pay cut for our Defence Force is unacceptable to ordinary Australians. Tony Abbott’s announcement today is too little, too late. He is still proposing an effective pay cut for the Australian Defence Force, for the 55,000 men and women currently wearing a uniform and making our country safe. The last thing our defence forces and their family and supporters want is for the Defence Force to be caught up in a political argument about Tony Abbott’s broken promises and unfair budget. I really call upon Tony Abbott, that if you know that these cuts are unfair, don’t do a half-hearted retreat. You need to actually just get it right. There is no sensible case that has been made by this Government to justify the real wages of Australia’s Defence Force and their families falling behind the cost of living. The money is in the Budget. I do not believe that this Government is so bereft of ideas that they can’t find the ability to support our Defence Force men and women. The Government needs to fix this problem up fully and completely. They haven’t got the right policy and they’re now retreat; but they’re not retreating far enough. It’s too little, too late.
JOURNALIST: Are you surprised about the level of public support for this petition that your people are holding here and the level of outpouring of support for the Defence Force?
SHORTEN: The love that Australian people feel for our Defence Force doesn’t surprise me. The only surprise I’ve seen is that Tony Abbott and his team are so mean hearted that they’re trying to do whatever they can with this unfair Budget on the back of asking our Defence Force to accept an effective real cut in the pay and conditions just so that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey can try and rescue their unfair Budget.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten have you done any figures, any calculations, on what a fair pay deal would like? And what would that figure be?
SHORTEN: There is no doubt in my mind that the Government in its Budget in May made allowances for a pay rise north of three per cent. What the Government should have done when it was making its submission to the independent tribunal, is that they should have made it clear, they should have stuck to what they had said in the Budget. I think any reasonable person says that it’s not even about a pay rise for our Defence Force, but they can reasonably expect to be keeping pace with the cost of living. I think the Government just needs to go back and sort it out straight away.
JOURNALIST: Do you know what that figure is? Was it in the billions of dollars?
SHORTEN: No let’s be straight here. The Abbott Government can easily – and Government departments frequently work out and project a certain cost for making sure that people’s wages go up slightly – there’s no doubt in my mind that no case has been made by this Government. No evidence has been offered by this Government to justify that the families of the men and women who are currently keeping Australia safe, that when they do their shopping on the weekend, that at least the pay packet should stretch to keep up with the cost of living. This is a Government who should just keep their promises. When Labor was in office, when there were three per cent increases annually for the last three years, these hypocrites now in government said that wasn’t enough. Yet when they get in, they just want to offer a paltry 1.5 per cent pay cut, and they’ve been terrorising the leave conditions of our service people which they’re only belatedly recognising has been a dreadful error of judgement.
JOURNALIST: How influential do you think Jacqui Lambie’s vow to block all government legislation has been on the Government’s decision today?
SHORTEN: I welcome the work of Senator Lambie and other cross bench Senators who have lined up alongside Labor to form a strong rejection of this Government’s crazy, mean-hearted proposals to our defence forces. But for me, this is an issue – I mean, Tony Abbott loves to talk about rebooting and taking barnacles off the hull of his Budget, what he should at least do, and you don’t need a focus group to work this out Tony Abbott, there are no Australians who support implementing a real pay cut on our defence forces. There is no support of that outside of the ministerial wing of the Abbott Government.