Australia’s defence chief has declared his opposition to any push to privatise the Defence Housing Authority, which provides accommodation for thousands of ADF members.
In May last year, the Abbott government’s audit commission recommended the authority be privatised, along with shipbuilder ASC. The government has since denied it plans to sell DHA but rumours that the authority will ultimately be sold have persisted.
The rumours gained momentum this week with the replacement of DHA’s managing director, Peter Howman, a week after he won an industry award, with a Finance Department deputy secretary, Jan Mason.
In response to inquiries, ADF chief Mark Binskin issued a statement saying the ADF supported the continuation of DHA as a government-owned entity.
“DHA provides a single point of contact that understands the unique requirements and demands military service can present,” Air Chief Marshal Binskin said. “DHA provides an essential service to ADF personnel and their families, which in turn supports Australia’s military capability. Defence and DHA have built a positive and productive relationship over many years to meet the specific housing needs of ADF personnel that helps to mitigate some of the challenges associated with service life.”
The opposition called on the government to “come clean” on its plans. “Reports today suggest the on-again off-again sale of DHA is back on — placing defence families under increased uncertainty,” Labor’s defence team, Stephen Conroy and Gai Brodtmann, said in a statement.
There were fears in the defence community that the changes in DHA showed the government was preparing to privatise the agency, they said.
The Alliance of Defence Service Organisations also warned against the sale. “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,” the alliance said.
NOVEMBER 4, 2015