TRANSCRIPT: INTERVIEW WITH JON FAINE, ABC 774 MELBOURNE MORNINGS
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 8 JUNE 2012
JON FAINE: On the line first is Senator David Feeney, he's the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, which means he's the kind of junior Minister for Defence in the Federal Government.
Defence personnel have been hard at work down in Gippsland, helping out in the flood-affected areas. Senator Feeney, good morning to you.
SENATOR DAVID FEENEY: And good morning, Jon, how are you?
JON FAINE: How many people have been deployed down in Gippsland from the military?
SENATOR DAVID FEENEY: We had about 40 personnel from the Air Force, from the Royal Australian Air Force based at East Sale, and then we had a second group of Army drivers working around the six trucks that we sent to assist, so perhaps there was something in the order of 60, altogether.
JON FAINE: And I said - I think it was Monday or Tuesday, shortly after this emergency started, that there's every reason why they should be thrown into the emergency effort as soon as it's known that there's an emergency, is that how it works? Do they readily get called upon?
SENATOR DAVID FEENEY: Yes, it's one of the principle missions of the Australian Defence Forces, and most particularly Australian Defence Force Reserves, to assist in moments of emergency, and of course, you'll recall, Jon, during the Victorian fires, there were various units and sub-units that were deployed to assist during that crisis, and people will also remember the Brisbane floods, when the Royal Queensland Regiment played such a leadership role there in sandbagging Brisbane against those floods, and even Cyclone Yasi, in Far North Queensland.
So there's been several big emergencies in very recent times, where the ADF have played a central role, and I guess, as you say, it's one of the things they do, providing Defence assistance to civil communities, it's not just disasters overseas that see our forces provide humanitarian assistance, it's disasters right here at home as well.
JON FAINE: Were any Defence assets affected by the floods themselves?
SENATOR DAVID FEENEY: No, not to my knowledge, although I probably need to make sure that the RAAF base at East Sale I think might have been theoretically threatened by floods, but there was no damage, that I'm aware of.
JON FAINE: And what would these people be doing if they weren't filling sand bags? What happens to the work they're otherwise supposed to be doing?
SENATOR DAVID FEENEY: Well, there are two answers to that. For full-time personnel in the Australian Defence Forces, they literally just drop everything when they are assigned to a task like this, it obviously becomes the priority.
For Australian Defence Force reserves, it's a little more complex, they are called to assist, their civilian employers obviously then have to manage the absence of their reservist employee, I might say that civilian employers, 99 times out of 100, are fantastic at supporting their employees as they go off to do military service. They will literally assemble from all corners of the land to take up the job that is offered to them.
During the recent trials in Queensland or in Victoria, we had ADF reserves coming in from interstate to assist, so reservists obviously, not only sacrifice being away from home, and being away from family, but also being away from their work, and away from their careers.
JON FAINE: They certainly do. Hey, did you watch Today Tonight, A Current Affair, about Craig Thomson the other night?
SENATOR DAVID FEENEY: I have to confess I didn't, but I - as you would expect of politicians, I'm trying to follow this story, at least in the broad, so I've followed it in the print media.
JON FAINE: How does it change Mr Thomson's position within the Labor Party from which you've asked him to withdraw, the fact that the basis upon which he was asked to sit on the cross benches is now somewhat less than credible, do you invite him back?
SENATOR DAVID FEENEY: Oh, I don't think we're at that point, Jon, but I just can't help feel what everyone else watching this story is feeling, which is just what an extraordinary abuse of journalism it was. The supposed prostitute brought forward, and then she recanted it, I mean it was a very untidy moment that I think reflected very poorly on the journalists who put that story together.
JON FAINE: Thank you for your time this morning. Senator David Feeney, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence.
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