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Wednesday, 16 September 2015
Page: 7030

Senator LAZARUS (Queensland) (16:46): I take great pleasure in talking about the MPI for today. I am very disappointed that the Abbott government has disregarded the will of the Senate by ignoring Senator Lamble's bill in relation to ADF pay. I married into a military family so I do understand the sacrifices our military make to keep our country safe and secure. They spend long periods of time away from their family. They miss key family events and endure postings in extreme and difficult conditions. On a daily basis, the Australian men and women of our Defence Force put their lives on the line to keep our country safe and free.

There is a common term used by many and one which I believe in, and that is that freedom is not free. It takes the sacrifice of ordinary men and women who do extraordinary things to keep our country safe, secure and free. Sadly, this sacrifice often includes loss of life, physical injury, mental injury and post-traumatic stress. Freedom is not free because there is also a financial cost, because we need to adequately acknowledge and reward our people for their commitment to keeping our country safe and free, both while they are serving and once they retire.

What cost can we put on the safety, security and freedom of our nation? I am of the view that it is priceless. Most Australians go to work and come home every day, without having to worry about their personal safety. Our Defence Force, our military personnel, go to work every day knowing that their personal safety is not assured. Our military risk their lives to keep our lives safe. It is only fair that the pay and conditions of our military should be linked to the pay and conditions of politicians.

My home state of Queensland is home to many different Defence Force personnel on bases across the Navy, Army and Air Force. Unlike many people in the workforce, our military do not have the support of a union to represent them, nor are they able to speak out in relation to issues involving pay and conditions. When existing mechanisms designed to act in the best interests of our military fail—and I include the Abbott government and the tribunal in this category—the Parliament of Australia should be the voice of our military to ensure they are appropriately supported and remunerated. It is for this reason the Senate supported Senator Lamble's bill to link the ADF to the pay rises of members of parliament or to CPI, whichever is highest. I reject ill-informed arguments put forward by coalition senators that this is a bad bill. If the coalition think there are issues with the bill then they should act in good faith by suggesting improvements rather than trying to get out of paying our ADF more. I am hopeful, given that the leadership of the government has now changed, that government's operating style will now change and the lower house will actively seek to deal with this important bill as a matter of haste.

I am encouraged by some of the comments made by Malcolm Turnbull. Our new PM assures us that his government will deliver a consultative and collaborative style of government that respects the intelligence of the electorate. I am sure all people across the electorate of Australia want the government to appropriately reward our ADF for their invaluable contributions to this country. Accordingly, I hope our new Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, ensures this bill is given the priority it deserves. I, along with other senators, who have already spoken on this MPI, including Senators Conroy, Lambie and Xenophon, call on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to respect the wishes of the people of Australia and the Senate chamber by dealing with the bill before the last sitting period this year so that our ADF can move forward, knowing they are respected, they are appreciated and they are valued and that they are going to receive the pay and conditions they so justly deserve. I congratulate Senator Lambie for standing up for Australia's ADF. It takes courage to do what is right.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Sterle ): Order! The time for the discussion has expired.