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Release details

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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


PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: So let's go to Canberra. Joining us is the Defence Personnel Minister Matt Keogh. Minister, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. So how's it going to work?

MATT KEOGH, MINISTER FOR VETERANS’ AFFAIRS AND DEFENCE PERSONNEL: Good morning. It's great to be with you. So what we're announcing today is that from 1 July, New Zealanders that are permanent residents in Australia who have been here for at least a year, and haven’t served in the New Zealand military for the preceding two years, will be eligible to join the Australian Defence Force and from 1 January next year, we'll open that up to the other five eyes, nations and other countries now, as you would expect with anyone joining the Australian Defence Force, whether they're Australian citizens or now we're looking at permanent residents they still have to pass the usual character assessments, the required medicals and of course the vetting as well that is required so there's no changes there. It's opening up the scope of who we can recruit from. 

STEFANOVIC: Is that is that an indicator of how desperate we are though, and are they still going to have the same passion and pride for Australia if they're still attached to another country, if there's still citizens of another country?

MINISTER KEOGH: Well, certainly it is a clear eyed recognition that we're confronting a very low unemployment rate, which is a great thing for the country, but it's very difficult to recruit and we do need to grow our Defence Force and we're doing a number of things in that regard. But this is certainly seeking to address that. And to your second point, it's why we have constrained this to people that are already permanent residents, that already have a commitment and attachment to Australia and have been here for at least one year so they're already if you like on a pathway towards potential citizenship, and the obligation would be that if they joined the Defence Force, once they've served for 90 days, they then become eligible and would be expected to become a Australian citizen.

STEFANOVIC: Matt Canavan said this morning that this would in effect be a mercenary army where foreigners are paid to fill roles. What do you make of those comments?

MINISTER KEOGH: Well Matt Canavan clearly doesn’t understand the policy, because what we are announcing here is they’re people that are already in Australia, so they're not coming in from overseas for this. They're already permanent residents. They've already got a commitment to Australia they've sought and obtained permanent residency here already. What we're doing is fast tracking them into citizenship through joining the Australian Defence Force. So that's the incentive, but it's about growing the pool of people we can recruit from that are already shown a commitment to Australia. That's very important that that's what this is about. But it makes sure that we grow the pool of people that we can recruit from.

STEFANOVIC: Elsewhere today Matt, are you interested in becoming Immigration Minister? Your name was brought up last week as a potential replacement for Andrew Giles after all.

MINISTER KEOGH: We have a good Immigration Minister already and Andrew is getting about doing what is clearly a very difficult job picking up the pieces after the decade of really messed up Home Affairs under Peter Dutton. When Peter Dutton was Immigration Minister and Home Affairs Minister, it left some real significant problems and that's what Andrew Giles and the Minister for Home Affairs, Claire O'Neill have been getting about fixing up. They've had to hold reviews into this Department, and when we look at the most recent issue that's been raised, we can see quite clearly that you've got the Department cancelling visas as it should do under the Direction that's been issued by the Minister. You've got the minister cancelling more visas and deporting more people than Peter Dutton ever did because he takes community safety seriously.

STEFANOVIC: You didn't answer the question though. Are you interested in his job if it becomes available?

MINISTER KEOGH: I'm very happy doing the job that I'm doing in Defence Personnel and Veterans Affairs. 

STEFANOVICYou guys always say that. 

MINISTER KEOGH:  Because I'm really enjoying doing being able to grow the Defence Force, which is what I’m talking to you about today, but also making sure we deliver the benefits that veterans’ require and weren’t getting under the previous Government. 

STEFANOVIC: I’m just curious because your name was identified last week as a potential replacement for Andrew Giles and a potential Immigration Minister if he were to step aside or if he were to be demoted. So if the Prime Minister asked you would you take it?

MINISTER KEOGH: We'll I’ll always serve in whatever capacity the Prime Minister may ask, but I'm very happy doing the job that I'm doing, just as the entire Government, which has been a very stable Government over the last two years is committed to delivering on all fronts for the benefit all of Australia. 

STEFANOVIC: Okay, who's thrown who under the bus though, was it Andrew Giles throwing the Department under the bus or was it the Department throwing Andrew Giles under the bus?

MINISTER KEOGH: Well, I think it's always unfortunate if you're given information that is not quite correct, and then rely on that information publicly by a Department. Sometimes these things happen. The matters being clarified. And I think the important thing is we move on and I know Andrew is concentrating on dealing with visa cancellations, making sure that we're keeping Australians safe when it comes to immigration matters. Just as I'm focused on growing our Defence force, making sure that we deal with the strategic circumstances we face in our region, and making sure that veterans get access to what they deserve as well.

STEFANOVIC: Good to have you with us this morning. Really appreciate it. Thank you. We'll talk to you again soon. 

MINISTER KEOGH: Great to be with you. 


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