Local, Independant and Effective

ADF plays significant role in Indi

Posted August 18, 2015


CATHY McGOWAN (Indi) (12:51): It gives me great pleasure to speak about the package of Australian Defence Force superannuation and cover bills and explain to the House why I support them. My speech is in three parts—support for the new superannuation scheme, discussing the importance of defence in my electorate of Indi, and acknowledging the contribution by service personnel. The most valuable resource of the ADF is its human resource—the men and women who are committed to the promotion and protection of Australians' interests at sea, on land, in the air, anywhere at any time. While the men and women of the ADF are protecting our interests, it is essential the government protect their interests. The key interest of workers is superannuation. It is the way workers can accrue funds to replace or supplement their income in retirement.

The bills before the House today are about the here and now, and the introduction of new ADF super and cover schemes is an opportune time to pause and acknowledge the service men and women who today are serving in the ADF and those considering a career in the ADF in the future. Service in the Navy, Army and Air Force is not just a job—it is a unique career. The findings of the Defence Force Welfare Association tell us that the majority of people who enlist in the ADF do not intend to pursue a lifetime service career. An effective ADF fighting force in fact demands a large core group of young adults in its fighting ranks. This core group is constantly renewed by the steady influx of new recruits to keep the core group young. The pay and conditions for service personnel should effectively and comprehensively meet the demanding and unique nature of the day-to-day work involved in fighting. While service could be overseas on peacemaking or in warlike operations, in training establishments teaching trade skills or providing military assistance to the civic community in times of disaster, Australia can and does rely on the men and women of the ADF with confidence, pride and respect.

Noting the need for renewal of the defence workforce with younger personnel, superannuation and the accompanying death and invalidity cover schemes must be relevant, flexible and portable. Currently full time ADF members must be members of two military superannuation schemes—the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme, a defined benefits scheme, and the Military Superannuation and Benefits Scheme, a hybrid scheme because it is part defined benefits and part accumulation. This legislation before the House today provides for a new military superannuation scheme for members of the ADF, and it is an accumulation scheme. The ADF Super scheme has five important features: choice over a superannuation scheme, individuals may join ADF Super or a commercial scheme; the ability to transfer accumulated benefits to another fund if they leave the ADF before preservation age; there is no mandatory member contribution; there is an employer contribution rate of 15.4 per cent, increasing to 18 per cent during periods of war-like service; and the death and invalidity cover under the new arrangements is at least equivalent to current MSBS cover. In a word ADF Super provides choice, flexibility and portability.

I would like to spend a moment talking about the DFRDB Scheme. Noting that ADF Super is the future of superannuation for the ADF, it is timely to reflect on the past, and in particular on the earlier DFRDB Scheme. I am delighted to support the great work of the Indi ex-service community, particularly those still in receipt of the DFRDB. In June, I wrote to the Assistant Minister for Defence in support of two constituents from my electorate, Mr Jim Hislop and Mr Herb Ellerbock. These ex-servicemen have identified several sections in the DFRDB Act in which they submit that the government is failing to meet its obligations to ex-service personnel. On behalf of the veteran community, Jim and Herb spent many hours researching and preparing submissions on two issues—an anomaly for DFRDB recipients who commute, and the method of indexation for members who do not commute. I support the work of Jim and Herb and add my voice to the many voices of DFRDB recipients and concerned ex-service personnel. Thank you for your work. I ask that the government investigate the issues raised and I await a response from the assistant minister.

Defence is highly valued in my electorate of Indi. Indi is gifted to be the home to several diverse and strategically critical defence establishments, in Bandiana near Wodonga and further south near Benalla. These facilities are alive with service personnel, public service staff and civilian contractors, who with their families contribute to their community in so many ways. On Monday 3 August I visited Gaza Ridge, Latchford and Wadsworth barracks as well as the Bandiana neighbourhood community centre, Everyman's Welfare Service and the Army Museum Bandiana. Under the command of Colonel Duncan Polich, the Army Logistics Training Centre provides employment and training for Wodonga and surrounding areas. ALTC maintains an intake of 850 trainees and employs 1,200 Army personnel and civilians. ALTC trains new recruits—currently there are 1,492 in training—and it trains 5,000 students every year spread across 334 courses. ALTC works closely with the Wodonga TAFE, Monash University and RMIT to provide nationally recognised qualifications to military personnel. The facility employs trainers, often ex-military, and they also provide leadership to local youth. Defence Force trainees gain experience through apprenticeships, gaining equivalent qualifications to cert 4 in a medical program or in electrical and mechanical engineering. Trainees may also be selected to participate in additional leadership exercises outside of their normal training including trekking Kokoda, Mount Feathertop and Mount Kosciuszko.

