Queensland’s health minister has accused the federal government of using the army in a political attack on the state government after it was announced that Australian Defence Force (ADF) support at the border checkpoints would wind up from Oct. 1.
Steven Miles, Queensland’s health minister, said the withdrawal of Defence support was disappointing and would make the job of police even harder.
“There’s no secret I think that the prime minister doesn’t like our strong border protections, but they have kept Queenslanders safe,” he told reporters on Sept. 23.
“I really don’t think the Defence force should be used as a bargaining chip in what is an ongoing political attack from the federal government on the state government. Our policies have worked, and they should back off,” he went on to say.
Greg Hunt, the federal health minister, says the armed forces will continue to assist in other ways around the country, including with contact tracing and hotel quarantining—the latter a decision that was welcomed by Miles.
“This was a time-limited approach, and as Queensland begins to lift its border restrictions I think that’s great news for New South Wales, it’s great news for Queensland, it’s great news for Australia,” Hunt told Nine’s Today program.
Hunt denied the decision was “payback” against the state’s Labor government designed to coincide with a predicted surge in cross-border traffic expected now that Queensland’s border bubble will be extended 100km into New South Wales—opening the border to over 150,000 more people.
“No, this was the agreement that was reached in August, and we’ll continue to provide the support,” Hunt responded.
“Where states and territories have needed support, we have provided that support and our defence force has worked incredibly well.”
A Defence spokesperson told The Epoch Times that it agreed on Aug. 7 to provide support at Queensland’s border checkpoints until Sept. 30 and will now prioritise supporting mandatory quarantine efforts while also preparing for the high-risk weather season.
“With processes along borders well-established for a number of months, Queensland authorities were advised on 11 September they will need to transition ADF support on borders to alternative arrangements when the current agreement with Defence expires on 30 September,” the spokesperson said.
“Commander of the Defence COVID-19 Taskforce Lieutenant General John Frewen also briefed National Cabinet on current ADF COVID-19 support to the states and territories and the need for Defence to begin prioritising preparations for the high-risk weather season.”
Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said police officers would need to be hauled in to fill the positions.
“The federal government and the military have given us the reason that they are so short-staffed and under-resourced that they aren’t able to assist any longer,” Leavers told the Courier-Mail.
“What good is having the military and the ADF when they don’t seem to be able to do two things at once? It all sounds really bizarre from the federal government.”
The state health minister echoed this, saying: “It will mean extra work for our police. It will mean more shifts, more overtime, more police allocated to that task.”
More than 300 soldiers will continue to oversee quarantine hotels in Queensland.