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Can our Pacific neighbours help meet our defence force manpower shortage?

By Jeffrey Wall - posted Friday, 18 November 2022


The Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister has been refreshingly frank when it comes to the serious manpower shortages in our army, navy and the RAAF.

Despite an intensive recruitment campaign, including incentives, recruitment is about 5000 short of target. You could sense the frustration in Minister Marles voice when he outlined the problem.

The time has come for a more innovative approach to recruitment. And we need to look no further than our own Pacific neighbourhood.

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Essentially only PNG and Fiji have substantial defence forces. In the case of PNG it has suffered through inadequate funding, outdated facilities, too much indiscipline and, sadly, even corruption.

The Fiji military is better managed and funded. It plays a useful role in international peace keeping missions.

Despite significant funding support from Australia, improvements in the PNG defence force have been slow.

The PNG Government is rightly preoccupied with law and order - the preserve of the police force, which has also been chronically underfunded since Independence, not to mention poor discipline.

We need to continue training and equipment support for the PNGDF.

But why should not young Papua New Guineans - men and women - be offered the chance to join the ADF. The same applies to young Fijians, and probably Tongans.

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Prior to Independence a number of Papua New Guineans served in the ADF including in officer ranks.

The most prominent was one of my good friends, Brigadier General Ted Diro, the first national to command the PNGDF.

Like many Papua New Guineans Ted had politics in his blood. It came as no great surprise when he took me out to lunch and told me he was resigning as PNGDF commander and would stand for the Central regional seat at the 1982 national elections.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Wall CSM CBE is a Brisbane Political Consultant and has served as Advisor to the PNG Foreign Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu Prime Minister 1988-1992 and Speaker 1994-1997.

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