Interview: Oliver Peterson, 6PR




Topics: Labor’s changes to ADF recruitment, national service.


OLIVER PETERSON: Joining me now is the Shadow Defence Minister, Andrew Hastie. Good afternoon.

ANDREW HASTIE: Good afternoon to you, Oly.

OLIVER PETERSON: Do you support the idea of foreigners serving in the Australian Defence Force?

ANDREW HASTIE: I think under the Albanese Government, we have a massive recruitment and retention crisis in the ADF. We are 5,000 people under strength as it stands, we're not hitting our recruiting targets and we're losing too many people. This has all happened under Anthony Albanese. We need to work out a way to get more people into the ADF and we need to work out how to keep people in the ADF. Now what this proposal today from Labor is that from July 1, New Zealanders will be able to join the ADF and then from January 1, anyone from around the world who's got a permanent residency here in Australia and haven't served in another foreign military for two years will be able to join the ADF. That's what's being proposed and there are many, many questions that we have with this policy.

OLIVER PETERSON: Doesn't sound as though it sits very easily with you at the moment, Andrew.

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, the Australian Defence Force has a proud history of service and sacrifice – more than 100,000 Australians have died defending our country. The people in uniform now are the custodians of that tradition and we want everyone joining to be custodians as well. So it's really important that we get the selection of personnel correct. I have security concerns about this policy, I also have concerns about return of service. After 90 days of service in the uniform, permanent residents, under Labor's plan, will be able to get citizenship. Now, is there a return of service obligation? Because when cadets study at ADFA, for every year of study they do, for example – and that's the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra where we train our future officers in Army, Air Force and Navy – for every year of study they do, they have to pay back a year plus one. So for these people who are going to get citizenship through the ADF, what sort of payback will they give the Australian people? I think it's really important that the Australian people understand who these people are, where they're coming from, particularly if they're being entrusted with our defence.

OLIVER PETERSON: The preferential treatment there potentially is a flagged issue. New Zealanders first probably makes a little bit of sense in terms of the Anzac history that we have with our brothers and sisters over the other side of the ditch. Is it about perhaps just Five Eyes nations though, Andrew – Canadians, Americans Brits?

ANDREW HASTIE: We already have a tradition, obviously with Five Eyes – very strong relationships between Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US and the UK. And for some years now, we've had what we call lateral transfers within the defence force where we have people from the UK, the US, New Zealand, and Canada, come to Australia and take on our uniform and become citizens. In fact, I was on a Collins-class submarine back in 2021 and the captain of the boat was a Canadian submariner who transferred across. So we're already doing this and this is a mechanism that we should be looking at getting more recruits from those countries. But tomorrow is Senate estimates for defence, we're going to ask some very searching questions about this process and do due diligence for the Australian people because it's really important that we have people who actually care about our country, who are committed to serving for it and if necessary, dying for it at war. That's why service in uniform is so unique. It's not like any other job.

OLIVER PETERSON: It isn't like any other job, and you know that firsthand. If Australians though aren't answering the calls, they don't want to serve, do we look at stealing the idea from Rishi Sunak in the UK and consider national service again?

ANDREW HASTIE: No, Oly. I think what we need to do is make a values proposition for young Australians. We want the brightest, we want the toughest, we want the most energetic young Australians to serve their country, to join up and do some of the toughest, most complex capabilities and missions that anyone can do on this earth. We're going to need submariners, we're going to need people for Special Forces, we're going to need people who are in charge of complex cyber operations and missiles, we need fighter pilots. There are lots of exciting jobs for young Australians and this government – the Albanese Government – they've given up. They have given up on appealing to young Australians and so they're taking the easy option, and they're using migration as a tool to build out our defence force.

OLIVER PETERSON: We will see what you're uncovering those Senate Estimates over the coming days. Andrew Hastie, thanks for your time.


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