Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union


Senate inquiry exposes Defence shortfalls

The AMWU’s campaign to highlight serious staffing and skills shortfalls in technical and maintenance support for Australia’s defence forces has been vindicated.

A Senate Committee will investigate the capability of Defence’s physical science and engineering civilian workforce,  which includes AMWU members suffering under budget and staffing cuts our union has called “a public policy disgrace.”

That absence of forward planning is hitting their ability to test and oversee safe preparation of vital defence equipment, including weaponry, aircraft, army vehicles and munitions.

“It ultimately means taxpayers can’t be assured they are getting value from the billions of dollars of their money being spent on defence every year,” said AMWU Assistant National Secretary Mike Nicolaides.

 The inquiry comes as AMWU members have taken industrial action, taken to social media with a petition and are set to doorknock marginal Abbott Government seats to raise awareness about its failure to provide the forces with adequate support. 

“The fact the Senate will hold an inquiry vindicates what we have been saying,” Mr Nicolaides said.

The inquiry is expected to report by the end of March 2016.

The inquiry will concentrate on the importance of the physical science and engineering (PSE) workforce to Defence, the risks of a skills shortage and future technological needs.

It will also deal with what impact outsourcing of projects has on capability and the risk of a “brain drain” in the Defence Department ‘s ability to attract and retain a highly-skilled workforce.

One of the Committee members, Labor’s Senator Anne McEwen, met with Mr Nicolaides in Canberra as the AMWU campaign was gathering momentum.

She told AMWU News that the committee would approach the issue with open minds and she would not pre-judge an outcome.

“When I spoke to the AMWU it highlighted for me the importance of this issue. Clearly there’s a problem in losing highly-trained personnel in uniform but also in physical sciences and engineering workforce as well,” Senator McEwen said.

“”We need to keep as much of that talent in the public sector as we can. We need to look at current and potential capabilities, so we encourage people working in these areas to make a submission to the inquiry.”

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