Defence personnel

Budget Review 2012–13 Index

Marty Harris

For the second year in a row the Government announced that there will be a reduction in the number of civilians employed by the Department of Defence. In the 2011–12 Budget, the Government stated that  1000 civilian employees ‘will not be required [in the Department of Defence] as a result of the introduction of greater efficiencies’.[1] This did not mean that 1000 positions would be ‘cut’ at the Department of Defence; rather, this was a reduction in expected, or future, positions.[2] Last year’s measure concerning civilian employees was expected to save the Government ‘$300 million or more over a ... three to four year period’.[3]

In 2012–13 and over the Forward Estimates, however, there will be net reductions in the number of civilian employees at Defence.  By 30 June 2014, the Department of Defence will have just over 1000 fewer civilian staff than it does now, and there will be a total reduction of 1313 civilian positions over the Forward Estimates. As the table below indicates, the largest reduction in employees will be in 2012–13.

Table 1: Anticipated number of civilian employees (including contractors), Department of Defence, 2011–12 to 2015–16[4]






Civilian workforce

22 355

21 731

21 347

21 205

21 042

Change (year on year)






According to the Minister for Defence, this measure will save the Government $360 million over the Forward Estimates.[5] In terms of how the reduction in employee numbers will be achieved, the Budget Papers note that:

This reduction has initially been allocated as a proportional reduction of 5 per cent across each Group, pending a more comprehensive review of the requirements across Groups in the new financial year. The reductions will be achieved primarily through a combination of natural attrition, tightening of recruitment practices and other measures.[6]

Budget Strategy and Outlook: Budget Paper No. 1: 2012-13 indicates that in the first year most of the reductions will be in the Defence Materiel Organisation—about 70 per cent (432 out of 624) of the staff reductions in 2012–13.[7] This may be linked to the number of procurement projects deferred beyond the end of the 2012–13 financial year.

It is also interesting to note that of the expected reductions in the Defence civilian workforce in 2012–13, not one will be from among the Senior Executive Service.[8]

Conversely, the number of Australian Defence Force personnel is expected to grow by just under 3000 over the Forward Estimates period, from an estimated 79 132 in 2011–12 to 82 013 in 2015–16.[9] This reflects the statement before the Budget by the Minister for Defence that in the 2012–13 Budget there would be ‘no adverse impact on the number of [Australian Defence Force] members on the military side’.[10] Some commentators argue though that reductions in Defence civilian employees can have a flow-on effect on the military. For example, Brendan Nicholson, writing in The Australian, states that:

Cuts to numbers of support staff will be greeted with dismay by uniformed and civilian staff alike.

An early victim could well be force morale. At a time when the ADF is struggling to retain personnel against strong competition from the mining industry in particular, any deterioration in conditions for soldiers, sailors and airmen and their families will not help.[11]

[1].       S Smith (Minister for Defence) and J Clare (Minister for Defence Materiel), Press conference, transcript, media release, 6 May 2011, viewed 9 May 2012.

[2].       For more information on the Defence civilian workforce and the 2011–12 Budget, see M Harris, ‘Defence civilian workforce’, Australia, Parliamentary Library, Budget Review 2011–12, Research paper, no. 13, 2010–11, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2011, viewed 9 May 2012. 

[3].       Ibid.

[4].      There is some ambiguity in the Budget documents concerning the timeframe over which these reductions will be made and the number of positions to be cut. The figures in this table are taken from Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2012–13: budget related paper no. 1.5A: Defence Portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2012, p. 36, viewed 11 May 2012. However, in Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2012–13, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2012, viewed 11 May 2012, it states that there will be a ‘net reduction of the civilian workforce by 1000 over the forward estimates’ (i.e.: four years; emphasis added), rather than over two years as indicated in the Portfolio budget statements 2012–13, Defence Portfolio.

[5].       S Smith (Minister for Defence), Budget 2012–13 Defence Budget overview, media release, 8 May 2012, viewed 10 May 2012.

[6].       Portfolio budget statements 2012–13: budget related paper no. 1.5A: Defence Portfolio, op. cit., p. 11.

[7].       Australian Government, Budget strategy and outlook: budget paper no. 1: 2012-13, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2012, p. 6:73, viewed 10 May 2012.

[8].       Portfolio budget statements 2012–13: budget related paper no. 1.5A: Defence Portfolio, op. cit., p. 37.

[9].       Ibid, p. 11.

[10].     J Gillard (Prime Minister), S Smith (Minister for Defence) and J Clare (Minister for Defence Materiel), Joint press conference, transcript, media release, 3 May 2012, viewed 10 May 2012.

[11].     B Nicholson, ‘Slicing forces finances spells civilian job losses’, The Australian, 9 May 2012, viewed 10 May 2012.

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