The Joint Logistics Unit—Victoria is an impressive facility run by Colonel Todd Ashurst. The JLUV incorporates 120, 000 square metres of storage providing real-time logistics to the ADF. The facility provides primary support for the ADF in clothing and 50 per cent of the national maintenance, including deep level maintenance such as rebuilds and refreshes to light armoured vehicles and transport vehicles and equipment. Further south near Benalla is Thales Australia, a munitions factory operating under the Domestic Munitions Manufacturing Arrangements Project for the Department of Defence. It is a facility of national significance and is vitally important to our local community in term of ongoing employment and economic impact. The jobs are direct manufacturing jobs in regional Victoria, vital to providing economic stability and growth. I have had the pleasure of visiting this facility on several occasions and meeting with management and workers who are all focused on delivering high-quality munitions.

In 2014, with the support of my neighbour, Minister Sussan Ley, the member for Farrer, we lobbied the government to continue to fund the Benalla and Mulwala facilities. The government announced a five-year plan to extend domestic munitions production at these facilities—very welcome, indeed.

The career journey that starts in Defence is often continued when ADF personnel exit the military. Many ex-service personnel head out into the commercial workplace, bringing the skills that they acquired and honed in the military. I meet them regularly in my electorate as small business owners, administrators, HR managers, IT technicians, telecommunications engineers, contractors, electricians, carpenters, public servants and community members. As I move about my electorate, I meet many people who have served in the ADF. It is quite common for people who have served in the Bandiana Military Area to stay in and around the local area; they take up jobs and they contribute their knowledge and skills to their communities.

Today I particularly want to acknowledge and commend several Indi constituents for their contribution to local government: the CEO of the Indigo Shire, Mr Gerry Smith, and the Director of Infrastructure Services at the Rural City of Wangaratta, Mr Alan Clark. I would also like to acknowledge my political adviser, Karen Keegan, who too is ex-Army. The message is that service personnel are a gift that keeps on giving.

It is with pleasure that I inform this place that next week I am participating in the Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program. I am off to Alice Springs with the Army to be part of the Army Aboriginal Assistance Program, where I will work alongside Defence Force personnel. I am honoured to be able to participate in this program. It gives me the opportunity to see how the Army works, to meet the men and women who have dedicated themselves to this unique and vitally important work. I have spoken to other members of parliament who have participated in the program, and they assure me that I will get great value and insight into the unique nature of the military service. I have already ordered my size 9 steel capped boots. One of the special features of the program is that I get the opportunity to host a member of the ADF in this House this week. Welcome to all the ADF participants to Parliament House, and I particularly welcome and say thank you to Wing Commander Robyn Johnstone, who is working in my office.

Another jewel in the Indi crown is the Hume Veterans' Information Centre located in Wodonga. This centre recently received federal government funding through the Building Excellence in Support and Training program, knowns as BEST. This program is administered by the Department of Veterans' Affairs. The centre is a vital organisation in Indi and without federal government support the centre would be unable to provide the ongoing community support for veterans and war widows. In the past 12 months, the centre has experienced an increase in requests for support. The centre is keen to meet this demand and help where possible. The centre supports the veteran communities not only in Wodonga and surrounds, but in Tallangatta and Corowa and provides in-home support to ensure veterans and widows are safe and being looked after. The centre relies on the help of volunteers to assist our veterans to access services and entitlements. So a warm and sincere thank you to all the people at the centre, but particularly to Kevyn Williams, who is the chairman of the Hume Veterans team; you provide tireless and timely support to the veteran community. We appreciate it and are very grateful. Thank you also to the federal government and Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Senator Michael Ronaldson, on behalf of the Indi veteran community for your ongoing support for the centre.

I have spoken at length, at an earlier time, about the 2015 Anzac Centenary activities in Indi, and it goes without saying that Indi turns out in great numbers to participate in the Anzac commemorative services. I am delighted that on 4 September the Prime Minister will launch the 100-years commemorative exhibition from Wodonga. I look forward to welcoming him to my electorate. The Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience is the government's travelling flagship exhibition that commemorates the First World War. It will visit 23 locations around Australia over the next 20 months, and Wodonga is the first stop for this travelling exhibition. The exhibition will be open at the Wodonga Sports and Leisure Centre on Friday, 4 September and run until Thursday, 10 September.

It is an exhibition that tells the story of Australia's involvement in the First World War and the ensuing century of service of Australia's armed forces in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations in which Australia has been involved. An important feature of the experience will be the 'local stories' zone. These stories will be created with each local community and contribute a legacy for each region. I am delighted that some local participants in the Anzac $150,000 contribution from the Commonwealth government will be exhibiting.

While the ADF Super and Cover bills are the 'here and now' for the men and women in the Australian Defence Force, the real impact of these bills will be realised when people exit the services or, sadly, when members are medically discharged or die in service. I know that the values of courage, integrity, respect and teamwork underpin the day-to-day work in the ADF. The work is demanding, risky, stressful, tiring, lonely, repetitive and dangerous. The work takes the men and women of the ADF away from their families and friends for lengthy periods of time, often without any notice. It is timely to say again that military service is unique.

I want to place on record my respect and thanks to the men and women of the Australian Defence Force—to those currently serving, to all the volunteers, to those who have served and, sadly, to those who have given their life while serving in the Defence Forces, to their families and friends. Thank you.

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