Interview Sunrise with Monique Wright and Matt Doran

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Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC

Minister for Defence

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Nicky Hamer (Minister Reynolds’ Office): +61 437 989 927

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22 December 2020

  • Topics: ADF support to Victoria, IGADF Afghanistan Inquiry

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MOMONIQUE WRIGHT: Well, the Victorian Premier has slammed the ADF saying that he's disappointed with the lack of support. Daniel Andrews requested up to 300 Defence Force personnel to assist with the border closure to New South Wales, but they were only delivered 50. 

MATT DORAN: The ADF says it will provide support for logistics, contact tracing and hotel quarantine, but not border closures because that's a State decision and a State issue. There are more than 1,000 Defence Force personnel currently stationed around the country to help try to control this latest outbreak. For more, we're joined by Defence Minister Linda Reynolds. 

Minister, a big thank you for your time during such a busy period. The ADF has helped patrol borders in July – that was of course when the second wave hit. Certainly appreciate the ADF is very, very busy on those other fronts that we've discussed, contact tracing, hotel quarantine and the like.  Why was the decision taken not to provide the 200 or 300 people that Victoria requested for the management of the borders?  

MINISTER REYNOLDS:  Well, firstly, good morning, and Merry Christmas to you all. This year the ADF has provided unprecedented support to the Australian communities, in fact the ADF have been continuously on the job now for over 12 months, and over 20,000 of our Defence personnel and our public servants have been supporting both the operation, Bushfire Assist with the bushfires, those terrible bushfires earlier in the year, 8,500, and now over 11,000 have supported COVID responses right across this nation.

Today, as you've said, we've got over 1,500 personnel in every State and Territory supporting State and Territory, 21 tasks across the States and Territories. But in September and October this year we did advise the States that we would progressively be coming off the border checkpoints themselves because it's a matter of priority.

We've got many other things we need to support in Defence, both for COVID‑19 and also on operations, but in particular we're now getting ready for the high-risk weather season, and as we've seen, we've already started to see cyclones forming. We've been assisting this week our Fijian family with their disaster response. So there's a lot of competing priorities. We still do have 250 personnel in Victoria, and while we weren't able to support directly putting more personnel on the border checkpoints themselves, we are providing over 50 people, we're providing accommodation and meals for the Victorian personnel. So the ADF is certainly still doing its bit right across the country and I could not be any prouder of what they've been doing.

MONIQUE WRIGHT:  Minister, Victoria's Hotel Quarantine Inquiry was handed down yesterday of course and it found the private security guards were the wrong option there, we all know that now. ADF troops are now being used to assist in the new hotel quarantine program. Now, if more troops are required over the next few weeks for either hotels, borders, logistics, will that number be allocated to Victoria? Will you review that 50 or are you at capacity for them?  

MINISTER REYNOLDS: Look, it's not a matter of capacity for any State or Territory, we assess every task.  And as I've said, we're still doing over 20 tasks across the country, and it's important to remember that ADF personal are not law enforcement, so they don't have law enforcement powers. We're providing all possible support in the things that we do best in terms of logistics administration.  We're still doing contact tracing, and we are providing support at hotels and other quarantine facilities right across the nation, but again we're in support of State and Territory police, and our default position is always to see what we can do, not what we can't do.

MATT DORAN: Minister, yes, certainly the ADF is doing a phenomenal job and Australians are very grateful. Can I just ask you about another issue, the Brereton report. Last month's inquiry into our Special Forces in Afghanistan handed down of course a number of recommendations.  One of those was to strip Special Operations Task Group members of their service awards. This has obviously been quite controversial. Has our Defence Chief made a final decision yet on whether this recommendation will be carried out?

MINISTER REYNOLDS: Look, in relation to the Brereton report, as you said, it was handed down, and I would encourage all Australians, if they're interested in this issue, you can search Afghanistan Inquiry and have a look at the report itself to see what it has said.  As the Chief of Defence Force has said, no final decisions have been made. And these are big, they are complex, and they are very challenging issues. So the Chief of Defence Force at the moment is working with Defence's senior leadership, in close consultation with myself, and he's putting together a comprehensive implementation plan to deal with the many complex issues, as people would expect, in a very methodical and a very deliberate way.  So that is being prepared at the moment and it will deal with all of these issues.  But again, doing it very methodically and very carefully.

MONIQUE WRIGHT: All right. Well, Defence Minister, Linda Reynolds, we really appreciate your time. Merry Christmas to you and your family. Thanks for being with us this year.

MINISTER REYNOLDS: And Merry Christmas to you too, and to all our Defence families.

MONIQUE WRIGHT:  Absolutely, yep.  Hear hear.



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