Politics

Tributes for Defence amid floods, fires

Senators have paid tribute to the thousands of Defence personnel deployed to an unprecedented number of natural disasters and the coronavirus pandemic.

Defence personnel have been supporting the community amid natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic for over 14 months and will soon establish up to 12 vaccination teams to cover more remote locations.

“This week, the ADF is once again stepping up, this time to support the people of NSW through devastating floods,” acting Defence Minister Marise Payne told a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday

Defence has established Operation NSW Flood Assist to help emergency services with almost a week of flooding rains.

ADF helicopters are supplementing state search and rescue capabilities, including winch recovery operations from both Bega and Nowra.

Additional aircraft are being moved from Queensland to NSW to sustain the support and civilian aircraft have been given access to the Richmond base on the outskirts of Sydney to help with evacuation of the Colo River region.

Senator Payne said the ADF will also deploy to help with the clean-up and restore essential services such as electricity and water.

Around 170 Army personnel are on 24-hours notice to move to assist with the recovery operation and a second support force of around 290 ADF is also being prepared to deploy.

Specialist engineers from Holsworthy barracks are also standing by.

More than 8200 ADF members participated in Operation Bushfire Assist that ended a year ago.

Committee chair Eric Abetz and Labor’s Penny Wong added their support to the unprecedented work, that also included helping Western Australia with bushfires last month.

In the last 12 months, more than 15,000 Defence personnel in Operation COVID Assist have been deployed across Australia, peaking at nearly 3000 last September to support state and territory governments.

Over 1000 are still deployed, including 652 on hotel quarantine duties and around 70 supporting the rollout of the vaccine in aged care and disability and a further 20 providing logistics support to the federal health department.

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