A Federal Government frontbencher has hit back at criticism of the wage offer to serving troops, saying it is the Labor Opposition’s fault that higher wages have not been offered.
Labor leader Bill Shorten has written to the Prime Minister, asking him to reconsider the pay offer of a 1.5 per cent pay increase each year for the next three years.
The offer is due to be considered tomorrow by the independent Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal (DFRT).
But the Government said the Opposition was not in any position to criticise the offer when it was refusing to vote for billions of dollars in budget savings.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer Steve Ciobo said Labor was being hypocritical.
“The Australian Labor Party presided over the biggest deterioration in Defence Force spending in Australia since the second world war,” he told Sky News. “The fact is Labor is big on rhetoric, big on talk.
“You’re now demanding all this extra pay, and your opposition stands in contrast, and stands in opposition to us actually making additional budget savings which could pay for the very increases that you’re talking about.”
The Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA) said the pay deal represented a cut to real wages, recreational leave and some allowances. “Quite frankly the Government is putting the squeeze on its service personnel at the same time as sending a significant number overseas to another war,” DFWA president David Jamison said.
Palmer United Party senator and former military policewoman Jacqui Lambie said the offer was insulting, especially with troops and the Air Force currently deployed to Iraq. “These men and women of our defence forces put their lives on the line for this country and are prepared to die for it, and 1.5 per cent is not near enough. I find that quite disgusting that we’re treating our defence forces the way we are.”, Senator Lambie told RN breakfast.
Defence force chief says wage offer fair, reasonable
The Chief of the Defence Force has written to all staff and acknowledged that while some would be disappointed, he believed the wage offer was fair and reasonable.
Air Chief Marshall Mark Binskin told staff it was as good an outcome as he could negotiate in the current budget climate. But that was rejected by the DFWA.
Opposition Defence spokesman Stephen Conroy said defence staff were in a unique position, because they did not vote on their wage offers like other public servants. “It’s not as if they can withdraw their labour, it’s the Defence Force, for goodness sake. Tony Abbott promised every Australian before the last election that there’s be no surprises. This is a bloody big surprise for Australia’s defence forces – an actual wage cut, a real wage cut.”, Senator Conroy told AM
The Returned and Services League (RSL) said it was also disappointed by the wage offer and could not support it. It said it would present its concerns to the DFRT when it considered whether to approve the pay offer this week.
Mr Jamison said 90 per cent of respondents to an online survey of about 8,000 were dissatisfied with the offer. “We expected in tight times there wouldn’t be an increase in pay, but we didn’t expect a reduction,” Mr Jamison said.