Albanese Government’s radical foreign legion plan to bolster defence force slammed

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Remy Varga
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Defence Personnel Minister Matt Keogh and Opposition leader Peter Dutton.
Defence Personnel Minister Matt Keogh and Opposition leader Peter Dutton. Credit: The Nightly

Opposition leader Peter Dutton has branded plans to allow foreign citizens to join the Australian Defence Force as “a dog’s breakfast” after Labor frontbenchers confused key details including which countries would be allowed to join.

The confusion comes after the Defence Department announced it would open recruitment to eligible New Zealanders from July 1 and eligible citizens of Five Eyes countries including the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada from January next year.

But then Defence Personnel Minister Matt Keogh told the ABC the recruitment drive would be expanded to include citizens from “any other country” if other eligibility requirements were met from January 1.

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“Permanent residents from any other country in Australia would be eligible to apply if they meet the conditions and they would also be required to apply for Australian citizenship after they’ve served in the defence force for 90 days, which is when they would become eligible,” he said.

Mr Keogh later said he was trying to explain that potential recruits would be subject to the same criteria and applicants would need to be eligible for Australian citizenship when the recruitment drive expanded to other countries.

“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,” he said.

Later Defence Minister Richard Marles said the Albanese Government would consider allowing eligible Pacific Island residents to join the ADF in the future.

“From the first of July, with those conditions in place and having been a permanent resident for a year at least, and the appropriate security checks and you’re from New Zealand, you’ll be able to join the defence force,” he said.

“From the first of January, that will be extended to other Five Eye countries.

“In the future, we will be having an eye on the Pacific. That is what we are doing.”

Mr Dutton said Australia and other Five Eyes countries were operating in an environment with high levels of foreign interference and said the confusion over the plans followed the Direction 99 fiasco that allowed dozens of criminals to stay in Australia.

“It’s a dog’s breakfast and it comes off the back of one of the most disastrous performances I’ve seen in a long time from Minister Giles (Immigration Minister Andrew Giles),” he said.

“If that’s the ministerial standard that Anthony Albanese is prepared to set then I don’t think a minister in the Albanese government could be sacked for anything.

“What we saw at the moment is a government in chaos and they’re lurching from one disaster to the next.”

Senator Jacquie Lambie, a veteran, welcomed the expanded recruitment but said the soldier shortfall came down to the poor treatment of Australian veterans.

Jacqui Lambie Network Senator Jacqui Lambie.
Senator Jacquie Lambie, a veteran, welcomed the expanded recruitment but said the soldier shortfall came down to the poor treatment of Australian veterans.  Credit: Mick Tsikas/AAP

“It’s not all that needs to be done to fix recruiting but it’s a good start,” she said.

“We also need to be doing so much more to invest in the diggers already in our forces.”

Last week RSL Australia released a strategy paper that proposed opening up recruitment to citizens of New Zealand and South Pacific countries, potentially in exchange for residency rights.

National president Tony Harrison said it was important to be cautious about using foreign citizen recruits but said other countries, including the UK, had successfully used foreign citizens in their defence reserves.

“When you’ve got nations with a standard of living lower than ours and high unemployment you can get good soldiers attracted to high wages,” he said.

Mr Harrison said the recruitment shortfall was caused by high unemployment as well as the difficult nature of defence force work and changing expectations around career continuity.

“I think segments of the current generation don’t have the same sense of longterm employment or duty,” he said.

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