By KIERAN FINNANE
The Department of Defence has not provided a clear answer to my question on whether contractors and military personnel at Pine Gap are exempted from the restriction on non-citizens coming into Australia.
Left: Map, dated 21 March, shows the six cases of COVID-19 currently “being managed” by Defence. The Victorian case is new since my last report.
The ban on all non-citizens and non-residents coming into Australia as a protective measure against the spread of COVID-19 was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday and came into force from 9pm last night, Friday 2o March.
I asked my question on Thursday and received a reply this morning.
Defence could have said yes, the ban applies to all non-citizen or non-resident contractors and military personnel, or they could have said they are exempt, or exempt under certain conditions and even outlined what those conditions might be.
However this is the reply supplied:
“Defence is enacting business continuity plans to help minimise the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to keep staff safe and ensure that the department continues to deliver essential capabilities.
“Defence continues to follow the advice issued by the Department of Health and has implemented necessary preventative measures. This is important for the protection of Defence personnel and critical operations, as well as for the wellbeing of the Australian public more broadly.
“Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap, like broader Defence, is adapting its policy and procedures as required to ensure compliance with Government policy in relation to COVID-19. The Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap is working with Government and its international partners to implement this decision in the context of its operational requirements.”
Does the phrase “in the context of its operational requirements” mean that there are exemptions?
I have invited Defence to provide a clearly-worded response.
I also asked about whether the current six cases of infection being managed by Defence (an increase of one since 18 March) are instances of community transmission and if not, what source country they are related to.
Defence replied that they “cannot provide information on specific COVID-19 cases in states/territories, these questions should be directed to the appropriate state/territory authority”.
Defence have advised by phone that they will not be providing a further statement now, as the situation is “fluid”, but have invited me to check again in a few days’ time. Which I will.
In closing its borders to interstate arrivals the NT will make exemptions including for defence personnel. See the government’s announcement here. It does not specify whether they are citizens or not.
By KIERAN FINNANE