AIRCDRE Ken Birrer
is some confusion and a number of “urban myths” about Frontline
Frontline was established as the Army and Air Force Canteen Service
under the Army and Air Force Canteen Service Regulations in 1959
to supply goods, facilities and services to or for the entertainment
and recreation of Army and Air Force members, people working at
Army or Air Force installations, their dependants, visitors and
members of the Australian Army Cadets or the Australian Air Force
It later became the Australian Services Canteen Organisation before
being renamed Frontline Defence Services. The idea was for the
canteen service to enhance the living conditions and social environment
of Army and Air Force personnel.
Conducted on a commercial and self-supporting basis, its aim was
to generate suffi cient profi ts to allow surplus funds to be
distributed for the benefi t of Army and Air Force members.
During the past 10 years, $6.1 million (more than 80 per cent
of Frontline’s profit) has been returned to members in the form
of dividends to local welfare and amenities funds.
A further $700,000 has been provided in sponsorship. The popular
Pay Plan payment scheme is, in effect, an interest-free loan to
purchase goods at competitive prices. This facility is available
on Frontline’s e-business site at www.frontlineonline.com.au.
As Frontline is “owned” by Army and Air Force, a Board of Management
The Board is made up of two Army offi cers (not below brigadier
rank) appointed by CA, two Air Force offi cers (not below air
commodore rank) appointed by CAF, three people appointed by the
Defence Minister, at least two of whom have had extensive business
or commercial experience, and the managing director.
The Minister appoints one of these to be chairman of the board.
To ensure all members have access to an acceptable level of services,
the Chiefs require Frontline to operate at several locations that
are small, remote or not commercially viable. Implicit in this
is the adverse effect the non-profi table locations have on Frontline
and the need for larger and profi table bases to cross subsidise
the non-profi table bases.
As well, from time to time, Frontline is required to provide services
during exercises and to deployed troops, through a joint venture
with No. 1 Joint Amenities Unit, often in remote or difficult
This level of service could not be provided by a private organisation
operating on a commercial basis.
Over the years, the Board has instigated many improvements to
the way Frontline does business. This is to ensure that it remains
profi table and that surplus profi ts are returned to Army and
Air Force personnel.
Further restructuring is now required to improve its operations
and maximise the amount of dividends returned to welfare and amenities
key elements of this restructure are:
national liquor pricing policy, designed to ensure messes and
clubs can purchase on base at prices equal to or lower than the
nearest off-base outlets,
convenient online and 1800 ordering for all registered messes
and clubs, including a loyalty scheme and competitive prices,
upgrading facilities at several major centres, starting with RAAF
Base Richmond and Lavarack Barracks,
expanding services to include national and international businesses
such as Subway and a branded coffee shop,
providing a total site vending option, with commission returned
directly to the base,
tailoring the goods and services available at each site to better
suit the size, nature and location of the base, and
expanding the range of products available online for messes and
clubs, members and the wider Defence family.
is worth remembering that the amount of future disbursements to
support local welfare and amenities funds depends on Frontline’s
It is our retail service, established by regulation to service
Army and Air Force personnel, so everybody – individuals, clubs
and messes – is urged to use its services, and maximise returns
to our bases.
AIRCDRE Ken Birrer is a director of Frontline, appointed by CAF
to represent Air Force members’ interests.