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Government announces long-term boost to Australia’s defence numbers

In his second big defence announcement in under a week, Scott Morrison on Thursday will outline plans for a major expansion of Australia’s defence workforce to more than 101,000 by 2040.

This will be an increase of about 18,500 over the baseline growth previously agreed to. It includes predominantly uniformed personnel but also public servants.

The expansion covers army, navy, airforce, and those working in the areas of space, information and cyber, as well as in defence science, education, logistics and health.

The government says the commitment represents the biggest step up in four decades.

The number of Australian Defence Force personnel will increase by about 30%, taking the total number of permanent ADF personnel to nearly 80,000.

The government puts the estimated cost of the expansion at some $38 billion.

The ramping up will start from 2024-25, and a large component – estimated at about 6000 people – will be for the development of the nuclear-powered submarine capability.

In the short term, over the four years to 2024 the defence workforce is being increased by 800 ADF personnel, 250 public servants and a number of extra staff for the Australian Signals Directorate.

As the government casts national security as a major theme of its election campaigning, Morrison announced at the weekend plans to build a new submarine base on the east cost, with three sites – Port Kembla, Newcastle and Brisbane – being considered for its location.

In a statement with Defence Minister Peter Dutton announcing the personnel expansion, Morrison says there was never a more important time to be increasing Australia’s defence forces.

“Our world is becoming increasingly uncertain so it’s important we take steps now to protect our people and our national interest over the coming decades.

"You can’t flick a switch to increase your army, navy and air force overnight. Growing the type of people and skills we need to face the threats of the future takes time, so we must start now so critical skills can be taught and experience gained.”

Morrison says ADF personnel will be increased in every state and territory. There will be a particular focus on capabilities associated with Australia’s security partnership with the United Kingdom and United States (AUKUS), and on air, sea, land, space and cyber.

Dutton says: “Defence operates with a highly integrated workforce spanning the Australian Defence Force, civilians and industry providers, with each bringing specialised skills and expertise.

"This growth in workforce and expertise will enable us to deliver our nuclear powered submarines, ships, aircraft and advanced weapons.

"It will mean we can build war fighting capabilities in the domains of space, and information and cyber.”

The bigger defence force was flagged as part of the 2020 Force Structure plan.

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