Ross EastgateThis article was writen by Ross Eastgate a military veteran and Columnist for the Townsville Bulletin.

“THE late professor Jozef “Willy” Wilczynski held a jaundiced view of the centrally controlled economies of the old Soviet socialist bloc.

The World War II Polish underground veteran was scathing of a system where supply was totally disconnected from demand or basic need.

As an economics lecturer at Duntroon over two decades he was a Guns ‘N’ Butter guru long before the hard rock group was ever heard of.

He was a relentless critic of command economics, oft quoting the example of a Soviet factory where starving workers struggled to produce set quotas of fountain pens when there was no identifiable demand and a dysfunctional education system meant most people were illiterate.

Willy’s reaction to the latest ADF pay offer made by Canberra economic bureaucrats would probably have left him apoplectic.

Here’s the deal.

In return for an annual 1.5 per cent pay rise over four years, which is less than inflation, the ADF would be required to meet additional “productivity initiatives” and sacrifice some annual leave entitlements.

You may need to sit down here and pay close attention but let’s examine that offer.

There is no complementary proposal to reduce ADF numbers, so for a force numbering x with a salary bill of $y billion for a working year of 52 weeks minus four weeks leave, x will now receive $y billion plus 1.5 per cent for a working year of 52 weeks minus a reduced number of weeks leave.

So for an increased working year, what productivity benefit will the ADF gain from a trifling pay increase?

For those of you not intimately familiar with what the ADF actually does in a 12-month period, when it is not actually engaging with the enemy and destroying things, it is training hard to do so.

Where a factory produces a quantifiable number of units in a year, no such comparable determinant can be placed on the ADF, except comparing the number of new recruits processed through the training cycle compared with annual attrition rates.

In combat, such quantifiers as ordnance expended, body and prisoner counts, property destruction and territory captured have no civilian equivalent.

In any event, there are other essential, concurrent activities which have to be factored into the military year to achieve a finite time and personnel balance.

Alongside training, activities such as marching with bayonets fixed while blowing bugles and waving banners, painting rocks white and conducting painstaking audits of essential items like teaspoons all consume valuable time.

Such audits are insisted upon by the same bureaucratic accountants who control salary negotiations, pay the bills and keep track of every cent spent.

If you are struggling to follow this you are not alone, because the logic, if there is any, defies rational argument.

Reducing leave days for no comparable benefit is indefensible, because it begs the question how to profitably fill those extra working days?

Perhaps they could make fountain pens.”


  1. Trevor Dixon says


    Paul Asbury
    POSTED AT 9:31 AM OCTOBER 16, 2014
    Ross – I agree that the proposal does not make sense. However I have yet to hear of the protest resignation of any general or equivalent in support of a fairer deal for their subordinate soldiers, sailors and airmen. Perhaps those generals etc have their salaries determined under a different scheme? The ADF deserve a better deal from the Government and also better leadership from their generals.
    Comment 1 of 8

    Alex Head of Sunshine Coast
    POSTED AT 10:00 AM OCTOBER 16, 2014
    Be interesting what the next politicians’ pay rise will be. I bet it will be more than 1.5 per cent. Of course they will say it has to make up for the great sacrifice they made in not accepting a pay rise this year – or will they?
    Comment 2 of 8

    POSTED AT 10:00 AM OCTOBER 16, 2014
    Paul you are correct, Brigadiers and above are under the Star Ranks Remuneration arrangement which is seperate to what is being negotiated here. VADM Griggs, who is the Vice Chief of the Defence Force, spoke at the DFRT saying how well paid Australian soldiers are. He should know, two years ago at the heart of the GFC the position of the VCDF had its pay increased by $85000 to $550000. Well paid indeed. The trick is not to look at what people are wearing, if the person is saying this is reasonable, they’re a governemnt of the day politician even if they’re in uniform. The perception that the Senior Leadership Group is not working in the interests of its members is very strong. The SLG is saying this offer is fair and reasonable without even listening to it’s members. The age old adage remains, they’re either with us or against us.
    Comment 3 of 8

    POSTED AT 12:01 PM OCTOBER 16, 2014
    Without Joe Hockey giving up his tax free allowance of $170 per night for living in his wife’s residence in Canberra (along with several other politicians of both stripes) – when politicians are offered their next pay increase – any consideration of accepting ‘skinny’ wage rises and the demand for compensating leave sacrifices in the military should be totally rejected. After all we expect the politicians to do the ‘Heavy Lifting’ too along with the rest of the nation.
    Comment 4 of 8

    Ray McMahon
    POSTED AT 12:02 PM OCTOBER 16, 2014
    Never fear; don’t you worry about that! If we stopped buying 5.56 mm ammunition from Malaysia, and then got China to make it for us, that in itself would generate a great reduction in Defence expenditure. After all; we are told that they are now our best friends. The monumental saving by purchasing our small arms ammo from China would more than cover the the dig’s holiday pay. China was producing a 7.62x54mm rifle cartridge in 1956 of a far superior quality than what Munitions Footscray was knocking out at the time, believe me.
    Comment 5 of 8

    Russell linwood of McDOWALL QLD
    POSTED AT 2:20 PM OCTOBER 16, 2014
    Superlative and entirely accurate summation of what the Department of Defence is about. Where are our military leaders to blow this idiotic intent away?
    Comment 6 of 8

    POSTED AT 4:36 PM OCTOBER 16, 2014
    do not just focus on the leave reduction, the increase in travel distance means a reduction in travel time, the reduction in travel time means a reduction in travel allowances, as does the reduction of the allowance per km to .63c. What was once an incentive to move to an unpopular location through posting has also been reduced. And if the “arrangement” takes effect as planned there will be a whole heap of members out of pocket that have already booked accommodation en-route etc, not to mention TOLL & DHA having to rejig everything associate with the current posting cycle…
    Comment 7 of 8

    Unhappy of Canberra
    POSTED AT 5:22 PM OCTOBER 16, 2014
    1. In the main, they’re not accountants but unqualified senior clerks that make these poor decisions on the basis of inadequate information cobbled together from thousands of spreadsheets. If they had accounting qualifications they might be able to fix ROMAN and use more than 2% of its functionality. 2. Cost cutting to these unqualified bookkeepers consists of shifting expenses out of their cost centre, and compounding this is a comprehensive lack of information about what outputs actually cost. This results in a plethora of shifty contractors milking defence and performing a fraction of the tasks previously performed by the uniformed members (or even the public servants) at a higher real cost, but the bookkeepers are happy because they’ve shifted costs out of their salaries account and cost centre. 3. The SLG haven’t got a clue what a well run corporation looks like and even if they did, they haven’t got the power to force the public servant non performers to fix it.
    Comment 8 of 8

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