Insufficient increase in ADF pay is the result of a fundamentally flawed wage determination system for a defence force

Determining ADF pay using commercial or public service productivity measures is as silly as it is unfair. How productive our defence force is, or needs to be, may be difficult to work out at times, but it certainly cannot be measured by inappropriately applying most commercial and public service administrative standards.


Letter to The Canberra Times
Thursday, 16 October 2014
(published Monday, 20 October 2014)

Rather than relying on sentiment about “shedding blood” as your October 16 editorial alleged ("ADF coffers full, but lower ranks lose"), organisational and community criticism of the well-below inflation pay rise offered to the ADF has instead overwhelmingly focused on the structural faults and inequities of the wage determination process involved.

And of the fundamental unsuitability of trying to apply commercial and APS administrative productivity measures to the training, readiness, warfighting and deterrent activities of a defence force.

Especially one that governments of both political persuasions have committed to four conflicts and numerous other operations since 1999.

Furthermore, while the editorial rightly noted that “Defence had become more complex and top-heavy”, it then wrongly conflated departmental and ADF roles, costs and staffing figures.

Compounded by blindly citing Commission of Audit figures wrongly base-lined as at 2000, rather than 1998, after the 1997 Defence Efficiency Review resulted in a 30 per cent cut to colonel-equivalents and above.

Comparisons made even worse by not noting It was noted that the DER’s commensurate recommendation to cut Defence’s senior civilian staff (EL2 up) by the same percentage has never occurred

Also not acknowledged is that most of the one and two-star ADF increases since 2000 are temporary liaison and co-ordination positions stemming from participation in coalition wars since 2001, are winding back with the various commitments and will never be permanent.

Whereas the much larger real and proportional increases in senior public service positions, including the quadrupling of deputy and associate secretary-equivalents from 4 to 16 have been, with one possible exception, permanent.

An accurate comparison is that the increase in three-star ADF jobs from four to seven includes one temporary position (Operation Sovereign Borders) and the successive splitting of the VCDF’s roles into three jobs resulting from independent reviews of the unsustainable workload of that position.

Finally, the editorial was misleading. It ignored the sustained and savage cuts to largely Defence alone over 2009-13, and wrongly compared the department's 2014 catch-up allocation to cuts in other departments that have largely occurred this year only.



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