Topics: ADF support to Victoria, AUSMIN
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MARK BERETTA: Defence Minister Linda Reynolds joins us now from Canberra this morning isolating after her recent visit to Washington this week. Minister, good morning to you. We know that at least one ADF member has contracted COVID. Is that just a reminder of how dangerous this mission is?
MINISTER REYNOLDS: Well good morning, Mark. And, yes, it is. Currently, we have 3,200 ADF members supporting all states and territories and 1,400 in Victoria alone. We have been working on COVID-19 response for many months now, and we also have - many Australians might not know - but we still have over 2,000 Defence personnel overseas on ships and in COVID-19 hotspots. So we are very experienced at protecting our people, but also making sure that when they do test positive that they have the best possible health care. So it is a very important reminder of not only what our ADF personnel are putting themselves in the line for, but also the other health and emergency services personnel.
MONIQUE WRIGHT: Minister, the role for the ADF just seems to keep expanding - door knocking with police ensuring compliance, now flying squads sent into aged care homes - are there other tasks that the ADF are doing? And is there a capacity to expand that more should it be needed?
MINISTER REYNOLDS: Well Mon, yes, there is. Currently in Victoria of the 1,400 personal we have a tasked on the ground, we've got about 315 who are doing logistical support and operational support with the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services. We've got about 180 medical professionals who are providing medical testing. We've got 150 doing checkpoint support with Victorian Police, and 160 doing logistics, and also other operational support and planning tasking. So with the ADF, we train them well, we train them to be adaptable, and they are very responsive. So, we've got another 500 on standby for new taskings in Victoria as we work through with the Victorian Government how best to - as we say - put troops to task.
MARK BERETTA: Minister, a busy year for the ADF. We've seen the work through drought relief, and at times flood relief, and bushfire relief, and now in a big capacity during the COVID-19 crisis. Is that something that you see the evolution, if you like, of the Defence force? We see more work done here assisting domestically, do you think?
MINISTER REYNOLDS: Yes, Mark you’re spot on. With the training that the ADF have, we are very versatile and we do a lot of support, what we call humanitarian and disaster response training, and also support in our regions, so assisting a cyclone, and floods, and other natural disaster impacted countries in our region. But the wonderful thing is that those tasks that we've trained forward to assist others are also equally applicable to help right here in Australia. So in our recent Defence Strategic Update, we have said very clearly that we need to do more training and prepare more widely to assist in Australia.
MONIQUE WRIGHT: What a great job that they're doing. I just want to ask you, Minister before we let you go about your own self isolation, that is after returning from these high-level talks that you've had in Washington. Were you personally worried about going to the States?
MINISTER REYNOLDS: Look, no, I wasn't, because I know the precautions that we took, and that our people in Washington also made sure that we adhere to. And again, we have not only diplomats but Defence staff working in Washington right now, and they know what we need to take, and again, we've taken all health advice and as you said, I am now under ACT Government self-isolation supervision, and I'll be here for another 14 days. Defence has set me up fantastically well, I've got all the computing equipment and security I need to keep participating and doing my job as normal as so many other Australians are now doing right.
MARK BERETTA: Minister, thanks for your time, and if you could pass on all our best and from the rest of Australia for the great work the ADF is doing on the front line, we really appreciate.
MINISTER REYNOLDS: Thanks, I will do.
MARK BERETTA: Thanks Minister.