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ADF Support To Tonga - Update

Sunday, 19 November 2006

ADF Support To Tonga - Update

Australian Defence Force personnel arrived in Tonga at 7.10 pm local time (5.10pm AEST) yesterday and commenced their mission as part of the New Zealand led combined military force to support the Tongan Security Forces in stabilising the situation.

Current reports are that the situation in Nuku’alofa remains calm.

The contingent of around 50 ADF personnel has linked up with their New Zealand Defence Force colleagues who are providing security to the Fau’amotu International Airport. Today planning will occur with the Tongan Security Forces to confirm the way ahead in returning normalcy to Nuku’alofa.

Later today a Royal Australian Air Force Boeing 707 aircraft will provide a number of seats to support the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) arranged voluntary departure for Australian and other approved foreign nationals. This aircraft will arrive at the Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport tonight. Inquiries about this activity and arrival details should be directed to DFAT.

Defence remains in close consultation with other government agencies with regards to the situation in Tonga.

Media Note:

Still images of ADF arrival in Tonga are available on the Defence website at http://www.defence.gov.au/media/download/

Media contact:

Defence Media Liaison (02) 6265 3343 or 0408 498 664

For a free subscription to Defence Direct, the Minister for Defence's monthly e-newsletter, please follow this link: http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/defencedirect/spt/subscribe.html

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

Is the ADF supporting the evacuation of Australian citizens and approved foreign nationals?

The Australian Government is offering a limited number of seats on a returning Australian Defence Force flight to Sydney (Kingsford Smith Airport). This is a voluntary departure and is not an evacuation.

This flight will leave Tonga on the afternoon of 19 November and is planned to arrive in Sydney tonight, noting that unforseen changes may effect timings.

Questions regarding this should be directed to DFAT.

How do people arrange to be evacuated?

People interested need to contact the Australian High Commission in Nuku’alofa on 23244 as soon as possible.

Has Australia received an official request from Tonga to help restore security?

Yes, an official request from the Tongan Government was received on Friday evening. The Tongan Government requested Australia to provide police and military personnel to assist with law and order in their country.

What is defence contributing to the Government response to assist Tonga?

The ADF contribution is drawn primarily from the 1st Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment and includes around 30 infantry soldiers and 20 logistic personnel.

The length of their deployment will be determined as the situation becomes clearer in the coming days.

A RAAF C-130 Hercules aircraft transported 34 AFP officers from Canberra to Tonga on Saturday morning.

What is New Zealand sending?

New Zealand has deployed around 60 military personnel and a small amount of consular and police officials. Questions on the New Zealand deployment should be directed to New Zealand authorities.

What does the ADF’s task involve?

Australia has deployed forces to assist the Government of Tonga in establishing an environment in which a peaceful resolution to the current unrest can be expedited. This assistance will be a restrained and measured approach that enables effective support to the Tongan Security Forces.

Will the troops be armed?

Yes.

Defence will not discuss the specifics of its rules of engagement.

Will defence be using its aircraft or ships to evacuate Australians?

There is scope to utilise RAAF aircraft should evacuation of Australian and approved nationals be required.

What assets does Australia currently have deployed in the South Pacific?

Royal Australian Navy ships HMAS Success, HMAS Newcastle and HMAS Kanimbla deployed to the South West Pacific earlier this month in light of the possible unrest in Fiji.

These assets remain in international waters.

Will the ships assist in Tonga?

At this stage, there is no requirement for these ships to move to Tonga, however they remain ready to assist if required.

Is Australia pre-positioning other aircraft or Navy vessels in anticipation of a deployment to Tonga?

The ADF is prepared to respond further in accordance with Australian Government direction.

Is the ADF able to maintain preparedness levels to deal with possible unrest in both Fiji and Tonga?

Defence maintains a significant capability to deal with situations that arise in Australia’s region at all times. This deployment is further evidence of the high readiness and capacity of the ADF. What presence did the ADF already have in Tonga?

The ADF have three advisers in Nuku’alofa attached to the Defence Cooperation Program.

The advisers and their families are safe and well.

ENDS


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