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Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Page: 4594

Senator Johnston asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 11 March 2009:

(1)   What was the rationale behind having the Special Forces pay groups and pay grade placements (Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal [DFRT] Determination No. 2 of 2008) being aligned against a new trade-based model.

(2) (a)   Who signed off and approved this new model prior to it being submitted to the DFRT; and (b) when did this happen.

(3)   Why were additional courses, previously unmentioned from the qualification standards to meet Employment Category Number (ECN) 353 SASR [Special Air Service Regiment] Trooper in previous trade models, included.

(4)   Why was the decision made to not have any non-determent clause or non-reduction period added into the determination to allow those members who were previously qualified as ECN 353 under previous trade models to be accounted for as qualified in this new trade model.

(5)   Who determined and on what basis was a recommendation made that gave SASR officers and primary ECN 353 SASR Operators waivers for the courses which were added to the trade model and which deemed them as compliant and proficient on PMKeyS.

(6)   Why were beret qualified support staff not given the same treatment, which has resulted in this current situation.

Senator Faulkner (Minister for Defence) —The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:

(1)   The Australian Defence Force (ADF) sought salary adjustment for Special Forces that recognised the value of the work members were providing. This value was derived in part by their historical pay value, and in part by comparison with all other ADF trades and categories. ADF proposals to the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal (DFRT) for adjustment to salary placement require evidence of the changes in work that has led to the ADF seeking pay adjustment. Part of this evidence is the provision of the training continuum contained in the categories trade model. This evidence supports the ADF proposition by identifying the underpinning skills required to perform the work at the level required by the ADF. Consistent with all other pay submissions to the DFRT, the ADF identified points in the Special Forces career continuum where significant increases in the true value of the capability were being provided. These points were defined by the attainment of advanced skills and/or an increase in rank and provided an identifiable point where pay movement within a career continuum should occur.

(2) (a)   Special Operations Commander Australia, Major General Mike Hindmarsh AO CSC. (b) The court book that the ADF submitted to the DFRT was dated 12 September 2007.

(3)   There were no new courses or competencies in the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) training requirement as this structure was approved by the DFRT in 2001. There have only been two minor amendments to remove unnecessary courses since that time. There have been no additions to the training requirement.

(4)   The SASR pay structure was unchanged since 2001. There was no need for a no-detriment clause. The problem arose when it was discovered that there were “unqualified” SASR personnel receiving the old Qualifications and Skills component of Special Action Forces Allowance. These “unqualified” personnel came to light when Special Action Forces Allowance was rolled into salary on 9 August 2007, and the responsibility for payment shifted from Special Forces units/Special Operations Command to ADFPAY.

(5)   The primary SASR Troopers are qualified within the approved structure and only have minor irregularities. All officers were tested for qualification before placement. A special forces officer audit has already been requested by Special Operations Commander Australia, Major General Tim McOwan DSC CSM, after the Army completes the soldier audit.

(6)   The non-detriment clause was specified as part of the DFRT Determination. Primary Employment Category Numbers (ie 079 Commando and 353 Special Air Service Regiment) were automatically specified under the Determination, but there was a need for Category B (ie non primary ECN) to be individually specified at the time of implementation. This did not occur. What this meant was the Primary ECNs were automatically placed in pay categories that did into require proof of qualifications and skills, while the non-primary ECNs had to demonstrate proof of qualifications and skills.