A LONG-SERVING Australian soldier has spoken out about the state of our country’s military declaring he is “thoroughly disgusted” to serve in the army.
The 31-year-old soldier, who has requested to remain anonymous has served with the Australian Defence Force for 11 years across Australia as well as serving in Afghanistan.
It’s a role he dreamt of fulfilling, and, until a decision was handed down on military wages by the Defence Remuneration Tribunal this week, it was “the proudest thing (he) could imagine anyone doing”.
The Victorian soldier has never spoken publicly about his life as a soldier, but this week he felt compelled, he told news.com.au.
The decision to increase defence personnel wages by only 1.5 per cent, a rate below inflation that would mean a decrease in pay in real terms was the last straw.
The Defence Force member says he has “sworn to protect and serve” his country, and until now was “enormously proud to do so”.
“My identity as a Serving Member has taken some hits recently,” he said.
“The order not to wear or our uniforms in public because of an ‘unspecified’ threat — if I wasn’t scared to wear my uniform fighting in Afghanistan, I’m sure as hell not going to be scared to wear it on any Australian street. But, I’ll toe the line.
“And then there was my recent discovery as I investigated my upcoming posting, that Defence has been quietly stripping away allowances for things such as the cross country moves that it requires its members to undertake.
“I’m only going to get a third of the allowances that I got for the exact same move I made previously, and in fact am going to be out of pocket? OK, OK … You are telling me you’re only going to pay me to fly and if I choose to drive I guess that’s just my own stupid fault.
“But today, the government that I have sworn to protect and serve, and that up to this point have been enormously proud to do so, has signed off on a deal that is essentially a kick in the teeth to every Soldier, Airmen, & Sailor.
“They have given us a ‘pay rise’ of 1.5% per year for the next few years. This is more than 1.5% below estimated inflation, and 140% less than the pay rise that politicians have awarded themselves in past years.”
“And how are we, the Serving members of this countries military forces supposed to pay the government back for this paltry pay rise? By sacrificing leave days and allowances across the board. In fact, the monetary value of the lost leave days is greater in value then the extra money this ‘pay increase’ will deliver.”
Expressing his disgust at the pay increase decision the Defence Force Welfare Association has labelled “insultingly low”, the soldier goes on to sympathise with outsiders disgusted at the military.
“If you want to attack me in the street because you disdain the fact that I am an Australian Soldier, then at the very least I can understand you,” he added.
“My own government disdains me and my fellow serving members, and it disdains us publicly and with thinly disguised contempt.
“I am an Australian Soldier and, for the first time in eleven years, I am thoroughly disgusted to be one.”
The soldier told news.com.au that although he is the one who has bravely spoken out on this issue, it’s not just his battle.
“This is not my fight, it’s the fight of every serving member as of that despicable decision,” he said.
“I”m just one member of thousands who are affected, and I’m not even the worst off … I’m not currently serving overseas, where our people are actively put in harms way, and yet expected to accept a loss of, in some cases, up to a quarter of their dangerous service allowance.”
The three-year pay deal affecting Australia’s 57,000 full-time uniformed personnel and 20,000 reservists was approved by the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal on Monday.
Defence Force Welfare Association urged the Prime Minister to intervene, saying to “insultingly low annual increase” was a strange way to reward defence personnel.
“This so-called increase represents barely half the expected annual inflation rate and an even lesser proportion of the expected rise of annual living costs,” he said in a statement.
The Government has justified the decision saying it’s all they can afford.
“We’d all like to pay our serving defence personnel more, but there’s going to have to be a very tight pay restraint across the public sector, including with defence personnel,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott told media in Sydney yesterday.
Assistant Defence Minister Stuart Robert described defence personnel’s current salaries as “generous”, citing an “enormous number of allowances”, subsidised housing and health care benefits.