ADF: Cost of sending Australian Defence Force into disaster zones revealed
The cost of sending troops into domestic emergencies exceeded $200 million in the past three years, according to figures.
The Defence Force has been leant on heavily during a period which has included devastating bushfires, floods, cyclones and a once-in-century pandemic.
The overall cost of the deployments has been revealed as $213 million in figures supplied to a Parliamentary inquiry examining Australia’s disaster preparedness.
The figure is only up until the end of 2022, meaning it doesn’t cover the cost of the response to the East Kimberley floods earlier this year.
Supporting the national COVID-19 response – where troops were used for everything from policing border checkpoints and hotel quarantine to helping with testing and contact tracing – was the most expensive, costing almost $120 million.
The flood responses in NSW and Queensland cost $25 million, while $68.4 million was spent assisting the States and Territories in responding to the Black Summer fires in 2019-20.
The unprecedented scale and duration of the deployments has taken its toll on Defence
The West Australian last month revealed warnings from Defence that it risked not being fully prepared for its main role of defending the nation if it kept being sent into domestic disaster zones.
More than 35,000 personnel have been deployed for domestic emergencies since the start of Black Summer, according to Defence Department figures.
The Albanese Government is now examining options to reduce the reliance on the military when disasters strike.
One option which has been floated is to create a “civil” defence force to respond to domestic emergencies, although the Government hasn’t confirmed if that idea was under consideration.
The West Australian understand the soon-to-be released Defence Strategic Review will examine the strain domestic emergencies is putting on the military.
Opposition emergency management spokesman Perin Davey, who sits on the committee and requested the figures, said she was not surprised at the cost of deployments.
The Nationals deputy leader said there was a growing expectation in the community that the military, once considered a last resort for responding to natural disasters, would be on “speed dial”.
Senator Davey said it was important the public understood the deployments not only cost money, but diverted personnel from their main responsibilities, such as training.
“The army are not free,” she told The West Australian.
“Yes, they are always on our books and they are always on the job so to speak. (But) when you are actually diverting them from their day jobs to another area, it comes at a cost.
“I’m not saying that it’s cost that we shouldn’t bare. I’m saying that it’s a cost that we as a society should be aware of.”
Senator Davey said it was too early to speculate on possible future models to ease the pressure on Defence.