DUBBO RSL Sub Branch president Tom Gray will apologise to Australian Defence Force personnel and veterans at tomorrow’s Remembrance Day service for a missing catafalque party.
He will then tell them the federal government’s bid to return its budget to surplus has robbed the service of a handful of Army Reservists who traditionally stand guard at the cenotaph out of respect for the war dead.
It will be the first time the annual Dubbo service will go ahead without a catafalque party, much to the disappointment of the sub branch that plans to fight back.
Mr Gray has told of its intention to ask the RSL to lobby the government to right a wrong.
The Department of Defence has gone to ground on the issue, refusing to answer questions asked by the Daily Liberal on Wednesday morning.
But advice to the sub branch was that the Australian Defence Force must cut costs like other departments in support of the government’s quest for a surplus.
It understands the 1st/19th Battalion of The Royal NSW Regiment has had to prioritise recruitment and training for operational deployment overseas.
Hierarchy of the battalion is reported to have apologised to the people of Dubbo for not being able to send uniformed personnel to tomorrow’s service, while committing to turning up to Anzac Day commemorations.
Dubbo is not the only community affected by the cost-cutting.
Federal opposition spokesman for defence science, technology and personnel Stuart Robert has contacted other MPs in the lead-up to November 11, seeking to discover the extent of the withdrawal of Army Reservists.
“As Remembrance Day quickly approaches it has long been the norm that Reservists are utilised to form catafalque parties at memorial services,” he wrote.
“ In recent years however, there have been a number of cases made public whereby Reservists have been unable to provide this service due to the Labor government’s budget cuts.”
Mr Robert has accused the government of making more than “$25 billion worth of budget cuts to Defence” since being elected.
“ At least $5.5 billion worth of cuts have been made this financial year alone,” he said.
“As part of Labor’s Defence cuts, Australian Defence Force Reservists have suffered up to a 30 per cent cut in their training days, which limits the number of days they are able to undertake training, work and take part in exercises and ceremonial activities.”
Mr Gray expects the absence of the catafalque party tomorrow will upset “some of the blokes”.
“They’ll be asking why they aren’t here,” he said.
The sub branch president regards the sombre and silent guards positioned around the cenotaph as important to the service that each year honours more than 103,000 Australians who have died in wars and conflicts.
“They show the military side of it,” he said.
Tomorrow’s service, organised by Dubbo City Council, begins at 10.30am at the cenotaph with a minute of silence at 11am and wreath laying part of proceedings.
Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the armistice which ended World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.