WHERE IS DEFENCE HOUSING HEADED ?
In recent editions of Camaraderie, we alerted readers to threats to Defence Housing Australia (eg Camaraderie Vol 45 No3, Vol 46 No 1 and Vol 46 No 2). Following the consultant’s report to Government in 2015 (by Lazards, an financial advisory and asset management firm that advises on mergers, acquisitions, restructuring, capital structure and strategy .. but not Defence capability !!), the Government announced that it would not proceed with recommendations to privatise DHA 'at this time' but undertake further studies of DHA. .
Rest on your arms reverse you may have thought ?? NO ! In late October 2015 we were alerted to a possible change of senior management at DHA, with the Department of Finance obviously agitating for change. We then heard of the sudden appointment of a Department of Finance Deputy Secretary as Managing Director DHA, replacing Mr Peter Howman (who, coincidently on his last day in office, was awarded Customer Service CEO of the Year at the Customer Service Institute of Australia (CSIA) Australian Service Excellence Awards).
So our fears remain extant …. In short, that the Department of Finance, no friend of the ADF, aims to siphon off capital and operating funds to give the Government a one-off financial windfall and in the process emasculate DHA, to the detriment of Australian Defence Force families”.
We have known for a long time that Finance has been targeting ADF members and veterans, opposing efforts at every turn to improve the service conditions of ADF members. Even recently Finance fiercely opposed claims for fair indexation of ADF superannuation and adoption of a fair benchmark for the Veterans’ Disability Pension.
The only message that can be deduced from an ex-Finance bureaucrat being appointed as Managing Director of DHA is that the Government intends to allow the Department of Finance to implement the recent Lazard review of DHA and its recommendations. That review called for its privatisation. This clearly flies in the face of good public policy when the present arrangements provide good housing for ADF families at little or no ongoing cost to the budget. It even pays an annual dividend to Finance thus offsetting the Defence Budget.
In expressing the Association’s concerns, DFWA National President David Jamison has stated that “Not only would such a move be detrimental to Australia’s defence capability, it would be detrimental to the ADF, whose personnel rely on having affordable and quality housing especially in the more remote areas away from their family and social support networks. That is something Defence understands but Finance refuses to accept”.
“We thank the outgoing Managing Director Peter Howman for his service and success in guiding the DHA to where it is today, and wish him the best in the future” said David.
2016 SENATE INQUIRY INTO DEFENCE HOUSING
On 23 March 2016 the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade held their long awaited meeting to inquire into the operations of DHA. Of the eight submissions the Inquiry received, ours was not one of those invited to present at the Hearing.
We were advised that 'it was the committee’s prerogative to choose which witnesses it wishes to invite to appear at its public hearings’. The committee proffered that our written submission was sufficient for their consideration.
At the dissolution of the Senate and the House of Representatives on 9 May 2016 for a general election on 2 July 2016, the parliamentary committees of the 44th Parliament ceased to exist. Therefore inquiries that were not completed have lapsed for the time being.
The Association will continue to keep a very close watch on future developments with DHA.