Ross Eastgate -Taking orders of the absurd

16 Oct 2014

This article was writen by Ross Eastgate a military veteran and Columnist for the Townsville Bulletin.

“THE late professor Jozef “Willy” Wilczynski held a jaundiced view of the centrally controlled economies of the old Soviet socialist bloc.

The World War II Polish underground veteran was scathing of a system where supply was totally disconnected from demand or basic need.

As an economics lecturer at Duntroon over two decades he was a Guns ‘N’ Butter guru long before the hard rock group was ever heard of.

He was a relentless critic of command economics, oft quoting the example of a Soviet factory where starving workers struggled to produce set quotas of fountain pens when there was no identifiable demand and a dysfunctional education system meant most people were illiterate.

Willy’s reaction to the latest ADF pay offer made by Canberra economic bureaucrats would probably have left him apoplectic.

Here’s the deal.

In return for an annual 1.5 per cent pay rise over four years, which is less than inflation, the ADF would be required to meet additional “productivity initiatives” and sacrifice some annual leave entitlements.

You may need to sit down here and pay close attention but let’s examine that offer.

There is no complementary proposal to reduce ADF numbers, so for a force numbering x with a salary bill of $y billion for a working year of 52 weeks minus four weeks leave, x will now receive $y billion plus 1.5 per cent for a working year of 52 weeks minus a reduced number of weeks leave.

So for an increased working year, what productivity benefit will the ADF gain from a trifling pay increase?

For those of you not intimately familiar with what the ADF actually does in a 12-month period, when it is not actually engaging with the enemy and destroying things, it is training hard to do so.

Where a factory produces a quantifiable number of units in a year, no such comparable determinant can be placed on the ADF, except comparing the number of new recruits processed through the training cycle compared with annual attrition rates.

In combat, such quantifiers as ordnance expended, body and prisoner counts, property destruction and territory captured have no civilian equivalent.

In any event, there are other essential, concurrent activities which have to be factored into the military year to achieve a finite time and personnel balance.

Alongside training, activities such as marching with bayonets fixed while blowing bugles and waving banners, painting rocks white and conducting painstaking audits of essential items like teaspoons all consume valuable time.

Such audits are insisted upon by the same bureaucratic accountants who control salary negotiations, pay the bills and keep track of every cent spent.

If you are struggling to follow this you are not alone, because the logic, if there is any, defies rational argument.

Reducing leave days for no comparable benefit is indefensible, because it begs the question how to profitably fill those extra working days?

Perhaps they could make fountain pens.”