Lambie claims victory on defence pay

19 Mar 2015

Lambie claims victory on defence pay
By Elise Scott
March 19, 2015, 1:43 pm

Jacqui Lambie’s bill to “keep the bastards in the blue ties honest” about defence force pay won’t lead to a pay increase for the nation’s military.

But the independent senator wants it to serve as a warning to Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Senator Lambie claimed victory on Thursday after winning upper house support for her private bill that links the pay of defence force personnel to that of politicians or inflation, whichever is higher.

However, it was a pyrrhic victory.

The bill now has to go to parliament’s lower house where it’s unlikely to be even debated.

Senator Lambie doesn’t seem phased.

“This is going to be a very valuable lesson,” she told reporters after the Senate vote.

Mr Abbott retreated from his lower-than-inflation pay rise earlier in March, bumping up an initial offer of 1.5 per cent annually to two per cent.

That wasn’t enough to convince Senator Lambie to withdraw her bill, which won the support of Labor, the Greens and some crossbenchers.

The upper house battlefield was notably calm during debate, with senators from all sides acknowledging Senator Lambie’s long-standing commitment to improving defence pay.

Liberal Linda Reynolds, who served in the army for 30 years up to the rank of brigadier, congratulated her “genuine” but misguided attempt to hike defence pay.

“They would be worse off,” Senator Reynolds said, explaining that politician salaries are frozen and inflation is 1.7 per cent and falling.

“Under this bill it is actually mandating an increase between zero and somewhere about 1.5 per cent.”

Senator Lambie pre-empted that argument, reminding the Senate the government wasn’t bound to the lower limit in her bill and could always offer more than inflation.

The bill was designed “to keep the bastards in blue ties honest”, referring to coalition leaders.

The senator also used debate to again condemn the government for sending troops to Iraq to fight Islamic State.

“At best, it will be a flag-flying exercise,” she said.

At worst, Australia troops risk being killed or handed over to IS by “supposedly friendly” Iraqi troops.

Labor defence spokesman Stephen Conroy accused the government of staging a political strategy to attack all public servants, using the military as a “battering ram”.

“A fair go is the least a grateful nation can offer to serving military personnel,” he said.