Defence Force tribunal approves below-inflation ADF pay deal


An "insultingly low" below-inflation pay deal for 57,000 Australia soldiers, sailors and air force personnel has been approved and the opposition has told Prime Minister Tony Abbott to hang his head in shame. 

But any hope diggers had of political intervention to save their pay packet from a cut in real terms has been rejected.


Within hours of the independent Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal approving the deal Assistant Defence Minister Stuart Robert ruled out any involvement by Mr Abbott as called for by the Defence Force Welfare Association.

"That's the end of the matter," Mr Robert said on Monday. 

"I'd have loved to provide more. It's the most we could provide in the fiscal circumstances."

The 4.5 per cent pay increase across three years will cost the government $634 million and was expected to cause concern in the ranks of 20,000 civilian Defence staff who were in the midst of their own negotiations.

The Australian Defence Force's 1.5 per cent annual pay increase would be seen by many as a ceiling during civilian negotiations.

Defence Force Welfare Association national president David Jamison said the insultingly low arrangement was a strange way to reward ADF members for their dedication and hard work especially as the government had just dispatched a new contingent to the ongoing Middle East conflicts.

"The (Prime Minister) must intervene to direct a fair outcome for our serving ADF members and restore the integrity of the ADF pay fixing system," he said.

DFWA vice president Les Bienkiewicz said: "(The decision) was as expected but we're disappointed."

The tribunal's decision noted that the Chief of the Defence Force Mark Binskin and the ADF could pursue various salary- and pay-related claims during the life of the arrangement and Mr Bienkiewicz said his organisation would be pushing for this option to be used. 

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said the government's own budget papers revealed the funds for a fair pay deal had already been provided for.

"Tony Abbott should hang his head in shame at cutting the real wages of our ADF personnel and cutting their Christmas and recreational leave," Mr Shorten said. 

"It is inexplicable that this Government can send our service men and women into harm's way and at the same time force the ADF to take a real pay cut.

"Over the past three years, ADF wages have increased by an average of 3 per cent every year. The Abbott government pay increase of 1.5 per cent per annum is well below inflation.

"All at the same time as it's shovelling money to big polluters, giving mining companies a tax cut and paying millionaires $50,000 to have a baby.

"The Abbott Government has gone ahead and cut the real pay of our service personnel, despite Assistant Minister for Defence Stuart Robert saying in 2011 that it was 'outrageous' to make a pay offer below inflation."

Mr Robert said the ADF deal was a legacy of at least $16 billion in cuts to defence spending by Labor and that "we inherited the lowest level of spending since 1938".

Mr Robert said the government would be providing free healthcare of up to $400 per dependent for ADF members.

The first pay increase for ADF members will take effect from this Thursday .

Defence families across Australia were not happy about the military wage deal when it was announced last month but still needed clearance from the tribunal.

The offer – which ADF members cannot protest – was made just days after the nation's armed forces were committed to war in Iraq.

Following the offer media reported Air Chief Marshal Binskin as telling the military he expected discontent in the ranks over the offer but said it was "as good an outcome as I can negotiate in the current climate".