Radio Interview, Mornings with Neil Mitchell

Release details

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Related ministers and contacts

The Hon Matt Keogh MP

Minister for Defence Personnel

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Media contact

Stephanie Mathews on 0407 034 485

Release content

19 July 2023

SUBJECTS: ADF Careers, RSL submission to the Royal Commission

NEIL MITCHELL: And would you join the Army or the Navy or the Air Force? The Defence force needs recruits. I mean, they're launching an ADF careers drive in Melbourne today at 10:00. The man in charge of that, the Minister for Veterans Affairs and the Minister for Defence Personnel, Matt Keogh. Morning.

MINISTER FOR DEFENCE PERSONNEL, MATT KEOGH: Good morning. Great to be with you.

NEIL MITCHELL: Well, I'm a bit old and a bit decrepit, but convince me, why should I join the Armed Services?

MATT KEOGH: Well, people are always looking for a career that has purpose and there's no greater purpose than the national security of our country. And whether it's helping Australians at home, helping our neighbours in our region, there are so many great opportunities, over 250 different roles, Neil, that people can have in our Defence Force. It's exciting - we train you, we give you housing support, health cover, so it's a great job, it's got great interests, great sense of purpose for people and great benefits.

NEIL MITCHELL: How long do you have to sign up for?

MATT KEOGH: It depends on the sort of role that you sign up for. So, if you're coming straight in, you might be signing up for three years. But if we have to be training you, like, to become an Air Force pilot, and there's a degree involved in that and lengthy training, then the sign-on period is longer than that.

NEIL MITCHELL: Is this the AUKUS deal? Why do we need extra numbers?

MATT KEOGH: We need extra numbers because, as the Defence Strategic Review made very clear, we are now in the most complex set of strategic circumstances than we've had since the Second World War. And in order to make sure that we are best positioned in those circumstances in our country, in our region, we need to expand the capability of our Defence Force. That means, obviously, new equipment, more modern equipment, but it also means a larger Defence Force. So, we're looking to expand by around 20,000 people through to 2040. And so we need to increase our recruitment and our retention efforts to deliver on that.

NEIL MITCHELL: How do you appeal to kids? I was once in danger of being drafted in the days of conscription. I could think of nothing worse than going into the army in those days and I was 20 years old. How do you appeal to kids?

MATT KEOGH: Well, we are doing a range of things. Some of it is actually about where are we sending that messaging. So, it's not about the television ads that you and I might see Neil, but obviously that is part of it. But it is around being very active on social media and through other engagements that the people that we are targeting, younger people, are trying to – where we're going to see them.

But it's also about making sure that – what we're seeing, they want a job that has purpose. They want a job that's going to see them set up to succeed for the rest of their careers. And we all understand that people might not be in the Defence Force through to retirement, but they're going to get set up with training, qualifications, experience, those soft skills that employers really want; leadership, teamwork, agility, being able to work under pressure. You get all of that in an exciting way through the Defence Force.

And it's such a broad range of roles. It's the things we always traditionally think of, of course, whether it's holding a rifle or flying a plane or being on a boat, but it's also being in a dark room and doing cyber warfare operations, and that's happening 24/7. It's providing those mechanical support roles across a whole range of different equipment. So, people want to go and do those things – use their hands, be active – but they get to do it with that critical sense of purpose, and that's what we're appealing to.

NEIL MITCHELL: If I've joined straight out of school, 18 or I've had six months or a year off, what's the pay? What do I get paid?

MATT KEOGH: Well, can I tell you? If you want to do six months to a year off, do the ADF gap program. Come and spend the year and try it out.

NEIL MITCHELL: Yeah, that's fascinating. I've had a few people – how does that work?

MATT KEOGH: So you sign up for a year –

NEIL MITCHELL: I've left school, I want a gap year, I can go into the Armed Forces. Yeah, I signed for a year – yeah, what happens?

