In an extraordinary decision, the Federal government has directed that members of the defence force reserves, including those who have fought in Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomon Islands, will not be paid to march on Anzac Day this year.
In a report in The Australian (8/4), Mark Dodd reports that this is part of budget cutbacks that will also slash their training and ammunition.
…Diggers from the reserve not allowed to march in uniform….
ACM has learned that members of the reserves marching without pay on Anzac Day will not be allowed to wear their uniforms. They are being told this has something to with insurance liability.
In the meantime in a number of programmes, the Federal government is being accused of profligacy far in excess of that of the Whitlam government. ACM of course takes no position on the programmes, but would expect that the Parliament ensure adequate supervision of the expenditure of taxpayers’ funds.
There will be some who say what has this got to do with ACM. The answer is – everything. The links between the Crown and the armed forces are especially close. The members pledge allegiance to the Crown and not the politicians as they do.
Unlike the armed forces of less fortunate countries, they, like the Crown, are above politics. And that must remain the case.
If anyone thinks that this is threatened, just recall what the politicians – from both sides – have done to the public service.
…morale "near collapse"…
Mr. Dodd reports that the morale of the 25,000 reservists is near collapse, with the head of the Defence Reserves Association, Jim Barry, warning yesterday of mass resignations, saying the Diggers were preparing to "vote with their feet".
A final straw for many of the weekend warriors who have provided crucial support to the heavily committed defence force was confirmation they will no longer be paid to turn out for parades on Anzac Day and similar occasions.
The 17,000-strong Army Reserve, which provided the bulk of the peacekeepers for the current missions in East Timor and Solomon Island would be hardest hit by the cuts, Major General Barry told The Australian. His warning came as Defence Minister John Faulkner endorsed the government's strategic reform program designed to make $20 billion in defence savings over the next decade.
"They (Defence) have run out of dough," General Barry told The Australian.
Could there be anything more un Australian than this? Yes there can. General Barry told The Australian reservists are “getting about 25 days of training at best, and they need, depending on the unit, somewhere between 35 and 50 days to be proficient before they go anywhere near pre-deployment training for the Solomons or where ever”
But the reserve is used to make up shortages in the regular forces to fulfil commitments overseas.
The decision to block diggers from marching on Anzac Day is a disgrace. The decision to reduce their training before active service is appalling. It is callous and will come back to haunt the government.
The Federal Government must immediately reverse these appalling decisions.