Professionals Australia has written to the Prime Minister urging him to step in and halt the cuts to science and technology in Defence.
Budget forward estimates forecast 2400 Defence civilian job losses despite an increase in the Defence budget and the criticality of engineering and science employees.
Professionals Australia CEO Chris Walton said that hundreds of Defence scientists and engineers from across the country had come together in recent months to send a message directly to the Prime Minister.
“We have seen an overwhelming commitment and belief from members across Defence and more broadly, about the importance of engineering and science to the integrity of the Defence mission,” said Mr Walton.
“This belief is supported by numerous independent reports and parliamentary inquiries that have recommended the urgent need to improve Defence’s in-house civilian engineering, scientific and technical capability. Defence engineering is far from being “fat and happy.”
“We also know that many members of the current Government have been instrumental in these inquiries and reports and are aware of the consequences of successive Governments in cutting science and engineering expertise. Some of these voices need to be heard.”
“It is clear that sound, independent engineering advice saves money and most importantly, lives. Defence research is critical to ensuring that we maintain a technological edge in a rapidly changing and volatile regional and global security environment. Ensuring that there are sufficiently skilled, experienced professionals within the Department is essential and underpins both professional and technical integrity.
As the then Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, said in response to the Rizzo Review:
“We have for far too long viewed engineering as an overhead and not as a mission enabler. Overheads end up being cut and not invested in.”
“The lesson from the Kanimbla and Manoora is that if you have insufficient in-house expertise be prepared to lose hundreds of millions of dollars of capability and expose your personnel to unnecessary risk. Yet this Government appears to be set on a course started by previous Governments to further cut this capability and exacerbate these risks.”
“Try telling a pilot they don’t need an engineer, or a unit commander they don’t need an intelligence analyst. Uniform members of Defence understand implicitly the vital role the civilian workforce plays in keeping our forces operational and their criticality to national security,” said Mr Walton.
In addressing the issue of cuts directly with the Prime Minister, Mr Walton acknowledged that the Government faced considerable fiscal challenges. However, he warned the Prime Minister not to fall for the “penny wise pound stupid trap”, of cutting the Government’s capacity to deliver and maintain value for money Defence.
“Our great concern is that cuts to science and engineering jobs and conditions will expose Defence personnel to unnecessary risk and undermine national security,” said Mr Walton.
“On the behalf of members, we called on the Prime Minister to act in the national interest and take action to call a halt to proposed cuts to Defence science and engineering and instead properly address resource gaps and in-house capability.”
“We have asked to meet with the Prime Minister to discuss how we can meet these critical challenges together. We await his response,” said Mr Walton.
Mr Walton also noted that the Defence enterprise agreement nominally expired on 30 June 2014 yet the Government had not commenced bargaining and in the media had linked pay increases to further job cuts.
“The road to productivity is not paved by goading your workforce and treating working people with a lack of respect and decency. The Minister should allow agencies to bargain in good faith as soon as possible. ”