Partial backdown in army pay dispute

Written By komlim puldel on Minggu, 30 November 2014 | 23.08

Petition organiser Tony Dagger has gathered almost 60,000 signatures protesting the army pay offer. Picture: Wesley Monts Source: News Corp Australia

The Federal Government is set to partially back down on its defence cutbacks in the face of a massive groundswell of anger and a new petition carrying an incredible 60,000 signatures.

It is understood that at least one of the six discretionary leave days removed from the troops under the government's cutbacks will be returned at a cost to the budget of $19 million.

However the government will stay firm on the 1.5 per cent pay rise for 57,000 military personnel.

Senator Jacqui Lambie will continue to oppose government legislation until the pay deal is reversed. Source: News Corp Australia

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has conceded at least one controversial soldier leave day. Picture: News Corporation Source: News Corp Australia

The backdown will not satisfy renegade Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie who wants a "real" pay rise (inflation is running at 2.3 per cent). Senator Lambie also wants the restoration of all six leave days at a cost of more than $120 million and has threatened to oppose all government legislation until this occurs.

"It's all or nothing on the ADF pay deal. I'm not going to take any prisoners. It's time to empty the magazine, fix bayonets and charge," she said yesterday.

"It may be a small battle win, but I'll not be satisfied with any result short of a total victory in the ADF fair pay war."

Senator Lambie will meet with Mr Abbott later this week and the government will announce its partial backdown before parliament rises.

Army wife Sarah Lowe, pictured with daughters Heidi and Emma, says her family time is "extremely precious. Picture supplied. Source: Supplied

Defence dad Tony Dagger will present his 1600-page petition to junior defence minister Stuart Robert, the Opposition and Senator Lambie today (MON).

Labor and the minor parties are due to bring on an urgent debate on the defence entitlements issue in the Senate by midweek.

Mr Dagger had no idea that his online petition against defence pay cuts would generate an incredible 60,000 signatures and go global.

Responses have flooded in from around Australia and the world including Quan Ha Dong from Vietnam who posted this message: "During the war the Australian soldiers protected my family. I would not be alive today if they did not save us."

Mr Dagger said: "They send people into harm's way but give them a pay rise that is below inflation."

Big backlash ... a petition over planned entitlement cutbacks has received 60,000 signatures. Source: News Limited

For Mr Dagger, who has no political allegiance but whose 19-year-old son is a defence member, the pay cut was morally wrong.

His petition on follows another online survey by the Defence Welfare Association that attracted 11,000 followers.

And army wife Sarah Lowe has written a heartfelt plea that summed up the feelings of defence families.

"Because our family time can sometimes be so interrupted, and rare, it is extremely precious to us," Ms Lowe wrote.

Speaking out ... soldiers and their families have vowed they won't cop entitlement cuts on the chin. Source: News Corp Australia

"It is so maddening now, that the government has chosen to take some of that precious time off us now."

Ms Lowe said soldiers couldn't speak out and defence families mostly took decisions on the chin, but not this time.

"Wives like myself have to step up — it is not on," she said.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to immediately reverse the decision.

"I firmly believe that if he doesn't reverse this pay cut, Tony Abbott will live to regret it," Mr Shorten told News Corp.

Mr Dagger said a three per cent pay rise would have cost the government an extra $50 million or two-tenths of one per cent of the $29 billion annual defence budget.

"The government says it can't find $50 million for our troops when it spent $400 million of taxpayer funds to host the G20 conference," he said.

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