DEFENCE Minister David Johnston insists defence personnel aren’t worse off with a food allowance cut of more than $4500 a year.
IN the latest flurry in the row over defence pay, Senator Johnston responded to Labor questions, asking: “Does anybody seriously believe that we would want to reduce the terms and conditions of soldiers?”
“You have. Yes, we believe it,” replied opposition defence spokesman Stephen Conroy.
Under the pay agreement, defence personnel will receive an extra 1.5 per cent a year for the next three years.
They lose some leave days and allowances, including food allowance for members with unaccompanied dependants, replacing that with a one-off larder payment of $385.
The pay rise, which is below inflation, will still cost the government an extra $634 million over three years. It’s been slammed by defence personnel, defence lobby groups and Labor as disgraceful and insultingly low.
Former Palmer United Party senator, now independent, Jacqui Lambie insists she won’t support any government bills until defence personnel are offered a better pay deal.
But military personnel are not worse off, Senator Johnston says.
“They are getting a 4.5 per cent rise over three years,” he said, adding that the former Labor government had delivered two below-inflation pay rises for defence personnel.
Senator Johnston said Labor was hopeless at managing the government chequebook and budget, taking $16 billion out of Defence.
“Not only did they put our national security in jeopardy but, of course, right across the board government departments were overpaid. We were left in a position where we now have to repair the budget,” he said.
In a separate move, the Senate passed a Labor motion demanding immediate reconsideration of the defence pay agreement, branding it “unfair and wrong”, responsibility for a backlash from defence personnel and likely affect morale and harm recruitment.