Tony Abbott's just had a major change of heart on Defence Force pay

Prime Minister Tony Abbott meets ADF personnel. Photo: Getty Images

Prime Minister Tony Abbott continues to clear the decks on many of the contentious issues that have threatened his leadership over the past 12 months.

Today, 24 hours after committing more troops to train Iraqi soldiers, he’s announced a change of heart over the bitter pay dispute with the Defence Forces, which saw them forced to accept a below-inflation pay rise of just 1.5% late last year.

After all the political pain the Government put itself through looking stingy while sending troops off to war, the Prime Minister has surprised everyone this morning by announcing he’s increasing the pay rise by a third to take it above the inflation rate. The troops will get an extra 0.5% in their pay packets.

Here’s what Abbott said:

The Australian Government understands that the work performed by members of the Australian Defence Force is unique and crucial to our nation and our security.

In recognition of these unique circumstances, the Government has decided to increase the wage offer for ADF personnel to 2% per annum, over the life of the agreement, with effect from the next pay day.

This keeps ADF pay above the current annual inflation rate of 1.7 per cent.

This decision provides certainty to ADF personnel and their families, who play such a significant role in supporting them.

It’s a major turnaround for the Government, who last year argued that the previous offer was all about the budget and austerity.

Assistant defence minister Stuart Robert defended the offer at the time by saying he’d “would love to pay our fighting men and women more, but I can’t give what I simply don’t have”.

The Prime Minister said he’d listened to the concerns of the defence community and ex-military MPs such as senator Linda Reynolds and Andrew Nikolic.

The move should also please Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie, another ex-soldier, who’d been holding the Government to ransom over the issue of ADF pay. When the deal was signed in November last year, she threatened to block all government legislation and called for the resignation of Defence Minister David Johnston. He was gone from the job before Christmas, replaced by Kevin Andrews.

The Government will now seek a variation to the three-year pay deal approved by the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal.

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