Whenever the ALP get into power, shortly thereafter we have historically had a Defence shake up that promises cuts, savings and a better bang for the buck and points out in letters writ large how inefficient the system was under the terrible conservatives. The result of all these shake ups, in my 45 years experience with the Army, has always been a loss of troops and general conditions, although they have been good to us in the salary department. It is an ideological given that officers must bear the brunt of conditions lost under ALP regimes. In the prehistoric times, under Whitlam, one of his left wing advisors pointed out that officers retiring after 20 years service to the country were entitled to one rank above their retirement rank as a thank you for long service to the crown. I always suspected that he was also told that said officers received upgraded superannuation as well, which definitely wasn’t the case. Edicts flashed from Canberra that the practice was to cease and did. That was purely ideologically driven, no ifs or buts, and set the stage for the treatment of those who would aspire to higher rank. If you think Officers don’t like dining with the soldiers then I can tell you the soldiers don’t like dining with the officers either. Who can relax sitting alongside the Colonel, or worse, the General, and how can officers discuss a sensitive issue over lunch in the presence of the troops? It’s very possible that Patrick Walters has it all wrong when he talks of this ‘rationalizing mess facilities’ plan.
The planned shake-up could include rationalising mess facilities, requiring officers to eat with other ranks, as well as rethinking travel policies and reducing senior executive entitlements.I’m reasonably confident that what they are talking about is having a central kitchen with the traditional Officers, Sergeants and Soldiers dining rooms separate but a part of the main complex. This will save money and it has been a long standing program in the military. To say it is an ALP plan, offered with the “forcing officers to dine with their subordinates – that’ll teach ’em to get uppity” line is simply disingenuous and ideological drivel. The Defence Department has appointed one of its own senior officials, Margot McCarthy, to head up the strategic reform program with the rank of deputy secretary.
Dr McCarthy, who holds a DPhil in English literature from Oxford University, previously worked in the office of Defence secretary Nick Warner.I’m not sure if Dr McCarthy’s ‘English teacher’ CV bodes well for the reform but I can imagine the final report will be very well written.