- Topics: ADF support to Victoria
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DAVID CAMPBELL: Joining us now is Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds in Perth. Good morning, Minister. You offered the Victorian Premier 50 personnel for planning and logistic support, is that going to be enough?
MINISTER REYNOLDS: Well, good morning and Merry Christmas to you all. This year we’ve had 20,000 Defence personnel assisting states and territories and Australians right across the country, and currently, we still have over 1,500 of our personnel right across the state supporting 21 tasks. We have 250 currently supporting the Victorian Government, and we have provided, as you’ve said, another 50 to support the Victorian Police on the borders.
While we don’t have personnel that we can allocate to borders in Victoria and elsewhere, we are doing what we can to support the police. So, we’re providing accommodation and logistics and meals to support them. But it’s important to remember that in September this year we did start telling the states and territories that we would gradually be taking people off the border checkpoints themselves. We’ve stayed in quarantine for Indigenous communities longer than that, but it is important that we bring our forces back and we rebalance so that the Defence forces are ready to support Australians, but also our overseas friends, in the high-risk weather season. Because as we’ve seen, we’ve already had cyclones start to develop, and it’s a matter of balancing priorities.
BELINDA RUSSELL: Isn’t this surely a huge priority? I mean, are you saying that you simply do not have the resources to help support hotel quarantine and the border?
MINISTER REYNOLDS: Well, we are supporting hotel quarantine. So, we have Defence personnel in hotels and quarantine facilities in most states and territories. So, we are currently doing that, but it is a matter of balancing priorities. So we did tell states and territories as I’ve said that we would be coming off the border checkpoints directly because it is very personnel-intensive, but we are doing so many other things.
And as I said, don’t forget we’ve had the two largest domestic operations in our nation’s history throughout the last 12 months. So we are doing 21 support tasks, and we are always on the side of ‘can we do this and this?’ and we do have – this will take us up to 300 personnel in Victoria. So wherever we can assist, we are. In the things that Defence does best, but also in new ways. So we have provided incredible support to Victoria and that continues.
DAVID CAMPBELL: After the report yesterday, though Minister, we can see that the Victoria hotel quarantine programme was completely bungled using private security instead of military, so isn’t it of a national interest to give them further support?
MINISTER REYNOLDS: Well, we are, and again it’s important to remember that our Defence personnel are not law enforcement and they don’t have law enforcement powers. So we do have personnel at hotels, the hotel quarantine right across the country, but again, they don’t have the powers of law enforcement. So we are providing all the support that we can, but we can’t do everything and be everywhere. So we are providing support, but again, within the powers that we have and within the resources that we have.
And again, remember over 20,000 Defence personnel, so that’s our regular forces, our reserves, and also our public servants, have been doing an extraordinary job this year and I thank them all. And I also think their families for their support because it’s been an incredibly tough year for many of their families as well.
BELINDA RUSSELL: Yeah there’s no denying that that’s for sure. What about in Sydney? Is the ADF lending assistance to the outbreak? And what’s the plan if it blows up?
MINISTER REYNOLDS: Well, we’re in very close contact with all state and territory authorities. As I’ve said, we’re doing 21 tasks across every state and territory. We are working very closely with the New South Wales officials. We haven’t had any direct request for support, and the New South Wales Government has done an extraordinary job as you’ve seen the figures over the last few days in terms of their contact tracing and their testing. So we are on standby, but at the moment the New South Wales authorities are really doing a superb job.
DAVID CAMPBELL: Well let’s hope it stays that way, and we would like to absolutely back you up there with thanking everybody for all their support and their families as well. You have a safe Christmas Minister, and we will speak to you soon.