Defence Bushfire Briefing
10 January 2020
ELLWOOD: Thanks very much for being here. Look, I thought it worthwhile to provide a context that, as I stand here, it's been just on a week since the real surge in effort began and amazing things have been achieved by the Australian Defence Force but the emergency services and the Australian people writ large and I would note and now that we have just under 2000 Reservists on duty, we have three ships out providing support, we have numerous helicopters, numerous aircraft, we have integrated foreign elements who are providing wonderful assistance, I mean, it is just an amazing thing that has been achieved in such a very, very short time.
So, today we see a very fluid situation. Difficult conditions and we'll have to see how things progress. Just know that everyone is doing their absolute best to mitigate the very difficult circumstances that are before us.
I was at Homebush in Sydney at the RFS headquarters today and met with the New South Wales Premier, their Fire Service Commissioner and the Assistant Commissioner of Police and the amazing work being done by the leadership and, indeed, the entire team in New South Wales is amazing and there is wonderful integration with the Australian Defence Force personnel. You couldn't ask for better.
In terms of Kangaroo Island, at about 5:00 this morning it became apparent that the situation had significantly worsened and so we dispatched a C130 and C17 that is currently at Edinburgh RAAF Edinburgh that is on standby, ready to assist with whatever the State leadership or the emergency services require. We are there to support, but we thought it prudent just to have additional assets in location in case.
The Snowy and Alpine regions are particularly going to be it's going to be particularly difficult out there today. We are reposturing a number of our aircraft. We obviously have a number of personnel out on the ground as well to make sure that we are postured to support our emergency management services in their endeavours and I mentioned several days ago that we have two air mobile teams that are at the ready that can launch, if required, into remote areas to provide assistance and so, additionally, I guess worth noting that we are also reposturing our other assets to make sure that we can deal with the situation as it pertains to the southeast coast, so from Narooma to Batemans Bay, we just want to make sure that we are postured ready to support anything that is required of us.
In terms of Mallacoota, I mentioned yesterday that there were issues of supply with fuel. We have put in 5,400L of diesel and some ULP. That will continue today to increase their stocks and, additionally, HMAS Choules will land at around about 1530 off Mallacoota to provide additional stores that are required and, on Mallacoota, I would also mention I think it is worth mentioning, in fact it's not just Mallacoota but, as context, there are a number of private and commercial entities that have been providing, again, wonderful support and, off Mallacoota from the very start was a merchant vessel 'Far Saracen' who was there to provide assistance and, again, thanks to everyone who were part of those efforts.
Pleasingly, today, we were able to get a reconnaissance element through to Mallacoota. They were in armoured vehicles and now the good part about that is that it means we have an emergency route that we can take into Mallacoota but it is not safe for normal vehicles. These are armoured vehicles designed for very tough and difficult terrain but that is now there for any extremist conditions. What we're trying to do is just get our armoured vehicles moving to as many locations as we can, as we need to, to confirm routes.
We are standing up forces a force of around 100 in Tasmania and they'll be on a 48 hours notice to move just in case any situations eventuate there. Again, ready to support our emergency services. The support communications nodes in Kalgoorlie are in location to provide communications assistance to the emergency services there and, as I said at the very start, we've just under 2000 Army Reserves are now on the job so that is all of my briefing. Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST 1: Just on Kangaroo Island, if you could talk us through the C130, C17 and are they at RAAF Edinburgh?
ELLWOOD: Edinburgh, yeah.
JOURNALIST 1: Yeah. Are they on standby for the rest of the day? I know it's cooling down a bit there.
ELLWOOD: Absolutely. No, they're on standby for the rest of the day and for as long as we need and, additionally, we can bring in stores and supplies as required so it's a very handy thing to have at this moment.
JOURNALIST 1: So they'll be bringing in supplies? Is that their main role?
ELLWOOD: They will. So we're going to offer that up to the emergency services and the leadership. Alright, great. Thank you very much.