Gloves come off in Victoria V Federal (ADF) stoush

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews today told a Federal Government Committee that he did “not believe Australian Defence Force support was offered to help run Victoria’s hotel quarantine scheme” – and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds came out swinging in response.

CAPTION: Australian Army soldiers confirm driver’s details at a COVID-19 testing site in Victoria in support of Op COVID-19 Assist. Photo by Leading Aircraftman John Solomon.

“I think it is fundamentally incorrect to assert that there was hundreds of ADF staff on offer and somehow someone said no,” Mr Andrews told the committee.

In a statement issued to the media just a few hours later, Minister Reynolds said that Victorian authorities consistently advised Defence officials that its assistance was not required for any “public facing roles” in Victoria.

“On 28 March 2020, Victorian authorities advised that Victoria was not seeking ADF assistance with mandatory quarantine arrangements,” Minister Reynolds said.

“On 12 April 2020, Victorian authorities reaffirmed to ADF officials that all quarantine compliance monitoring operations were within Victorian authorities’ capacity.

“On 24 June 2020, Defence agreed to a Victorian Government request for 850 ADF personnel to assist with hotel quarantine compliance – [and that] request was withdrawn by the Victorian Government the following day.”

Defence’s official figure for the numbers of ADF on task in Victoria has only risen above 1000 in the past two or three days…

  • 539 ADF personnel are providing support to the Department of Health and Human Services contact tracing and community engagement efforts.
  • 324 personnel are involved in medical testing initiatives.
  • 150 personnel are supporting Victoria Police checkpoints.
  • 161 are assisting in other logistics roles, including the Police Assistance Line call centre.
  • 45 personnel are providing support to the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre.

That’s 1219 ADF personnel actually on task in Victoria, with another 500 or so on standby for assignment – as they have been for weeks.

The total number assigned specifically to Victoria is 1743.

15 ADF member have contracted COVID-19 in Melbourne, though there is no information available as to whether they live there anyway, or are working on Operation COVID-19 Response.

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Read Minister Reynolds’ statement in full

Throughout the pandemic the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has been postured to respond to requests for support from the states and territories at very short notice.

From 21 March 2020, ADF planning teams were established in every state and territory to rapidly facilitate any requests for support.

Following the Prime Minister’s offer on 27 March 2020 for ADF support to states and territories with the new mandatory 14-day quarantine period for international arrivals, the ADF discussed requirements with relevant state and territory authorities.

On 28 March 2020, Victorian authorities advised that Victoria was not seeking ADF assistance with mandatory quarantine arrangements. The ADF was consistently advised that its assistance was not required for any “public facing roles” in Victoria.

ADF officials asked whether Victorian authorities required assistance with its mandatory quarantine system on multiple occasions. No request for quarantine support was subsequently received from Victoria at that time.

On 12 April 2020, Victorian authorities reaffirmed to ADF officials that all quarantine compliance monitoring operations were within Victorian authorities’ capacity.

Defence agreed to requests for support to quarantine compliance from Queensland and NSW on 28 March.

In NSW, ADF personnel began supporting the reception of international arrivals at Sydney Airport and undertaking quarantine compliance monitoring at hotels the following day.

In Queensland, ADF personnel began supporting reception of international arrivals at Brisbane airport the following day, and supported quarantine compliance monitoring at hotels from 31 March.

On 14 April 2020, the ADF shared observations on best practice quarantine compliance monitoring operations with all state and territory police commissioners, including the success of interagency operations between the ADF and NSW Police.

On 24 June 2020, Defence agreed to a Victorian Government request for 850 ADF personnel to assist with hotel quarantine compliance. The request was withdrawn by the Victorian Government the following day. The decision to withdraw the request is a matter for the Victorian Government.

On 3 August 2020, the ADF agreed to provide up to 50 personnel to support Western Australian authorities with support to hotel quarantine.

Under Defence Assistance to the Civil Community (DACC) arrangements, Defence provides assistance to states and territories when requested through Emergency Management Australia. DACC arrangements are predicated on states and territories requesting Defence assistance.

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Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

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