The Vice Chief of the Defence Force says Australians serving on military operations are among the best paid in the world, as a tribunal defers its decision on their next pay deal.
The tribunal has adjourned to consider the Government's proposal for servicemen and women to receive a pay increase of 1.5 per cent a year for three years, which is less than the current inflation rate.
Members of the ADF do not get a chance to vote on their pay agreements like other public servants, with the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal (DFRT) assessing the offer.
After appearing at the DFRT, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs said he could understand frustrations with the offer given personnel were being sent to a new war in Iraq.
"I think people are using that as an emotive argument to put their particular case [forward] but I would make the point that our people on operations are, if not the best, certainly in [second or third best], in terms of compensation for their time on operations," he said.
Les Bieniewicz from the Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA) said his association made it clear to the tribunal the deal was below inflation and some personnel would be suffering a wages cut.
"The quantum of the increase - the 1.5 per cent per year - was inadequate to keep pace with the cost of living and ... some of the offsets affected the conditions of service of our members. And we find both [of] those unacceptable," Mr Bieniewicz said.
Labor's spokesman Stephen Conroy said the offer represented a wages cut, and that ADF personnel deserved better.
But Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it was a reality of Labor's debt.
"When you're in a situation of $50 billion deficit you cannot be as generous as you are when you're in a situation of $20 billion surplus," Mr Abbott said.
"At the moment, we are simply borrowing money to pay people. That is why it is important that we have very significant pay restraint."