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Monday, 23 May 2011
Page: 4272

Ms SAFFIN (Page) (20:46): There are some things I want to say about the private member's motion of the member for Fadden on the indexation of military pensions. But in response to what the honourable member for Paterson said about what we were elected on, if my memory serves me correctly, there are a lot of things that people get elected on, and a big one was to get rid of Work Choices. I think the honourable member for Paterson has forgotten that, so I want to put that on the record. Then he went into areas of waste. We can always go into areas of waste if you want to throw the stone at each government. In this chamber we try not to interrupt each other, but I could have thrown out Seasprites and a whole range of other things to direct and target at the coalition when they were in government. Part of this motion talks about unique military service, and I think we owe it to service men and women to try to conduct this debate with a bit more civility, no matter what we think and what side of politics we are on.

The motion notes three things and then calls on members to support two things. Firstly, it notes that 'military service is unique and comes with inherent risks not applicable to other Public Service jobs'. That is true and it is something that all members in this place are very mindful of. The unique nature of military service means that it is compulsory and it is a continuous liability for combat operations. There is a requirement to work long, irregular hours, for which there is no overtime as we know it, and the requirement to work extra hours can be unpredictable and often arise at short notice. Members have to be deployed at short notice, for example, on operational tasks and in giving assistance to the civil community. I was recently at Amberley air base, where I met with some of the Air Force men and women who recently deployed to Japan at very short notice in the C-17s. That was a living example of how that can happen. Also tied to the long working hours, there is separation from families, sometimes for considerable periods of time. Families often have to move a lot; that is how the service is. That can cause stress to members and to their families. There is also a requirement to maintain a high standard of both physical and mental fitness to meet operational tasks and training for combat. This type of fitness standard is not generally a requirement in the private sector.

The issue of indexation of pensions for service men and women has been around for a long time. It is a contentious issue, as I can see from looking as far back as the Jess review in, I think, around 1972. There have been a lot of reviews about this issue. There were changes in 1977, and there has been contention around the indexation of pensions. I have particular sympathy with the servicemen and women who want the indexation changed and who want the best deal that they can get.

The coalition's policy, which is reflected in this private member's motion, does not achieve what the service men and women have been asking for. In fact, it is quite divisive, and the security that the opposition talk about is not in the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Amendment (Fair Indexation) Bill 2010 either. It would only benefit a minority of military superannuants. Of course they would be appreciative of that—I understand that—but the original draft of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Amendment (Fair Indexation) Bill 2010 did not provide any indexation change. I note that that was recently changed with an amendment to the bill—I saw something there—but it does not provide any change for the over 7,500 pensioners under the Military Superannuation and Benefits Scheme.

With the greatest sympathy to those who are desiring it, I cannot support the— (Time expired)