Topics: ADF support to Victoria
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NATALIE BARR: Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has called for Army back-up to enforce the State's strict new lockdown measures. Nearly 1,500 members of the ADF are already on the ground, assisting with contact tracing, road blocks and door knocking. Veterans have also been called in to fill roles in aged care homes. For more, I'm joined by Defence Minister Linda Reynolds. Good morning to you. Exactly what do you need now? Are you calling for more defence personnel, particularly veterans, to fill some of these roles?
MINISTER REYNOLDS: Well Nat, we currently have 1,500 personnel doing a wide range of roles with Victorian authorities. We’ve got 315 doing contact tracing, we have 180 doing testing, and we have now done 100,000 tests over the last month in Victoria alone. But we do have another 500 on standby, ready to do new tasks in Victoria, and we’re expecting that many of those will go to assist authorities in the aged care sector.
NATALIE BARR: So those veterans are filling a particular role, aren't they? Tell us about what they are doing in aged care and how specialised and how welcome they are.
MINISTER REYNOLDS: Veterans, even though they have officially left the services, still have a great deal of experience. It was logical to put the call out to our veterans, and they have answered beautifully, and are now working in aged care using their specialist skills. But also just being there and doing general skills as well. So they are very valuable addition to our assistance.
NATALIE BARR: What else will, how many more defence personnel will be heading to Melbourne?
MINISTER REYNOLDS: As many as needed. As you know we are working very closely with Victorian authorities; 1500 already troops to task, another 500 ready to go. We will provide as many as we can and that are needed, in the tasks that we can assist with. We are not aged care specialists but we can provide some nursing assistance and other general duties assistance to free up other clinical staff. Wherever we can help, we are.
NATALIE BARR: How can you be sure that they are safe? That any of them are not going to come down with the virus?
MINISTER REYNOLDS:Their safety is our number one priority and it’s certainly my number one priority. Sadly, the ADF personnel have been dealing with this virus since it started at the beginning of the year. We have over 2,000 deployed personnel on ships and in many nations that have had big problems with COVID-19. We know how to take the precautions necessary and, sadly, we know how to deal with it.
We have had one personnel infected in Victoria who is assisting with the response. But we have had 76 all up domestically and internationally. Fortunately 67 have already recovered. So we do take the same precautions in each state and territory as the authorities that we are working with do. It is an insidious virus but we take all precautions. But there are still risks.
NATALIE BARR: Linda Reynolds thanks for your time.