Wednesday, 28 October 2020
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: Australian Defence Force
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Will the minister please update the House on how the Australian Defence Force has been deployed to assist states and territories with returned traveller movement and facilitation?
I thank the honourable member for her question and her keen interest in making sure that we can help Australians recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Obviously the federal government, from the very early days of this year, have been involved in making crucial decisions. We closed our international borders and, at that stage, the Defence Force were involved in that decision and they helped us carry out that decision. We have made decisions in relation to providing support to a number of areas across the country.
In particular, I really want to acknowledge the work of the Australian Defence Force and the work that they did in Victoria. In July, Commodore Mark Hill from the Royal Australian Navy and Colonel Bec Taylor from the Army were deployed to Victoria to provide senior military logistics and planning support to assist the Victorian DHHS in ramping up and improving contact tracing. Obviously there was a real concern in Victoria about the adequacy of the contact tracing, and the Defence Force have gone in to provide their expertise and to provide support to the Victorian government to help it get its standards up to where New South Wales and the other states were.
Mr Husic interjecting—
I know that, as of this week, there are currently 2,200 defence personnel deployed as part of Operation COVID-19 Assist, and I really want to pay tribute to the 9,000 personnel with the Australian Defence Force who have been deployed in total throughout the pandemic. It makes every Australian proud to see those men and women in uniform, providing reassurance to people in very difficult circumstances. It follows on, of course, from the work that thousands of men and women of the ADF undertook during the bushfire season—the support that they provided to communities to help those communities rebuild and to provide, as I say, the logistics and expertise that many other organisations, NGOs et cetera, just can't bring to the table.
Over many years the ADF has been trained to an exceptionally high standard. We've been able to invest in the ADF because we have put a lot of effort into getting our budget in order over recent years. We went into this pandemic having really dealt with the difficult situation budget-wise that we inherited from the Labor Party in 2013, and we have worked every day since then, including in the most recent budget—given that we do have a strong budget position—to provide support to Australians not just through JobKeeper and JobSeeker but by putting extra investment into the Australian Defence Force so that they can support their personnel to help Australia move beyond the devastation of COVID-19.
I commend the Chief of the Defence Force and all of the personnel. They should be very proud, as we are, of their efforts that have really made a significant difference to Australia's effort to combat the pandemic.