New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has been given 300 Australian Defence Force troops to enforce the controversial Sydney lockdown.
Fuller made a formal request to the federal government, seeking assistance to enforce the state's Covid compliance operation.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian had previously rejected offers from the federal government, but with the threat of further protests, NSW has accepted the help.
The intention of the ADF troops is to ‘boost the operational footprint’ of existing resources.
Major anti-lockdown protests last Saturday saw thousands of frustrated residents flood the CBD, demanding freedom from government health orders. As there is no protest organiser to take to court, the NSW government has focused on pursuing anyone who breaks Covid health directions. Thousands of tip-offs have been sent in from members of the public.
The decision to use the ADF in a visible role is likely to cause controversy, given there is a great deal of difference between the Army assisting with floods and bushfires compared to policing Australian citizens.
Australians are not accustomed to heavy a police presence on their streets, let alone the use of the army outside their doors. The issue is particularly fragile given the large amount of civil resistance to health orders which have been creating financial havoc in NSW, costing the state $2 billion a week.
In a press conference earlier today, Fuller declined to rule out bringing in the ADF to patrol Sydney streets.
“Nothing is off the table between the conversation between the [NSW] premier and myself. We are not stretched at the moment, but clearly if there was an LGA expansion I would absolutely have the confidence in expanding the Australian Defence Force in NSW. To be clear, they are working with us now in hotel quarantine, they are working in our police operation centre – some forty-thousand shifts in hotel quarantine. If we had to use them, absolutely I would call out,” said Commissioner Mick Fuller.
David Elliott, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, also voiced his support for the announcement.
“As I have said previously, support from the Army will add another line of defence to the NSW Government's crackdown on Covid-19 compliance. The Army’s unique skills and training have combined many times with those of our police officers to serve the people of NSW in times of crisis, such as the floods of severe bushfires we’ve experienced in recent years.”
Prohibiting political protests, even in a pandemic, remains a big question in Australia. Police failed to stop Black Lives Matter and Metoo protests at other points during the Covid outbreak, but have always shown a heavy-handed response when a protest is held in the name of liberty. The double standard continues to be a matter of contention between Australian citizens.
Early today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison caused his own controversy during a radio interview with 3AW when he laid the ground work for discrimination based upon vaccination status.
“We’d have to have more restrictions on people who are unvaccinated because they’re a danger to themselves and others. If you’re not vaccinated you present a greater health risk to yourself and to others than people who are vaccinated […] and public health decisions will have to be made on that basis,” said Scott Morrison.
“If people are unvaccinated they are more at risk and would have to have more restrictions on people who are unvaccinated because they are a danger to themselves and others.”
Morrison did not elaborate, but hinted that the state premiers were on board with announcing increased restrictions on citizens. He did, however, strongly oppose compulsory vaccination.
This comes despite advice from both the CDC and vaccine producers that Covid vaccines do not stop transmission, but rather lesson serious symptoms in vaccinated individuals. On July 27, the CDC updated its advice to recommend fully vaccinated adults and children continue wearing masks indoors.
It is not the first time a Liberal politician has found themselves in hot water when being interviewed by 3AW’s Neil Mitchell. Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien endorsed jail for those who refused to cooperate fully with contact tracers during the last Victorian outbreak.
The Prime Minister refused to guarantee that Australia would be open by the end of 2021.
“There is a clear learning here, and that is the approach that I would expect states would follow in the future,” said Scott Morrison.
The public service continue to ‘learn’ on full pay, while the NSW residents in the thick of the lockdown watch their businesses collapse.