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Former ADF personnel review ‘must go beyond China’, ex-defence secretary says

Former ADF personnel review ‘must go beyond China’, ex-defence secretary says

Dennis Richardson, former head of intelligence agency ASIO and former secretary of the Department of Defence, says review of ex-ADF members working with foreign powers should go beyond China.

Dennis Richardson, former head of intelligence agency ASIO and former secretary of the Department of Defence, says review of ex-ADF members working with foreign powers should go beyond China.

Dennis Richardson, who has also served as Australia’s ambassador to the United States and secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, has called for “any review” into whether former Australian Defence personnel are working for the Chinese military, should also look at other countries.

Speaking with the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing, Richardson revealed that he is surprised at some of the positions some former Australian Defence Force officers have occupied in other countries.

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“I would hope that the review goes beyond China, but China clearly needs to be a focus.

The obligations that Australian servicemen and women have, and indeed for that matter any public servant has, goes well beyond their time in office, when it comes to confidential and classified matters,” Richardson said.

Following recent revelations that British Royal Air Force pilots were being brought in to train Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) pilots, Defence Minister Richard Marles has ordered the Department of Defence to investigate reports former members of the ADF have also been approached to provide military training to China.

While retired ADF members have taken on lucrative roles with foreign militaries for decades, government permission had usually been granted.

As the UK Defence Ministry takes “immediate steps to deter and penalise personnel taking up such roles”, shadow defence minister Andrew Hastie has confirmed that former ADF personnel have been speaking to him about the issue, in an interview with the Afternoon Briefing.

I received some calls from former serving fighter pilots who said that former colleagues of theirs had been approached by Chinese interests to assist with the training of the PLA.

So, I’m encouraged to see Richard Marles, the Defence Minister, come out this morning, report back on his initial investigation, and he’s going to undertake further inquiries and see if there are any gaps that need fixing,” minister Hastie said.

Minister Hastie, a former SAS captain, added that protecting our national secrets is key, noting there are “certain countries which definitely have a red flag next to them when we talk about sharing information”.

I think our serving members are well aware of their obligations, but we also need to make sure that veterans, once they separate from the Defence Force, also understand that there’s not just a legal obligation to protect our secrets and our tactics and our techniques and our procedures, but also a moral one.

China is an issue, and it’s the same with Russia.”

On whether different standards are to be applied to different countries courting former ADF personnel, you do have to make a distinction," Minister Hastie said. 

[Related: ADF investigates reports China ‘luring’ Aussie pilots for military training]

 

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