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Thousands more troops for Australia

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The Australian Defence Force (ADF) will grow by nearly 5000 troops, Defence Minister Marise Payne has confirmed.

Australia will recruit 2500 additional troops as part of a strategic military blueprint, to be released in a defence white paper on Thursday.

Another 2300 positions will be redefined within the ADF.

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“I hope that Australians who have a desire to serve will see this as a real opportunity to participate in a modern, engaged, contemporary, agile military in Australia in the 21st century,” Ms Payne told ABC Radio.

A further 12 submarines will be added to the ADF, according to reports on the soon-to-be-released white paper.

The much anticipated and delayed white paper will give the green light to increased defence spending commitments proposed by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, The Australian reported on Wednesday.

The document outlined billions of dollars in spending to modernise the navy and update Australia’s ageing Collins-class fleet of submarines.

Despite the much-trumpeted budgetary pressures facing Australia, it ratified Mr Abbott’s proposal for Australia to spend 2 per cent of its national income (GDP) on defence by 2023. 

Total ADF forces will increase from 58,000 to 63,000, with the almost 5000 new personnel to be spread across the navy, army and air force.

12 new submarines will be bought by Australia. Photo: ABC
12 new submarines will be bought by Australia. Photo: ABC

The white paper was intended to be released within 18 months of Mr Abbott becoming PM and it was ready to be released in September when current-PM Malcolm Turnbull took office.

However, new Defence Minister Marise Payne said the Turnbull Government had to “consider it on its merits”.

The white paper will reportedly also detail the government’s position on growing diplomatic tensions in the South China Sea, as Beijing continues its rapid military expansion in the contested waterway.

Regional neighbours are expected to closely examine the language the Australian Government uses in references to the territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

Ms Payne played down reports a senior Defence official was dispatched to brief Beijing on any concerns raised in the white paper about escalating tensions in the South China Sea.

“I don’t think that’s anywhere close to accurate, to be frank,” she said.

Discussions had been held with Indonesia, Japan, the US, the UK and New Zealand as well as China.

Labor shadow assistant defence minister David Feeney said the opposition wanted to examine the white paper before committing bipartisan support.

Mr Feeney flagged Labor was willing to support a “plausible plan” to get to two per cent of gross domestic product for defence spending.

“The challenge has always been for this defence white paper to set out that trajectory.”

– with ABC and AAP

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