8 February 2021
Topics: ADF support to Victoria, hotel quarantine.
SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: Victoria's hotel quarantine system will receive a major boost this morning after their flight was turned back at the 11th hour last night. The first wave of ADF personnel are expected to fly into Melbourne to bolster security across 22 hotels.
DAVID KOCH: Now, the planned arrival, however, came as a shock to the state's Health Minister after an earlier request for assistance was knocked back around Christmas time.
MARTIN FOLEY: Well, I’m not particularly briefed on that matter.
DAVID KOCH: Last night’s plane was cancelled for operational reasons.
SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: And for more Defence Minister Linda Reynolds joins us now from Canberra. Minister, good morning to you. How closely is the Federal Government working with the States? The Health Minister there in Victoria didn't seem to know, really, what was going on regarding hotel quarantine.
MINISTER REYNOLDS: Good morning. And I can confirm that we received a request from the Premier of Victoria – from Dan Andrews on the 29th of January – he wrote to the Prime Minister and made an additional request for ADF personnel to go from 12 to 22 hotel support in Victoria. We accepted that and we are well underway. The incident you're referring to was, we had due last night for 64 members of the third brigade in Townsville to fly by C-130 down to Melbourne. Unfortunately, on arrival it had some technical issues but again, the Royal Australian Air Force being the can-do organisation, we got 50 down to Melbourne last night and the rest will come by civilian air today. So, in relation to the Minister not being aware, this was a request from his own Premier. So that's not an issue for the Federal Government. It's really a communication issue between a Premier and his Minister.
DAVID KOCH: That’s fair enough. Now, the Emergency Services Minister would like to see the ADF help out with floor monitoring to take some of the load off the police. What roles will Defence Force personnel be carrying out?
MINISTER REYNOLDS: Well, Koshi we've had over 14,000 ADF personnel over the last year providing a whole range of support, some of which were things that the ADF does very well. Operational support, planning, administration and also, we've done things that we haven't traditionally done at the request of states and territories. Everything from working in aged care to driving ambulances to working on state borders and also hotel quarantine. But a really important point Koshi, is that, the Defence forces are not state police. And quite deliberately in our Constitution we're here to protect our national borders, not do domestic law enforcement. So, we do not have the power that state and territory police do and nor should we. So, we're doing everything we can but that is one step too far. So, we've been very consistent in our advice to states and territories that we can help with general duties at hotels which we have been doing. But we can't sit on hallways – have our highly trained ADF sitting in hallways because they have no powers to stop and apprehend.
SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: And they have been extraordinary – our ADF – in helping out this hotel quarantine. We thank you for your time this morning, Minister.
LINDA REYNOLDS: Anytime.
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