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Australian Defence Force to Recruit Non-Citizens to Patch up Personnel Shortages

The Labor government has given the green light for non-citizens to join the Australian Defence Force (ADF) in a bid to address recruitment shortfalls.

On June 4, the government revealed details of an expansion plan to recruit more defence personnel as part of the national defence strategy introduced in April.

Specifically, eligible New Zealanders will be allowed to apply to join the Australian military from July 2024.

The change will also apply to permanent residents from the Five Eyes nations (including Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the United States) and other countries from January 2025.

According to Defence Personnel Minister Matt Keogh, to be eligible for the ADF’s recruitment, military prospects need to reside in Australia for at least one year before applying, and must not serve in a foreign defence force of any type in the preceding two years.

In addition, they need to meet all security, vetting, and character requirements for joining the ADF.Recruitment ShortfallsDefence Minister Richard Marles said while there were currently 58,000 full-time personnel in the ADF, the funding for the defence force in the 2024-25 financial year was supposed to support 63,500 staff.Related StoriesAustralia’s Defence Spending Not Enough to Cope With War, Think Tank Warns6/2/2024Australia’s Defence Spending Not Enough to Cope With War, Think Tank WarnsAustralian Defence Minister Discusses Military Confrontations With Chinese Counterpart6/2/2024Australian Defence Minister Discusses Military Confrontations With Chinese Counterpart“That gives you a sense of the gap, and it does speak to the challenges that we’re facing,” he told 3AW Radio.

The defence minister said the ADF was struggling to recruit new staff due to the overall low unemployment rate and better opportunities in the private economy.

“Part of what we’ve done over the last couple of years is to improve the defence offering,” he said.

“We’ve done stuff in relation to housing, retention bonuses, and we are focused on making the conditions of service better.”New ADF Recruits Eligible for CitizenshipAs part of the new changes, after non-citizens have served in the ADF for 90 days, they will be eligible to acquire Australian citizenship.

“There’d be an obligation to become an Australian citizen within 90 days,” he said.

“For some people, that might enable you to get to your citizenship quicker, and that might be an attraction to join.”

However, Mr. Marles noted that there was a heavy emphasis on the security process that non-citizens needed to go through before joining the ADF.

Meanwhile, Mr. Keogh said the changes in military recruitment would not cause other countries to experience an exodus.

“We’re talking about recruiting from people that have already made a decision to become Australians in that they’ve already taken up permanent residency,” he told reporters.

“These are people that have already made Australia home and we are providing them a fast track to citizenship through joining the Australian Defence Force as well.”

Mr. Keogh said that the recruitment drive would boost the defence force by an estimated 350 people a year.

This is on top of the additional 2,000 people a year from the “modernising” of the ADF’s physical health and other fitness requirements to attract more recruits.

While the opposition has not objected to the recruitment plan, Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Birmingham said it was the result of Labor’s failing defence policy.

“The government’s defence policy has been mired in reviews and delays and things that don’t build the confidence to get people to join in the first place,” he told Sky News.

“We want to see, ideally, Australians wearing the Australian uniform.”

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