Ross Eastgate reports in his Townsville Bulletin column – 18 February 2015
POLITICAL parties of any persuasion who take the defence community and its votes for granted will invariably discover unpalatable truths.
In the Queensland election, the greater Townsville region, with one of the largest concentrations of serving and retired ADF members, returned its three LNP-held electorates to the ALP, including one held by a former serviceman.
Two other crucial electorates with large defence representation also reverted to the ALP, despite one being held by the premier and former army engineer Campbell Newman.
Despite his impeccable political and military connections, Newman’s tin ear dispatched him convincingly to history’s political dustbin.
Newman’s political colleagues never confronted him with their often privately expressed beliefs that his alleged abrasive style typified in their views “military people”.
Hypocritical, particularly when expressed by doctors, dentists and lawyers with little individual or collective understanding of either leadership or military ethos.
Queensland’s final electoral outcome depended on Ferny Grove, close to Gallipoli Barracks, Enoggera, with a significant serving ADF community living in DHA accommodation.
Labor took the seat with a slender majority despite the nuisance Palmer Party candidate being ruled ineligible.
The defeated LNP member was an ex-RAN Persian Gulf veteran.
The 10 per cent swing to Labor on preferences could easily represent a disgruntled ADF demographic.
Newman’s government had four former ADF members, including Dr Bruce Flegg who was disendorsed by an internal coup.
The incoming Labor government has two, neither of whom represent electorates with significant ADF votes.
Rockhampton MP and minister Bill Byrne is a former infantry officer.
Former national serviceman and Vietnam veteran Jim Pearce has never exhibited any real enthusiasm for veterans’ affairs.
What state politicians seem not to understand is that serving ADF members, with their peripatetic lifestyles, do not necessarily identify with the community in which they momentarily reside, nor differentiate between state and federal issues.
If political parties believe ADF voters differentiate between state and federal issues then they need to examine how Queensland electorates with significant ADF concentrations voted.
NSW goes to the polls on March 28, where electorates with significant ADF demographics may also send a message to the federal government over dissatisfaction with issues such as pay, pensions and conditions of service, including DHA housing.
That dissatisfaction is being loudly expressed and opportunistic politicians are already tapping into the mood.
Why else would Tasmania’s politically irrelevant senator Jacqui Lambie stage a protest outside Lavarack Barracks during Queensland’s election campaign if it wasn’t to send some sort of personal, opportunistic message to the wider ADF electorate?
The current federal government has taken that wider defence community for granted and treated it appallingly, despite all the promises made prior to its election.
Labor in government federally was no better, and it is past time both sides listened and acted accordingly.
Otherwise ADF voters everywhere might send them both an unpalatable message.