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Shadow Minister discusses survey of attitudes of defence personnel.

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Shadow Minister for Defence and Homeland Security



Subjects: Defence Attitude Survey

McCLELLAND: We rely on the skills of our defence for our defence capability. So when you are talking about losing essentially a third of your skill base and circumstances where recruitment is also facing its own problems - well it’s a very concerning thing.

DELANEY: Now this is not just soldiers this is also air force and navy as well - similar results for all three of the forces are saying they are very dissatisfied and they’re not happy with their pay and that their not happy with long term deployment. Isn’t it something they would have known going into the defence force?

DELANEY: I think that’s a criticism that can be made - I mean the trends have been there to see. The defence families face the same pressures that we all face - that is paying off a big mortgage and hence the need for two incomes and there is a range of things that should of but

haven’t been done. For instance - greater ease of child care, shorter deployment overseas and more precise deployments overseas so that everyone can arrange their family support networks during that period, and of course just the general stress of supporting families. I think in fairness to the military they are getting more sophisticated in supporting partners who are left behind but there are a range of resources that could have been put in place at a much earlier time to prevent it getting to this situation.

DELANEY: Now something that was interesting that I found in the results of the soldiers surveyed - more than half a concerned that the army does not have the resources that it needs to do its job.

MCCLELLAND: Yes, that is really concerning because they are placing themselves at personal risk every time they are deployed on an operation as we have seen.

DELANEY: So what happens if they don’t have confidence in their employer in this case the Australian Government’s Defence Force if they do not have the confidence in their employer to have the resources to allow them to do their job what does that do to the way they do their job?

MCCLELLAND: That’s right - even morale and confidence, I mean this is a point, and I am making a political point here I suppose, but it is a priority issue. We have just spent $1.2 billion - not million - but $1.2 billion on our engagement in Iraq rather than addressing these poor issues and unless they’re addressed you are going to really have a depleted capability in your

defence force into the future. The point I make in terms of salaries its because of the skill level of our service men and women it has given us our defence advantage but I think the community generally and that includes all sides of politics as to now really appreciate that skill level and remunerate them accordingly. Unless and until you do there will be and what we are also seeing is that draw into the private sector in the context of these other pressures that defence families face.

DELANEY: Is it enough to look at just the pay level because there are other comments through the report suggesting personnel are not happy with the way that discipline and values are looking, they are in fact saying that look we have seen a decline in the values and standards generally in the Australian military, that there is not enough discipline basically unhappily about a whole lot of things.

MCCLELLAND: It seems to be so and I mean we went through a period in Australia where we were looking at sort of systems of workplace democracy where those involved in the work systems have an input in how the system was managed and I think probably the time has

come with our defence forces that it’s very much structured on the basis of a hierarchy. But I think that hierarchy now really much now effectively engage service men and women in the planning and structure of the defence forces. I mean I suppose in Australia it is to the credit of our system that the defence forces are even prepared to conduct this survey to at least identify the issues and that is something that we can all be grateful for in our system of government. But I think then in terms of what is done to rectify it I think it is essential that that defence personnel are actually engaged in the process.

DELANEY: I was an army brat, I grew up with my mum and dad both in the army so I know all about the posting cycle how you’re forever upping and offing to the next posting round. One of the biggest reasons for people wanting to quit the defence force the desire to stay in one place. Why do need our defence personnel to shift every two to three years?

MCCLELLAND: I suppose it’s a balance isn’t it. There is experience and I suppose operational commitments and its well that are relevant there but I think equally and I think it is slowly happening but needs to happen more effectively - the defence forces are recognising the pressure on families, different schools the pressure to do well in the HSC for instance that faces all families these days. There needs to be a much faster rate of recognition of those modern pressures that all families face including service families.

DELANEY: Mr McClelland if the report’s made public in the next week or so then we have further discussion in estimates what would you like to see happen to improve the defence force so that people don’t want to leave?

MCCLELLAND: I think there has got to be a general recognition of the enhanced skill level that they are now is in the defence forces and appropriate remuneration for that. And I think there has got to be a greater recognition of those families pressures that all modern families face and preparedness to face those pressures in the defence forces rather than simply regarding them as numbers if you like.

DELANEY: Robert McClelland thank you very much for your time this morning.


23 May 2005