News Report by Joe Kelly Political Reporter – The Australian – 04 March 2015
Tony Abbott has retreated from his below inflation defence force pay rise of 1.5 per cent per year, unveiling a larger pay deal for the nation’s 57,000 full time uniformed personnel.
The Prime Minister today revealed the government would increase the pay offer from 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent per annum over the next three years.
Mr Abbott said the move was modest but large enough to recognise the special status of Australia’s defence forces at a time when the government was increasing its commitment to Iraq to counter the threat posed by Islamic State.
“The fact that we have deployed additional numbers of our defence forces into what is a difficult and dangerous mission …. it does reinforce just how much we ask of our defence forces,” Mr Abbott said.
“I think it’s appropriate that we do increase the offer from 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent. It is just above the current inflation rate so it is still frugal government if I may so.”
Speaking just outside the ACT, Mr Abbott said he had received advice that the move would cost about $200 million over the next four years.
However, he said that between 2008 and 2013, while Australian public service wages had increased by 26 per cent, defence pay had increased by only 21 per cent.
The increased pay offer would be a form of “catch-up”, although Mr Abbott said that any pay increase should be accompanied by productivity trade-offs.
“We believe that this is manageable and can be accommodated from efficiencies arising out of the defence First Principles review,” he said.
Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said the government had asked the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, to approach the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal to vary the terms of the current workplace remuneration agreement.
“Two per cent is slightly above the current rate of inflation of 1.7 per cent,” said Mr Andrews. “We believe that there is a special compact between the Australian people and our military … This is an adequate and proper reflection of that.”
Mr Abbott denied a deal with independent Senator Jacqui Lambie who has previously threatened to vote down government legislation unless defence force personnel were given a pay increase of 3 per cent.
“I obviously appreciate Senator Lambie’s position,” Mr Abbott said. “I respect Senator Lambie’s position because as a former member of the Australian Defence Force she obviously has a keen interest herself in the outcomes that are delivered by government for our defence force personnel.
“We’ve done this because we believe under all the circumstances it’s the right thing to do.”
Mr Abbott said that upping the pay offer to uniformed personnel would bring pay their rates more into line with defence civilians.