Senator Backs ‘Foreign Legion’ Concept to Bolster Flagging Aussie Military Recruitment

Senator Backs ‘Foreign Legion’ Concept to Bolster Flagging Aussie Military Recruitment
In this handout provided by the Australian Department of Defence, Commander of Joint Task Group 637.3, Lieutenant Colonel Steve Frankel (left), and Private Thomas Rixon, watch the Armidale Class Patrol Boat, HMAS Armidale, sail into the Port of Honiara, in Guadalcanal Island, Solomon Islands, on Dec. 1, 2021. (CPL Brandon Grey/Australian Department of Defence via Getty Images)
Daniel Y. Teng

Australia should open up military recruitment to neighbouring Pacific Islanders, says Senator Jacqui Lambie, who says the move will help deal with ongoing recruitment problems in the defence force.

“Pacific Islanders and New Zealanders … they’ve been going to and from this country for a long time,” Lambie told Sky News on May 1.

“There’s no reason why we couldn’t do like the [U.S.] marines do down here where they’re sitting on top of Australia, why we couldn’t export ourselves over there, train their people as well and also have a battalion over there with Pacific Islanders over there somewhere.

Such a move, if successful, could also tie bilateral relations between Australian and Pacific Island nations even closer—a goal that could help isolate Beijing’s influence in the region further.

Lambie also said the Australian Defence Force (ADF) needed to be more flexible with its recruits, particularly those with minor criminal records.

“I’m one of them, I had a bit of a rap sheet, I grew up in public housing I remember them saying we’re that desperate for females we’re going to let you in,” she said.

“Start looking at things a little more positively. If these kids have turned their lives around, then let them have a shot,” she added. “They make great bloody leaders because they’ve got life experience.”

Her comments come as members of the federal opposition put forward ideas on how to bolster the nation’s stalling recruitment efforts.

Under the Morrison government, the ADF was supposed to increase its personnel numbers by around 30 percent from an active force of 59,095 to around 80,000 by 2040.

The eventual total number, including defence department staff, should be about 100,000.

Yet the ADF, like many militaries in developed countries, is struggling with the retention of existing personnel and the hiring of new staff.

On average, the ADF loses about eight to 10 percent of its personnel every year, around 5,000-6,000 individuals—cutting that rate alone will see the force’s numbers steadily recover.

Offer Military Pathway for Prospective Migrants

Current Shadow Defence Minister Andrew Hastie said the country could consider tying the idea to permanent residency pathways, particularly given the increased migration influx expected post-pandemic lockdowns.
“If someone is willing to fight and die for our country, we should take them over a $5 million [US$3.3 million] golden visa any day of the week,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald in reference to the Significant Investor Visa that was used to attract wealthy Chinese migrants to the country.

Hastie added that there needed to be safeguards against potential espionage risks.

“New Australians, prepared to serve and sacrifice in uniform, are the right sort of people to whom we can offer a home,” he said. Countries like France famously operate a foreign legion that allows recruits a pathway to citizenship.

Meanwhile, Hastie’s colleague, Shadow Immigration Minister Dan Tehan, called for greater integration between the Five Eyes’ partners to address personnel shortages.

“If we can bring people in who have that Five Eyes clearance who can help our ADF, then this is going to help us to be able to ensure that we can defend our nation,” Tehan told Sky News Australia.

Yet the implementation of such a move could have difficulties given the manpower issues experienced across the U.S., UK, New Zealand, and Canadian armed forces.

Daniel Y. Teng is based in Brisbane, Australia. He focuses on national affairs including federal politics, COVID-19 response, and Australia-China relations. Got a tip? Contact him at [email protected].
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