Australia offers NZ soldiers $250k to swap armies

By Kurt Bayer

Kiwi soldiers are being head-hunted to join the Australian Army with $250,000 cash bonuses.

The hired guns are getting the lucrative sign-on fee, as well as fast-tracked citizenship, in a bid to boost Australia’s military ranks.

But the move to recruit foreign “mercenaries” from New Zealand – and other countries including America, Germany, South Africa, Poland and Singapore – has angered veterans’ groups across the Ditch.

War graves advocate John Saddington told the Herald Sun newspaper in Melbourne that the practice was “an absolute disgrace”, adding: “We are hiring mercenaries.”

The NZ Defence Force, meanwhile, confirmed yesterday that it employs a similar “lateral recruitment” process to attract soldiers from around the world. A spokesman said it was “fairly standard practice” for international armies to trade staff.

The Australian Army wants snipers, military police, pilots and dentists, while the Navy needs submarine technicians and medical officers.

Foreign recruits can also get their Australian citizenship fast-tracked after three months of service.

Figures obtained by the Courier-Mail in Brisbane reveal that 726 international military personnel have arrived since 2006 at an estimated total relocation cost of $128 million.

“The ADF [Australian Defence Force] contributes to the cost of relocating lateral recruits,” a Defence Department spokesman told the paper.

“The costs vary according to the family composition and size, but is typically A$150,000 to $200,000 [$192,000-$256,000]. Given the significant cost of training and building experience in new military recruits, this cost represents good value.”

The ADF said new trained soldiers earn about A$56,000 a year. Salaries increase with experience and promotions.