Jacqui Lambie’s defence force bill may result in pay cut

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DEFENCE personnel could suffer from a Labor-backed proposal to link military pay to interest rates, the government says.

The Senate this morning endorsed independent Jacqui Lambie's bill to "keep the bastards in the blue ties honest" by linking military pay increases to either the inflation rate or increases in MPs' pay, whichever is greater.

However, with politicians' pay frozen and inflation running at 1.7 per cent, the proposal would lift military pay by less than the 2 per cent increase offered by the commonwealth.

"Labor has been too clever by half and while attempting to score a political point has in fact kicked an own goal when it comes to ADF pay," Assistant Defence Minister Stuart Robert said.

"Inflation for the year to December 2014 was 1.7 per cent and the Reserve Bank of Australia is forecasting inflation to June 2015 of 1.25 per cent.

"Senator Lambie's Bill, which Labor supports, could actually cause a decline in pay and conditions for Defence personnel."

Senator Lambie told the Senate that governments were not bound to the lower limit in her bill and could always offer more.

The bill, which was endorsed by Labor and the Greens, appears doomed in the House of Representatives, where the government commands a majority.

Senator Lambie said the Senate's vote was "a very valuable lesson" to the Coalition and urged a conscience vote in the lower house.

"I think it's achieved giving the Prime Minister a warning that when you want to steal money from our Defence Force personnel there's more than one ways to skin a cat," she said.

Senator Conroy defended the proposal, saying "nothing in this bill stops the government of the day providing a higher increase".

"This puts in place a floor below which ADF pay can't fall. Through this Bill, ADF personnel know that their pay will – at the very least – always keep up with the cost of living," he said.

Lambie claims victory on defence pay

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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.

Lambie’s Private members Bill linking Defence Pay to CPI or politicians’ pay – which ever is higher – passes the Australian Senate.

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MEDIA STATEMENT

Independent Senator for Tasmania, Jacqui Lambie has thanked members of the Labor Party, Greens and Cross Bench who have combined to defeat the Liberal and National Party members, as well as independent Senators Day and Leyonhjelm – in order to force the historic passage of her Private Member's Bill regarding Defence Pay through the Australian Senate.

 
"Today the Senate sent a clear message to the PM and all members of the lower house. Its now time to put in place a legislative safety net which guarantees that ADF members' pay increases are linked to the CPI or the pay increases' of politicians." said Senator Lambie.

"Now that the Australian Senate has spoken in favour of a fairer system for calculating ADF pay – I'm very interested in finding out the names of the lower house members of parliament, who will oppose my Private Member's legislation." said Senator Lambie.


"I've called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to allow both Liberal and National party members of Parliament to have a Conscience Vote on the: Defence Amendment (Fair Pay for Members of the ADF) Bill 2014. Members of Parliament should be allowed to put their constituents and members of our ADF first. They shouldn't have to toe the party line on this vote." said Senator Lambie.

 
"I'm hearing that many members of the Liberals and National parties are prepared to cross the floor against their party bosses' wishes if this Bill is ever debated and put to the vote in the lower house. If Tony Abbott orders members to vote against it – it could reopen questions about his hold on the leadership of the Liberal party. It will be very interesting to hear what Malcolm Turnbull has to say about my Private Members bill." said Senator Lambie.

 
"Already in desperation to distract, the Liberal's are spreading lies about my Bill saying it will result in a pay cut – which are clearly untrue. As I said in my speech to Parliament (see attached): My bill is simply a flexible safety net, which sets a minimum standard – it doesn't set a maximum rate of pay rise. The politicians and their bureaucrats under my legislation are allowed to increase the pay of ADF members more than the CPI and Politicians' pay – but never less. If there's a pay cut for the ADF the only person to blame will be the PM." said Senator Lambie.
 

