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Minister defends decision to reduce war allowance for troops still in Iraq.

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Wednesday 25 June 2003

Minister defends decision to reduce war allowance for troops still in Iraq


PETER CAVE: Well, the Australian government seems to have changed its min d about the fact that war in Iraq is over. The combat allowance of $75 a day which the Australian forces received for being in a war zone was withdrawn earlier this month, but now an allowance of $25 a day has been re-instated. 


As Louise Yaxley reports, the Government says the extra amount is being paid after a recent review of the security situation. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: As tanks and jet fighters waged war on Iraq, the Australian forces were paid $200 a day tax free on top of their normal pay in recognition of the danger and difficulty. Earlier this month it was cut to $125 a day. 


Labor backbencher Bernie Ripoll argues it's not safe enough in Iraq yet to justify cutting the allowance by $75 a day. 


BERNIE RIPOLL: Given that 21 troops have been killed in Iraq since hostility have ceased and a further six British troops killed just last night, how can the Minister justify the removal of the $75 combat allowance when the Australian troops remain in such danger? 


LOUISE YAXLEY: The Minister assisting the Defence Minister, Dana Vale confirmed the Government's had a re-think about conditions inside Iraq and retrospectively adjusted the pay cut. 


DANA VALE: On the advice, Mr Speaker, of the Chief of the Defence Force, and following the end of the major combat phase of the conflict, the allowance of all personnel of the Middle East reverted to a $125 a day and this was from June the 6th 2003. 


However, Mr Speaker, following a recent review of the security situation in Iraq, the rate of this allowance has been increased to $150 a day for those personnel serving within Iraq, and this change will take effect from the 9th June 2003 and will soon be communicated to our troops. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: But there are up to a thousand Australian troops still in harm's way in Iraq. Their duties include protecting Bagdad airport, air traffic control and seeking out chemical and biological weapons and missiles. They've had $25 of their combat allowance retrospectively reinstated, but don't get the full amount they were paid as the war raged. 


DANA VALE: The ADF personnel during the war in Iraq received $200 a day allowance and this was consistent with the Government's commitment before the war that more generous conditions of service would apply to those personnel who were directly involved in combat operations. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: Mr Ripoll sought to embarrass the Minister over the matter, pointing out to parliament she had denied the conditions of service were changed. 


BERNIE RIPOLL: Mr Speaker, I'm seeking leave to table the Australian Defence headquarters' communication confirming the withdrawal of the $75 allowance. 


NEIL ANDREW: Leave is not granted. The member for Oxley. 


BERNIE RIPOLL: I seek further leave to table the 11th of June media statement from the minister Dana Vale denying that this actually took place. 


NEIL ANDREW: Leave is not granted. 


PETER CAVE: The House of Representatives Speaker Neil Andrew.