Facing Down Fires and then COVID-19: the Defence Force Contribution
David Pembroke in conversation with Greg Moriarty and General Angus Campbell
Greg Moriarty, Secretary of the Department of Defence and General Angus Campbell AO DSC, Chief of the Australian Defence Force, were recently interviewed for the WORK WITH PURPOSE podcast.
The first area of discussion was the support the Australian Defence Force provided to the bushfire effort across Australia from September 2019 through to the first few months of 2020.
About 3,000 reservists and another 3,500 full time personnel worked to support the fire effort, said General Campbell.
‘All over the country there were affected families and communities who would stop and say something just to acknowledge the military personnel who had been helping them. Someone fixing a fence, someone who’d fixed a water generator to make sure the cattle had some water, people who were restocking shelves. No matter what it was, there a Defence Force member working with state and territory emergency services, trying to assist.’
Greg Moriarty spoke above the way the scale of involvement had changed Defence Force thinking.
‘It’s had a very significant impact on the broad defence enterprise — the Australian Defence Force, our Defence public servants and our contractors — and we’ve learned to work differently. The idea of quick mobilisation, the idea of being able to respond flexibly, using our bases differently… the use of reservists, being able to do that, being more agile about those response mechanisms.
It’s also about making us think more about what type of equipment and stores and provisioning we might need to do in advance of the next bushfire season. But also thinking about what we might need to do in the region, in our region, to be able to support our friends and partners if there are regional contingencies — how we can adjust our doctrine, our processes, and have the skills to be able to deal with that.’
The discussion then turned to the involvement of Defence in the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic with Greg Moriarty saying:
‘We were very much involved, right from the start, in the whole of government effort, and the mechanisms that the government stood up, the national coordination mechanism which was run out of Home Affairs with a strong Emergency Management Australia element, the broader contribution to the COVID-19 the whole of government processes around the National Security Committee of Cabinet which we supported.
The Prime Minister was also involved and set up these Cabinet Office policy committees to discuss the particular dimensions, and we were very much involved in one of those lines of effect. And… we were also heavily involved through the Chief Operating Offices Committee into the whole of government.’
General Campbell described how military and civil planning teams were deployed early on across the Commonwealth Government and also state and territory governments.
‘We’ve worked now across all the state and territory governments, a range of agencies, our military medical capability linked in where appropriate to states and territories, as well as engaging across foreign affairs and trade with partners in our region to see how, as a community of nations, we can help each other, we can inform each other, we can learn from each other
I think it’s been another step when your country is completely challenged by a virus, so it’s not geographically contained with regard to a bushfire or a cyclone, but it’s theoretically the entire country. You need everything turned on, and everything made available and willing to be flexible and adapt to whatever is needed. And that’s what we’ve tried to do across the enterprise.’
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