Ross Eastgate – Leaders should fight for fair deal

13 Nov 2014

LOYALTY is a two-way street though with many destinations.

Some commanders think it’s standard issue in every soldier’s moral armoury, along with courage, initiative and ingenuity.

Leaders, a rarer breed, understand it is always earned and never effective until it is completely reciprocated.

Former federal Labor member for Eden-Monaro, military lawyer Dr Mike Kelly believed his rank, experience and contacts automatically entitled him to their loyalty in his political pursuits.

Unfortunately when the cannons sounded Kelly, faced with the dilemma whether his loyalties lay with his former military colleagues and the wider defence community or his political masters unwisely chose the latter, to his detriment.

He also failed to understand loyalty is completely incompatible with Australian political practice.

Kelly’s understanding of loyalty was that it only applied upwards, unwise in a party in which it has historically been the political equivalent of Ebola.

Kelly’s ministerial successor, assistant minister for defence and LNP member for Fadden Stuart Robert has also failed when confronted with a similar dilemma.

Robert has been flicked the hospital pass of selling an unconscionable pay decrease and loss of leave to the ADF.


With the fiscal bayonet at his back and despite his insistence on looking after “his soldiers” the former army officer’s assurances are simply hollow as he puts political self benefit over external good.

As for “independent” Andrew Wilkie, far from defending the pay and conditions of soldiers he once aspired to command, he has been more concerned with the “rights” of live cattle facing export to Indonesia.

And while the other mouth from the south, Tasmanian Senator Jackie Lambie has made some sympathetic noises she has demonstrated why she will never be a real force in politics, because she is by nature an enforcer not a persuader.

Nor has the current ADF hierarchy covered itself in glory, as senior officers whose more-than-generous salaries are not determined by the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal remained conspicuously silent over the decision to grant a pay adjustment below CPI while removing discretionary leave entitlements.

Their lack of moral courage is palpable.

There is a view the ADF is stymied because it is a disciplined force which does not have access to the traditional methods of dissent available to other professions, such as withdrawing their labour; that a strike would amount to mutiny.

Perhaps, but there are many examples where such actions highlighted what serving personnel perceived as injustices, eventually leading to remedy.

They don’t need to resort to such drastic action.

The current ADF is educated, informed and articulate and the ex-ADF community, which is bound by no such constraints, is sympathetic, motivated and actively arguing for a fair deal for serving personnel and by logical extension, military superannuants. They all have a vote and no political party should assume the ADF community’s vote as a given.

Politicians and senior ADF commanders need to demonstrate political courage.

Loyalty betrayed will inevitably seek alternate political pathways.