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Is there a defence vote?

  • 02 December 2014

On the one hand the wider Defence community seems to be in the ascendant in Australian society at the moment, yet the Australian Defence Force has still suffered an effective cut in pay over the next three years and there are calls for a Royal Commission into sexual abuse and harassment within that institution, including the Australian Defence Force Academy. 

It is quite impotent to do anything about an adverse pay outcome because it is locked in to the government politically and structurally (through the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal), but it remains to be seen whether the government will set up yet another Royal Commission.

The first element in the general Defence ascendancy is that the ADF has been in almost constant overseas combat operations for a decade or more and is currently deployed against Islamic State. These operations have been widely praised in the Australian community and have brought the members of the defence forces considerable honour. This recognition has come in the form of several awards of the highest military honour, the Victoria Cross, and through some civilian honours, including Young Australian of the Year and now the chairmanship of the Australia Day Council to VC winner Ben Roberts-Smith.

Secondly, the Coalition government is in office and the conventional wisdom is that it, rather than Labor, represents the Defence interest better. Within the Coalition parties former Defence force members are growing in numbers and influence. For instance, a former army officer, Stuart Robert, an ADFA graduate, is the Assistant Defence Minister. He was the public face of the government in stamping out any suggestion that the pay decision could be revisited.

Thirdly, former Chiefs of the Defence Force are now very highly placed in Australian society. They occupy the positions of Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, and NSW Governor, David Hurley. At the state level, Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman, is a former Army Major.

Fourthly, the military has been thrust front and centre into administering border protection policy. Until recently, the militarisation of that policy has see General Angus Campbell standing beside Immigration Minister Scott Morrison at press conferences.

Finally, we are just beginning the massive commemoration of WW1. Effectively this means a huge focus on the defence forces and on their courage, valour and sacrifice on behalf of the Australian community.

Yet despite Independent Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie projecting herself as the defender of the defence community and promising to vote against all government policy