Doorstop interview, Parliament House

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

4 June 2024

SUBJECTS: ADF Opens Recruitment to Non-Australian Citizens

JOURNALIST: Isn't the fact that we're looking at recruiting foreign nationals, isn't this a demonstration that we have failed to recruit enough Australians into our Defence Force? 

MINISTER FOR VETERANS’ AFFAIRS AND DEFENCE PERSONNEL, MATT KEOGH: Certainly we inherited a circumstance as a Government where the numbers in the Australian Defence Force were going backwards and that was a real problem where we need to be growing the Defence Force and so we've been looking at a number of ways in which we can grow the Defence Force and we're very happy that the retention rate has been improving and we're now back to the sort of long-term historical average when it comes to retention. But we do need to grow the Defence Force and so looking at permanent residents that have already clearly made Australia home, have loyalty to Australia as part of that recruitment pool is a very important way in which we can continue to grow our Defence Force as we need to.

JOURNALIST: What's been the response from their home countries? 

MINISTER KEOGH: So countries recognise that people come to Australia all the time to set up a new life and to live here. We're talking about recruiting from people that have already made a decision to become Australians in that they've already taken up permanent residency. Therefore they're already on a pathway over time if they wish to become an Australian citizen. This isn't taking people out of other countries. These are people that have already made Australia home and we are providing them a fast track to citizenship through joining the Australian Defence Force as well.

JOURNALIST: These are focused initially on Five Eyes countries. What about Pacific Islanders and what about other nationals from friendly countries like France or Japan or Germany?

MINISTER KEOGH: So, the key thing in here is that from 1 July we'll be opening this up to permanent residents from New Zealand that have been here for a year and then from 1 January it will open up to Five Eyes countries and permanent residents from other countries. The key thing being that anyone seeking to join our Australian Defence Force, whether they're Australian citizens or these new groups of permanent residents will have to meet all of the usual vetting and security requirements.

JOURNALIST: How much of a boost to personnel do you anticipate?

MINISTER KEOGH: So, we're expecting these changes to expand recruitment to permanent residents to bring us in an additional 350 people per year.

JOURNALIST: But just to go back, are you open to expanding it to people from non-Five Eyes countries in time? I know you've talked about Pacific Islanders. 

MINISTER KEOGH: So, from 1 July this will apply to New Zealand and from 1 January 2025 it will apply to other Five Eyes countries, and permanent residents from any other countries.

JOURNALIST: So that wasn't really answering the question, are we considering opening it up to Pacific Island countries at some point?

MINISTER KEOGH: Last time I checked Pacific Island countries were any other country. 

JOURNALIST: And just on how much is the shortfall right now in Defence Force members, is 350 a year going to meet what we need? 

MINISTER KEOGH: So certainly we are currently continuing to see a shortfall from the ever increasing targets that we are tracking against. Currently it's about 4,400 people that we are down from the projected target for recruitment and that's a deep concern to the Government and that's why we've taken a number of steps including modernising our physical health and other fitness requirements for joining the Defence Force. That's opening up a pathway for about an additional 2,000 people to be able to join the Defence Force. This initiative of being able to recruit permanent residents adds another 350 people a year and of course expanding our operations in terms of Defence Force recruiting generally with advertising and engagement with the community and increasing throughput making sure we are able to bring people on board quicker when they seek to join the Defence Force. are all measures that we are undertaking to try and grow the Defence Force to meet the need that we see as we grow into the future. 

JOURNALIST: And so just to clarify this I'm clear in my mind so from January next year is there anyone from any country who meet those requirements no matter where they can, they can – 

MINISTER KEOGH: From 1 January next year any permanent resident in Australia who has been here for at least one year as a permanent resident, has not been in a foreign Defence Force of any type in the preceding two years and meets all of the usual security and vetting and character requirements of joining the Defence Force would be able to apply.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that after this if they join the Defence Force they'll just, are they able to then join the Defence Force of their home country?

MINISTER KEOGH: So, the expectation is after somebody joins once they've served 90 days they become eligible to become an Australian citizen and they would be expected to become an Australian citizen at that point. 

JOURNALIST: What if they don't?

MINISTER KEOGH: So that's the requirement that they apply for citizenship at that point and one of the requirements for eligibility is not only that they are a permanent resident that's been here for a year but they would be otherwise eligible to become an Australian citizen. Ok, thanks very much everybody. 


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