Radio interview, ABC Sydney Breakfast with Craig Reucassel

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

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5 June 2024

SUBJECTS: ADF Recruitment.

CRAIG REUCASSEL, HOST: Did you see the news last night? Interesting policy that's been announced that we're going to accept foreign nationals into the military. It's going to start with the Kiwis and then maybe the US, Brits and Canadians. But there seemed to be a bit of confusion at the announcement yesterday. Matt Thistlethwaite is the Assistant Defence Minister, and he joins us now. Morning, Minister.

MATT THISTLETHWAITE, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Good morning, Craig. Thanks for having me on.

REUCASSEL: Yeah, good. So, there was a bit of confusion. It's going to start out with Kiwis at the moment, but Matt Keogh yesterday at a press conference also said it would be any other country in the future. Is this the policy?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: So, the policy starts from July this year with New Zealanders, and these are people that have been living here for at least a year as permanent residents. And then from January 2025, we'll extend that out to Five Eyes partner nations. So, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. What the Minister was referring to is that we're also looking in the future to extend the policy to our partners in the Pacific. But at this stage, it's Five Eyes partners from the 1st of January next year.

REUCASSEL: Yeah. Okay. So, Matt Keogh is saying any other country, but meaning the Pacific, not very clear there. Is this done in other countries? This is a common approach for countries that can't get enough people into their military.

ASSISTANT MINISTER: It does happen in other countries. We're not trying to poach people from other nations, particularly our partner nations. We're basically talking about people who are on a journey to citizenship here in Australia. In fact, under this policy, once someone joins the Australian Defence Force, they'll have to apply for citizenship within 90 days. So, we're talking about people who are committed to Australia, and they can't have served in a foreign military in the last two years. So, we're not trying to poach people off our partners. We're talking about people who are on a journey to citizenship here in Australia.

REUCASSEL: And why are we falling so short in terms of getting people? We've seen so many recruitment camps. Interestingly, I was hearing from someone who said that the military is still not allowed to help out in natural disasters in a lot of instances. And in this case, they're saying, you know, we actually would love to. We feel bored in the military. You know, should you be getting the military, So, they feel like there's more they're getting, doing more in Australia. Will that get more people to actually sign up?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, the military do help out in natural disasters, but we need the Defence Minister to make a declaration to ensure that they can. And that happens routinely, and they're very, very good at it. But that's not the reason why people sign up to join the Australian Defence Force. They join to be part of the defence of our nation. And we've struggled in recent years because of the competitive labour market. It's not just the ADF, it's many businesses that are struggling to get people to join their ranks. And the ADF is no different. Another part of this policy, Craig, is that we're freeing up 14 of the medical conditions that have prohibited people from joining the military as well.

REUCASSEL: So, more Australians might be able to get in. What are the, what are the medical conditions?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Yeah, so there's some silly medical conditions that are restrictions against people. So, for instance, if you've broken a bone as a kid riding a skateboard, you can't join the Australian Defence Force. If you have braces on your, on your teeth, you can't join the Defence Force.

REUCASSEL: This is great news. This is great news that we, so, if you've broken a bone or if. If you've got braces, you may now be able to join as Australian, as an Australian, rather, than getting the New Zealanders. Thanks for speaking to us, Matt. 


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