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Australia’s plan to allow non-citizen Pacific Islanders into the military: Albanese dodges questions

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has refused to elaborate on plans to allow non-citizens from Pacific Island nations to serve in the Australian Defence Force.

Mr Albanese was asked about the move at a press conference, but replied: “That’s a matter for [Minister for Defence] Richard Marles to deal with”.

He then added: “We are looking at increasing interoperability”.

Defence Personnel Minister Matt Keogh told ABC Radio on Friday Australia’s Labor government was considering a proposal to boost defence force numbers by allowing residents of Pacific Island nations to serve.

“We are certainly looking at all options that we need to look at in terms of how we can grow our defence force, and that includes looking at how we might be able to grow it from friendly forces from other countries,” he said.

“[It includes] looking at opportunities for people to come to Australia, or who are already in Australia from other countries to join our defence force.

“Certainly we’re looking at the Pacific, but we’re also looking more broadly than that, because we recognise the importance of growing our defence force.”

The government has not said which countries would be included in the proposal, or when a decision would be made.

The Australian Defence Force already allows serving soldiers from the US and UK militaries to transfer.

Mr Keogh also warned that Australia’s low unemployment meant the ADF was struggling to recruit and maintain personnel, and the government recently introduced a $50,000 bonus to entice junior members to extend their service by three years.

The proposal comes after several states changed eligibility requirements to allow foreign nationals to join the police in 2023.

In February Queensland obtained approval to recruit 500 foreign officers as part of a labour agreement between the state and federal governments.

South Australia followed in September, announcing plans to allow 200 officers from overseas to fill frontline shortages, targeting experienced police from New Zealand, the UK, and Ireland.

Western Australia has granted visas to 30 international recruits so far, and has received 1400 applications. WA Police has a target of 750 officers from NZ, the UK, and Ireland over the next five years.

Anthony Albanese and PNG leader James Marape in December (PM&C)

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