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PTSD - A Message from the Australian Defence Force Senior Leadership

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A Message from the Australian Defence Force Senior Leadership

13 March 2015 | Media Release

A recent television documentary that focused on ADF veterans and their stories of dealing with PTSD and other mental health issues arising from their deployment has created significant public debate. This is potentially one of the most emotive topics relating to service in the ADF that is discussed in the public domain. Over the past six years, the ADF has put an enormous amount of effort into improving our understanding of, and screening for mental health conditions, particularly PTSD, as well as in preventing and treating such conditions.

As a result of this effort, we now have some excellent programs in place to assist our people and Defence works extensively and closely with the Department of Veterans' Affairs to provide a smoother transition for those ADF members leaving military service and earlier identification of mental health issues in that transition period. We consult with the Prime Ministerial Advisory Council on Veterans' Mental Health to ensure we are doing all we can in this important area.

We do not get it right all the time and there are a number of former ADF personnel who feel that their treatment was not up to the standard they would expect.

I accept the criticism of those who feel their treatment was not as good as it could have been and I welcome the debate on this important issue that has flowed from the program. Honest, open feedback is important to understanding the needs of those among us who are dealing with mental health issues and improving the services we provide to those who seek help.

One of the things that we as a senior leadership team of the ADF have been attempting to do is to more fully understand all the elements and factors that impact on the mental health of our people. This is time consuming but important work because we need to understand the factors that impact our people before they join, while they serve and, in conjunction with the Department of Veterans' Affairs, once they leave the ADF.

This requires a more sophisticated and mature debate on mental health issues than we have previously seen. Part of this is in presenting data that challenges conventional wisdom, but it is data that is crucial to understanding the whole picture. Without it, we cannot make the right decisions at the right time to support our people to the best extent we can.

We must be able to put these issues on the table and discuss them in a rational manner. The recent vilification of the Commander of Joint Health Command, Rear Admiral Robyn Walker in social media has caused us considerable concern. The comments are not only unfair and unwarranted, they are unacceptable. Rear Admiral Walker is a strong and vocal advocate for improving and delivering effective mental health services within the ADF and she works tirelessly to remove the stigma many feel still exists around the issue of mental health within the defence community and amongst our service men and women more generally. I have full confidence in Rear Admiral Walker and she continues to have my support and that of the ADF command team.

It is important that this debate focuses on the issues and not on individuals doing their best for the wellbeing of the serving and former members of the ADF.

We recognise that some individuals may not present with or become aware of mental health concerns while they are still serving. Some individuals may not present with or develop symptoms of mental health conditions such as PTSD until after they have discharged from the ADF. For this reason we continue to work closely with DVA to improve and strengthen the transition arrangements and support veterans and their families to seek help as early as they can before or after they have left the ADF.

Mental health conditions such as PTSD can be successfully treated. Early identification, diagnosis and intervention by trained mental health professionals provide the best outcome for those dealing with mental illness. We recognise the unique demands of military service as an occupation and we owe it to our serving personnel to equip them, and their families, to better deal with the stresses of the job and to support them throughout their career, including on their return from deployment.

Defence has, does and will continue to provide the very best in care, treatment and ongoing support for its people dealing with mental illness. Since 2009, Defence has spent over $140 million on delivering mental health programs and support for its members. We have also added 91 additional positions to our mental health workforce over the past six years. Regardless of whether it is a physical or a mental health illness or injury, deployment related or not, it makes no difference to the individuals' access to quality health care in the ADF.

We continue to learn from our experience in supporting wounded, injured and ill personnel and from informed discussion about this important issue and we remain committed to providing the best possible care to everyone, whatever the injury or ailment.

MD Binskin, AC
Air Chief Marshal
Chief of the Defence Force

RJ Griggs, AO, CSC
Vice Admiral
Vice Chief of the Defence Force

TW Barrett, AO CSC
Vice Admiral, RAN
Chief of Navy

DL Morrison, AO
Lieutenant General
Chief of Army

GC Brown, AO
Air Marshal
Chief of Air Force

 Issued by Ministerial and Executive Coordination and Communication,
Department of Defence,
Canberra, ACT
Phone: 02 6127 1999 Fax: 02 6265 6946

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