Doorstop Interview, Parliament House, Canberra

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The Hon Matt Keogh MP

Minister for Defence Personnel

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

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Stephanie Mathews on 0407 034 485

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4 June 2024


JOURNALIST: So why did you say ADF recruitment would be open to all foreign nationals next year?

MATT KEOGH, MINISTER FOR VETERANS’ AFFAIRS AND DEFENCE PERSONNEL: So what I was outlining is what criteria we would be applying to the permanent residents that would become eligible to be able to join the ADF and that starting from July with New Zealand Permanent Residents in Australia and then from the first of January, it'll be opened up to the rest of the Five Eyes nations and then we're looking to expand that to other countries, which we will be starting to look at Pacific Island countries starting so that's where we want to focus after that. What I was being clear about is that we're applying the same criteria which is you have to be in Australia for a year as a permanent resident. You have to otherwise be eligible for citizenship. You have to meet all of the security requirements that would ordinarily need to occur with vetting and so forth to join the Defence Force. 

JOURNALIST: Did you get it wrong this morning?

MINISTER KEOGH: Well, exactly what I've just said is what I said this morning, which is for all other countries that are eligible to join. So we're starting with New Zealand from the first of July, and then we're moving to the rest of the Five Eyes nations from 1 January and then looking to focus on our Pacific neighbours. People will be able to join the Defence Force if they're a permanent resident of Australia that's been here for a year. They haven't been a member of a foreign military service and they’re otherwise eligible for citizenship and they meet all the security vetting requirements.

JOURNALIST: So what about countries outside the Pacific?

MINISTER KEOGH: So this is where we're starting. This is a step change for the Defence Force looking at recruiting Permanent Residents, not just existing Australian citizens. We will take this, starting with New Zealand, moving to Five Eyes and then with a focus on Pacific Islands and we'll get that bedded down before we look at where this might go from there. 

JOURNALIST: So when will you focus on Pacific islands? 

MINISTER KEOGH: Well, let's work through this process. So it's not going to be this year, as I said, it will be sometime from January but we're going to look at the Five Eyes nations first, starting in New Zealand in July, and then we'll get that bedded down and operating before we look at expanding. 

JOURNALIST: Are there going to be minimum sort of periods of service required for people who get their citizenship through the ADF?

MINISTER KEOGH: I do want to address this because I know the Opposition seem to be very confused about how the Defence Force works even those members who have actually served in the Defence Force, of course, the same obligations would apply for an Australian citizen joining the Defence Force or a Permanent Resident joining the Defence Force. They would still have the same return of service obligations that would ordinarily apply. They have to go through the same vetting processes, they have to go through the same training regimen. All of those things would of course, apply in those circumstances. 

JOURNALIST: Can you explain what they actually are? The return of service obligations? 

MINISTER KEOGH:  So return of service obligation is something that applies for any person joining the Defence Force, there are over 250 different roles that someone can enlist into the Defence Force with and so those return of service obligations differ depending on the type of role that you enlist into and the nature and the length of the training continuum that you have to participate in before you're capable in that role. So for some, it's a few years, for some it’s actually many years, depending on the technical nature and the length of training that's involved in the investment that we make in someone joining the Defence Force, to make sure that we get the benefit that we need from those people. And of course, we encourage them to then stay in the Defence Force and that's why we introduced our continuation bonus last year. 

JOURNALIST: But if these people don't meet, fulfil that time period, would you revoke their citizenship? 

MINISTER KEOGH: We would be dealing with them in the same way that we would deal with any other Australian citizen who doesn't fulfil those requirements. And it's important to remember one of the conditions here is that you would have to already be otherwise eligible to join, to become an Australian citizen, if you're on this pathway to joining the Defence Force. So yes, it's a fast track to citizenship but you would otherwise would be meeting those requirements.

JOURNALIST: Can you understand the confusion caused by your comments this morning?

MINISTER KEOGH: I think I've been very clear about how this works. From 1 July we'll be accepting Permanent Residents from New Zealand, from 1 January we will be accepting the rest of the Five Eyes nations and then looking to expand that to other countries starting and focusing on our Pacific Island neighbours.


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