The HMAS Adelaide, has arrived offshore from Eden on the NSW far south coast to help with bushfire efforts.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that Australia’s largest navy ship is carrying engineering equipment to support road clearing, as well as relief supplies and medical teams to assist where needed.
“This will be done be done in close coordination with the state authorities as we assess that need,” Mr Morrison said.
The HMAS Choules and MV Sycamore were returning to Mallacoota where they had previously ferried evacuees from coastal Victoria, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds told ABC on Sunday.
“We are in discussions with the NSW and Victorian government on how best to utilise these vessels today and moving forward,” she said.
There were 400 troops on the Adelaide, as well as 300 tonnes of emergency supplies and an on-board hospital, Senator Reynolds said.
She repeated Saturday’s announcement that defence would be opening bases from Brisbane to Adelaide to help bushfire-affected Australians.
Senator Reynolds said states and territories still got the ultimate call on where and when defence assets were deployed.
“This is an unprecedented national disaster … we are ramping up even more assets,” she told ABC.
“We are being as forward leaning as possible to make sure that we have the maximum of resources available when the states asked for it.”
She said the army had specialist medical, engineering and aerial reconnaissance teams.
The defence deployment also included the compulsory call out of up to 3000 defence reservists to help with bushfire efforts.
Senator Reynolds defended the prime minister’s handling of Saturday’s announcement, with NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons saying on Sunday he only became aware of the roll out through media reports.
She told reporters in Canberra Prime Minister Scott Morrison had told the leaders of bushfire-affected states before the announcement.
“How states then advise their own bureaucrats is an issue for them,” Senator Reynolds said.
Mr Fitzsimmons said the prime minister’s office has apologised for failing to notify him.