Australian Defence Force Criticised For Spending Millions On Musical Instruments

Written by Tom Williams on 21st February, 2018

Australian Defence Force Criticised For Spending Millions On Musical Instruments

Australia’s Defence Force has come under scrutiny after it was revealed just how much money it’s been spending on musical instruments, leading the Defence Minister to order a review into the way the ADF buys its instruments.

An investigation by Fairfax Media has discovered the Department Of Defence has spent over $2.3 million on musical instruments since 2015, including hand-made flutes costing $25,000 a piece, over $62,000 worth of bagpipes and dozens of woodwind instruments worth more than $10,000 each.

Despite there being less than 300 full-time musicians in the armed forces, the ADF has reportedly spent at least $4.3 million on instruments since 2007, and has been criticised for what auditors have described as “inaccurate” records of purchases. It has also been unfavourably compared to the American military, in which individuals supply their own instruments.

There are currently 294 full-time and 445 part-time musicians in the ADF, who since 2007 have been given instruments worth around $5,500 per person.

The ADF has also reportedly purchased a $25,025 Burkart flute, 10 French horns (with accessories) for $114,950, 10 trombones (with accessories) worth $49,342 and $95,000 worth of electric guitars.

Suppliers who have sold instruments to the ADF have said the instruments the ADF has purchased are equivalent to those sold to the Melbourne and Sydney Symphony orchestras, while a spokesperson for the ADF has said the instruments “are expected to be used over a 15-to-20-year period in professional performances”.

While some have been quick to point out that professional-grade instruments are usually super-expensive…

…RMIT Professor of Human Security and International Diplomacy, Joseph Siracusa, has described the ADF’s musical instrument spending as “frivolous”, telling Fairfax Media, “Somebody’s ripping somebody off here. It’s not like Australia is at the Royal Tattoo every year, it’s not that kind of band.

“I come from Chicago and if you had a story about the police department spending $4 million on musical equipment you’d have the FBI investigating the place in the morning.”

Defence Minister Marise Payne has admitted there have been “inconsistent approaches” to buying instruments between the various sections of the ADF.

“I have asked my department to review the procurement practices for musical instruments and report back to me to ensure it is consistent across the services and achieves value for money for taxpayers,” she said.


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