Defence Force Called In To Help With Sydney BS-19 Lockdown Enforcement
The Australian Defence Force will assist with enforcement of Sydney’s lockdown following a formal request to Prime Minister Scott Morrison from NSW Police.
While NSW has previously declined an offer for military assistance with the operation to enforce COVID-19 public health orders, police said an escalation of efforts over the coming days justified the request.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller made the formal request to the federal government for 300 Defence Force personnel, police said in a statement.
“With an increase in enforcement activity over the coming week, I have now made a formal request to the Prime Minister for ADF personnel to assist with that operation,” Mr Fuller said.
“The assistance of the ADF has been essential over the past 18 months – particularly during last year’s border operation, the ongoing hotel quarantine operation and the assistance provided with logistics support in the Police Operations Centre.”
NSW Police Minister David Elliott said the military had an effective and functional relationship with police.
“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 and severe bushfires we’ve experienced in recent years,” he said.
Last week, Mr Fuller said NSW had passed up an offer of Defence Force assistance in early July because transmission in south-west Sydney was taking place between household contacts, not in public places, and police already had an operation in motion.
On Thursday, Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed 239 new cases of COVID-19, the state’s highest daily number since the pandemic began as a large number of people remain in the community while infectious.
Following the unwelcome development, the government announced a toughening of police powers to enforce public health orders as part of a high-visibility operation.
In a statement, Mr Elliott said thousands of officers would be deployed across Sydney as police were granted new powers to shut down risky businesses, construction sites and public premises.
The penalty for not wearing a mask where required has also been increased from $200 to $500.
Under the toughened rules, exercise, outdoor recreation and singles bubble visits can only happen within five kilometres of a person’s home.
People cannot leave the five-kilometre radius for shopping unless the products are not readily accessible in that area.
And masks will be mandatory outside the home at all times regardless of proximity to others.
The eight current areas of concern are Blacktown, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool and Parramatta.
The announcement of military assistance was met with immediate concerns and calls for improved health information campaigning and income support.
Former race discrimination commissioner Tim Soutphommasane said the development was troubling and sent a signal that the people of western and south-western Sydney “can’t be trusted”.
“The situation in Sydney demanded a redoubling of public health education, urgent re-prioritisation of vaccination, and working in partnership with local communities. Instead we have the military called into the streets,” he said.
“Putting the military into any community, let alone some of the most over-policed communities in the country, is a catastrophically bad idea,” Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi said.
“The Liberals are pushing fear and threats where they need to offer real support for people to stay home and get through this.”
Announcing tougher police powers on Thursday, Mr Elliott said the time for warnings was over.
“I know 99 per cent of the population are furious with the minority who continue to disregard the health orders and put the safety and livelihoods of families at risk,” Mr Elliott said.