MATT KEOGH: So, you come in for a year and you get rotated around different parts of the forces to see the different types of roles you could participate in. If you sign up, and we do see a lot of those people then sign up to join our defence force, because they see it, they live it, and they go, "Actually, yeah, this is the thing I really want to do." And they get a much better idea of the sorts of roles that are available and involved and the things that they would like to go and do.

NEIL MITCHELL: That's a good idea. Are they paid for it?

MATT KEOGH: They are paid for it. In fact, they're put up an accommodation and everything else while they're doing it. So, it's a great opportunity. And you can find out about all of these things at ADF Careers. Just Google ADF Careers, go to the website. Today, we're also launching our new shop fronts, our ADF Careers centres, I'll be at the one in Melbourne today. We've also got our mobile recruitment centre – so, they don't like me to call it a bus, but it's a well-kitted out bus. It's the mobile recruitment centre, Neil, and people can go through that recruitment process through that bus. So, we're sending them out into the regions, to make sure no matter where you are in Australia, you can find out about the great opportunities in the Defence Force.

NEIL MITCHELL: There's a famous American poster, 'Uncle Sam wants you.' Does Uncle Albo want us?

MATT KEOGH: Well, I think it's really about what the nation needs from people, to make sure that we can live in a stable and safe region now and into the future.

NEIL MITCHELL: I know you need to get away from the press conference. Just a quick thing, I was reading the – I saw an RSL submission to the Royal Commission, and there was some of this in the paper the other day, that some vulnerable veterans seeking compensation are effectively being conned by private operators. They might take 10 per cent of the compensation for these veterans. You across that?

MATT KEOGH: I am across it, and it's something that's been raised with me since I became the Minister just over a year ago. We've got a very clear message which we continue to try and push out to our veteran community, which is use the free, accredited, well-trained advocates that are available. And you can find them on the website that we operate, au. That's where the accredited, trained advocates that provide that voluntary free service are able to be located.

And for those people, unscrupulous operators that are trying to take a big chunk of benefit and charging a huge fee to veterans and then leaving them high and dry, that is outrageous. And it is something that in the process of the veterans entitlement legislation reform program we're looking at at the moment, that we're aware of this issue and looking at what are the things that we may need to tighten up in the regime so that we don't have people taking unfair advantage of vulnerable veterans.

NEIL MITCHELL: Like try to make it illegal or similar?

MATT KEOGH: Yeah, so we've got to look at how that regulatory model would work. We regulate migration agents, for example. We regulate other areas where people provide assistance to people with government services. We want to make sure we've got people that are well trained, that they're supported in the assistance they provide veterans, and that people who are not doing the right thing are not able to operate in this space.

NEIL MITCHELL: Well, no, the Victorian RSL is very fired up about it, so I'm sure they'll be -

MATT KEOGH: Very understandably.

NEIL MITCHELL: Just another thing very quickly, I was talking to Sir Peter Cosgrove yesterday about the end of the Vietnam War and it provoked a lot of calls from people who are – some of them have lost partners who were at the war, others are still struggling. One in particular comes to mind, off-air you can tell us. But can we pass some of those messages to your office to have a look at? Because there's a couple of cases where people are just really struggling with the system.

MATT KEOGH: Yeah, absolutely, please. I don't want to deal with individual cases on-air, but absolutely, if you want to pass them on to us, we're always happy to make sure that people get the support that they need.

NEIL MITCHELL: Good on you. Thank you very much. Matt Keogh, Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Defence Personnel. Would you join the armed services? Did you join the armed services? What was it like? And kids, as I said, when I was a 20-year-old, the last thing I wanted to do was voluntarily join the Armed Service, they cut your hair and made you work too hard. 133 693. Were you in the armed services? Would you recommend it? Kids, grandkids going into it. Or, is anybody listening around? You might still be asleep. Anybody sort of 18 to 25, 18 to 30? Would you think what? What would convince you? Would you be convinced to go into the armed services? If not, why not? Let's get a sense for it. I'm not sure it's all that attractive to the kids, the younger generation. 133 693.


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