ADF officials grilled over new recruitment policy allowing NZ, US, UK and Canadian citizens to enlist

Jessica Evensen
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Australian Defence Force officials have been grilled over a new recruitment policy which allow foreign citizens to enlist in the ADF.
Australian Defence Force officials have been grilled over a new recruitment policy which allow foreign citizens to enlist in the ADF. Credit: AAP

Australian Defence Force officials have been grilled over a new recruitment policy which will allows foreign citizens to enlist in the ADF.

This week the Federal Government announced it had expanded its eligibility criteria so that citizens of the Five Eyes alliance — New Zealand, Canada, UK and US — could join the ADF if they had lived in Australia as a permanent resident for at least a year.

To be eligible, applicants must not have served in a foreign military in the preceding two years and must pass relevant security standards.

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It comes just weeks after Defence Minister Richard Marles said a decision to include foreigners in the ADF could take “years”.

Once they have served in the ADF for 90 days, applicants will be expected to apply for an Australian citizenship.

Kiwis will be able to apply to join the ADF from July 1, while Canadian, UK and US citizens will have to wait until January 1.

But Minister for Defence Personnel Matt Keogh sparked confusion after he said the policy would be expanded to include the Five Eyes and “other countries” on Tuesday morning.

But Minister for Defence Personnel Matt Keogh sparked confusion after he said the policy would be expanded to include the Five Eyes and ‘other countries’ on Tuesday morning.
But Minister for Defence Personnel Matt Keogh sparked confusion after he said the policy would be expanded to include the Five Eyes and ‘other countries’ on Tuesday morning. Credit: Ross Swanborough/The West Australian

Mr Keogh later clarified “other countries” was in reference to the Pacific Islands.

“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.

At Senate estimates on Wednesday, Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham requested ADF officials to urgently provide a draft policy document to “enable scrutiny”.

“There’s plenty of confusion created by ministers in your government about this policy,” he said.

“Officials indicate there is a draft document for publication and I’m asking whether it can be provided to this committee in a timely manner to enable scrutiny through this process.”

But Labor Senator Jenny McAllister said the question had been taken on notice and that the ADF would “see what could be provided”.

Senator Birmingham went on to quiz ADF officials on how the new policy was decided.

QUESTION TIME
Senator Birmingham went on to quiz ADF officials on how the new policy was decided. Credit: News Corp Australia

“We have been doing work to look at what options were there in terms of looking at widening the aperture and particularly in terms of New Zealand,” Defence secretary Justine Greig said.

“We were very aware that there could be up to 150,000 New Zealanders in that 15 to 34 age bracket ... we then looked beyond that ... (to see whether) we do want to consider widening the aperture.

“We did talk to ministers and officers during the course of last year ... it was around early March this year that the culmination of that comprehensive was put forward.”

Senator Birmingham asked whether someone’s nationality or citizenship could restrict ADF membership.

“Does it require you to be an Australian citizen ... or a pathway to citizenship?” he asked.

“I’m trying to ascertain right now what stops somebody from New Zealand or North Korea being eligible to join.”

Ms McAllister said an applicant could be considered under “some circumstances” such as filling a capability gap.

“Under the current policy, if we were trying to fill a capability gap they would have to be on a pathway to citizenship and we would require time to apply for citizenship (after) 90 days of service and they would need to attain that citizenship,” she said.

During question time on Wednesday, Mr Keogh said the government needed to be “bold” in growing its defence force.

“Along with a large way of policies, we have announced a policy to grow our defence force from our permanent resident population, and that’s exactly what myself and the deputy Prime Minister announced yesterday,” he said.

“We’re very happy with that policy because it goes straight to making sure that we are addressing the issues confronting our defence force ... and clearly it’s difficult for the leader of the opposition.”

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