National

Angry Australian Defence Force members in key Coalition electorates

The Coalition's controversial Australian Defence Force pay deal will bolster its enemies' popularity for the coming year and last election's nemesis Cathy McGowan could be the biggest beneficiary of all.

A breakdown of electorates with the most ADF members shows the independent who tore the seat of Indi from the Liberals by the slimmest of margins last year has enough Diggers in her electorate to push the seat further from the Liberals' grasp.

Some Labor MPs holding seats by small margins also could use the issue to strengthen their support bases while the issue has publicly deepened the split within the Palmer United Party

A number of Coalition MPs with the lion's share of seats with more than more than 1000 serving soldiers, sailors or air force personnel will be forced to withstand heat over the Abbott government's decision.

Ms McGowan held her seat by 439 votes and had 1300 ADF members and 122 reserves plus another 224 civilian public servants from the Defence Department looking at a lower pay offer than their uniformed colleagues. 

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"At the moment, our military is involved in the fight against [the Islamic State] in Iraq, and also border protection at home," Ms McGowan said.  

"The least we can do is support them financially to an acceptable level.

"This latest pay increase appears to be well below what has been delivered in the past."

She used a grassroots campaign to defeat Sophie Mirabella at the last election and win the former Liberal stronghold.

The national president of the Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans' Association, Allan Thomas, said his organisation hoped some Coalition MPs would lose their seats over the pay deal in 2016.

"I dare say this will be an ongoing issue," Mr Thomas said casting forward to the next election.

A Coalition MP with significant numbers of ADF members in her electorate is Northern Territory Country Liberals MP Natasha Griggs.

She has 4737 ADF members and 700 reserves plus 300 Defence Department staff in a seat she holds by 1500 votes after an election where she beat Labor candidate Luke Gosling who spent 13 years in the army.  

It will be a challenge for Mr Thomas' group and others such as the Defence Force Welfare Association to keep the issue alive for another two years.

Australian National University political science professor Ian McAllister said studies had shown a person's voting patterns were changed for about a year after the government had interfered with their economic circumstances. 

This would mean the ADF pay issue would be forgotten by an election held in 2016.

Canberra MP and shadow parliamentary secretary for defence Gai Brodtmann, who requested the figures in parliament, said all Coalition members should stand up for ADF personnel living or working in these electorates.

"ADF personnel in these electorates will be worse off and their relevant MPs should be fighting this appalling deal," Ms Brodtmann said. 

The figures from December show where ADF members were located and not necessarily where they vote but the numbers are the best available guide to where the  the electoral power of military members resides.

In terms of the Liberals, more than 6300 ADF members and reserves were in Jane Prentice's electorate of Ryan, 6000 were in Herbert MP Ewen Jones' seat, more than 5700 lived in Malcolm Turnbull's Wentworth electorate, 3200 were in Craig Kelly's Hughes seat, another 2000 resided in Louise Markus' seat of Macquarie and 1300 were in Flinders held by Greg Hunt.

The Nationals' Michael McCormack had 1600 members and reserves in the NSW seat of Riverina.

Labor's Andrew Leigh, whose seat of Fraser covered the northern parts of the ACT, had 6400 ADF members and reserves and another 8500 Defence Department staff. 

This was followed by  Shayne Neumann's seat of Blair which had 4000 members and reserves, Sharon Claydon's seat of Newcastle with 3400 and Gary Gray in Brand with 3000-plus.

Nick Champion in Wakefield had 3500 serving members and reserves plus 2000 Defence Department staff.

The latter two held seats by margins of less than 3.5 per cent. 

"At the moment, our military is involved in the fight against ISIS in Iraq, and also Border Protection at home. We ask a lot of our defence force and as a nation we know it will carry out its mission with a high amount of professionalism. The least we can do is support them financially to an acceptable level," Ms Brodtmann said.

"At the moment, our military is involved in the fight against ISIS in Iraq, and also Border Protection at home. We ask a lot of our defence force and as a nation we know it will carry out its mission with a high amount of professionalism. The least we can do is support them financially to an acceptable level."

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