Defence: Allowances to be tightened for soldiers posted abroad

About 1000 Defence Force members serving abroad face cuts to their overseas allowances, as the government adopts a tighter definition of what it means to be ''in the field''.

Soldiers in the Middle East were told by Defence on Tuesday that from the beginning of March, there would be no automatic entitlement to a generous daily payment known as the ''field allowance''.

Instead, eligibility will be determined on a case-by-case basis, and the allowance paid only if service personnel are genuinely working in ''field-like conditions''.

The allowance, which ranges from $33.08 to $56.36 a day, has been worth up to an extra $350 a week for some soldiers, fuelling the incentive for some to serve multiple tours of duty in the region.

However, a Defence review has concluded that ''very few ADF members are currently serving in conditions that meet current policy requirements for the payment of the Field Allowance''.

A Defence spokesman said better amenities, support services and facilities had improved the conditions of daily life for many members posted abroad, particularly those in Gulf states.

Even those remaining in Afghanistan after Australia's withdrawal of most of its troops would no longer get the field allowance if they were deemed to be ''living in air-con accommodation and get hot showers, and hot meals, etc'', the spokesman said. Generous bonus leave provisions would also be scaled back, he said.

Other campaign allowances will also be tightened, depending on where in the Middle East Defence personnel are serving.

Defence has redrawn the boundaries of Operation Slipper to restrict it to Afghanistan, while those posted to Gulf states will now be designated as part of Operation Accordion, and those on naval operations in the Gulf will be designated as part of Operation Manitou. In the latter two areas, deemed ''non-warlike'', the campaign allowance (now $125 a day) will be ''discounted'', a Defence source said.

The changes were agreed to by the cabinet's national security committee last November and signed off by Prime Minister Tony Abbott last week. The government says it is still calculating the savings the measures will generate.

Australian Defence Association head Neil James said he did not anticipate too much backlash from members of the force because ''people have been expecting this - it happens in the wind-down to any large operational deployment''.

''We can see the logic in the argument that the field allowance should be for people genuinely in the field, people out in Afghani villages in quite primitive conditions,'' he said.

Defence Force Welfare Association executive director Alf Jaugietis said he had yet to see the detail of the changes.

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The story Defence: Allowances to be tightened for soldiers posted abroad first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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