Topics: Foreign defence recruits; US ceasefire deal; NDIS Minister to peace summit and Immigration Minister dreaming of drones;

04 June 2024


Peter Stefanovic: Well, the government is looking overseas to help with its recruitment for the Australian Defence Force, eyeing off permanent residents from the US, UK, New Zealand, Canada and the Pacific Islands if they’ve been living here for more than 12 months. Joining us live now is the Shadow Foreign Minister, Simon Birmingham. Simon, good to see you today. So, what do you make of this plan?


Simon Birmingham: G’day, Pete. Well, Pete, you know, we’ll have a look at the detail of it. And conceptually, we’re not necessarily against the plan, but the plan is only necessary because of the failings of the government. And it comes just after the latest data shows that the Albanese Government is some 5000 people off the targets that they were meant to be meeting in relation to recruits and people wearing the Australian military uniform. That is the real crisis. It’s a crisis because this government’s defence policy has been mired in reviews and delays and things that just don’t build the type of morale or confidence to get people to join in the first place. So, we want to see, ideally Australians wearing the Australian uniform and we want to see them have confidence in our defence policy settings and defence force so that they join and join with that sort of confidence.


Peter Stefanovic: Problems with recruitment stretch way beyond this current government though. So why do you think there is a reluctance to sign up?


Simon Birmingham: Well, there are always different pressure points you’ve got to resolve in relation to recruitment. But the degree to which defence is missing, the targets that have been set has been getting worse and certainly worse under this government and has come at a time where there’s been little good news for defence. Because everything this government has had to say has been about kicking a can down the road, holding another review, deferring or delaying different investments rather than providing the type of confidence that people need to be able to sign up and sign on and wear the uniform with pride, as so many do, and served with great distinction. But the frustration that comes from government inaction and poor decisions is what, of course, gets in the way of retaining or attracting.


Peter Stefanovic: Okay, elsewhere today, Simon. Penny Wong, she’s called on Israel and Hamas to accept a US led ceasefire deal. Do you support that?


Simon Birmingham: Well, I’ve seen positive comments from Israel that they are willing to work through this if it sees all of the hostages released as they should be. And ultimately it falls upon Hamas. Hamas should be releasing all of those hostages, surrendering their terrorist capabilities and infrastructure. And yes, there would be a ceasefire. It really could be that simple. But of course, Hamas have continued to hold those hostages since October 7th and to hide in, amongst, behind and under innocent Palestinians, putting them at great risk and continuing this tragic war.


Peter Stefanovic: What do you make just finally here, Simon? Bill Shorten, he’s going to be our representative and heading to Ukraine [Peace Summit] to show support for Ukraine and continuing a push against Russia. What do you think about that pick?


Simon Birmingham: Well, I don’t doubt for a second Bill Shorten’s commitment and support for Ukraine, but he’s the minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Where on earth are any of the members of the National Security Committee of Cabinet? It should be an NSC member going to represent Australia at the Ukraine Peace Summit, not the NDIS Minister. Bill Shorten no doubt will have a great speech when he gets there from his $600,000 speechwriter. But why isn’t it a security or defence minister or a foreign minister, rather than the NDIS minister? Who just speaks to the chaos and dysfunction that seems to be pervading the Albanese Government. An immigration minister who’s dreaming of drones or UFOs in the sky, and the NDIS minister off to a war and peace summit. It doesn’t make any sense.


Peter Stefanovic: All right. I was going to ask you about that, that feed. But I’m out of time. Simon. Birmingham. We’ll talk to you again soon. Appreciate it though.