Greens Say Australian Defence Force Is Top Heavy With Ranking Officers

‘Bloated and unaccountable leadership class.’
Greens Say Australian Defence Force Is Top Heavy With Ranking Officers
Chief of Australian Defence Force General Angus Campbell. (Mick Tsikas Pool/Getty Images)
Jim Birchall
12/3/2023
Updated:
12/4/2023
0:00

The Greens have raised concerns about a “top-heavy” Australian Defence Force (ADF), highlighting an imbalance in the ratio of high-ranking officers to enlisted members—which they say is detrimental to recruitment and out of step with comparable militaries.

In a release, the Greens said figures compiled for them by the Parliamentary Library show the number of star-ranking officers (inclusive of Generals, Admirals, and Air Commodores) across the branches of the ADF has increased from 119 to 219 over the past two decades.

“For every one of the 219 star-ranked officers in the Australian Defence Force, there are just 260 other officers and enlisted members,” they noted.

This means there is a one-star level officer for every 260 full-time uniformed members. For comparison, there are 863 star-ranked officers across the U.S. military branches, and for each one, there are 1,500 other officers and enlisted members while the HM Forces in the UK has a ratio of one to 1,200 across 115 star-ranked officers.

“This is way out of whack with comparable militaries around the world. The most senior level of officers in the ADF with a ‘star rank’ ... have multiplied while enlisted numbers have gone backwards falling from 62,429 in 1983 to 41,079 in 2023,” said the release from the Greens.

Greens Defence spokesperson, Senator David Shoebridge, said the staffing situation was “rewarding failure.”

“When you have so much gold braid and so few troops it feels like a satire, not a military.”

Mr. Shoebridge speculated that Defence leadership had failed to meet recruitment targets to increase the rank and file- instead choosing to boost senior Officer positions when new program funding is released by the Government.

The Senator said the ADF hierarchy was a “bloated and unaccountable leadership class searching for relevance.”

“It is like the Vatican with dozens of Popes running around decked out in the fanciest regalia for a few hundred priests.”

Rushing to appoint a fresh Admiral was “coming at the expense of acquiring new weaponry and assets like ships, tanks, and planes,” said Mr. Shoebridge.

Australian Army soldiers from the 10th Force Support Battalion's Amphibious Beaching Team await the arrival of troops on a Lighter Landing Craft during Exercise Trident 2022 near Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Queensland. (Courtesy of the Australian Defence Force)
Australian Army soldiers from the 10th Force Support Battalion's Amphibious Beaching Team await the arrival of troops on a Lighter Landing Craft during Exercise Trident 2022 near Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Queensland. (Courtesy of the Australian Defence Force)

“If fancy flags kept us safe then Australia would certainly have a world-leading military.”

The Greens have also taken umbrage with the remuneration of the ADF’s top brass.

The Australian Chief of Defence Force, General Angus Campbell, is paid $1,062,702 (US$710,000). In comparison, the United States Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff is paid A$330,000 (US$220,000), while the Chief of UK Defence Admiral takes home A$530,000 (US$354,000), according to the Greens.

The defence website states that an ADF recruit starting basic training will earn an annual salary of $56,385, rising to $70,883 after 12 months of service.

The ADF’s Workplace Remuneration Arrangement 2023-26 provided for a salary increase of 11.2 percent over three years for all personnel, with a 4 percent pay rise effective from Nov. 9, 2023.

Jim Birchall has written and edited for several regional New Zealand publications. He was most recently the editor of the Hauraki Coromandel Post.