The federal government has deployed 110 Australian soldiers based in north Queensland to help with quarantine duties in Western Australia.
The deployment was approved on Sept. 23, the day after the federal government announced that Australian Defence Force (ADF) troops would be withdrawn from Queensland’s border with New South Wales to help with preparations for natural disasters.
Steven Miles, Queensland’s deputy premier, said on Saturday that he was disappointed by the decision and accused the federal government of lying about redeploying the troops to prepare for natural disasters.
“Now we learn that they lied. Now we learn that [troops] were being withdrawn to be sent to another state that still has border restrictions in place,” he said.
The deputy premier accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison of using the ADF as a political bargaining chip to force Queensland to change its border policy. The border policy is to remain closed until neighboring state New South Wales has no unlinked cases of COVID-19 spread through community transmission for 28 days.
“It simply shows how political Scott Morrison has been about this whole thing,” Miles said.
However, an ADF spokesperson told The Epoch Times on Oct. 3 that the ADF troops that have deployed to Western Australia are not the same personnel who were assisting at the Queensland border to New South Wales.
Additionally, there were no ADF troops currently providing border support to Western Australia (WA).
“A significant proportion of the ADF’s trained regular general purpose forces are stationed in Queensland. Given the nation-wide nature of Operation COVID-19 ASSIST, it is common for Queensland-based ADF elements to deploy interstate,” the ADF spokesperson said.
The ADF twice advised Queensland authorities on Sept. 11 and 23 that the support to Queensland’s borders would need to transition to local agencies or commercial solutions from Sept. 30 when the agreement was due to expire.
“The ADF is prioritising its resources toward urgent national priorities such as support for mandatory COVID-19 quarantine arrangements and preparations for the high-risk weather season.
“On 23 September, Defence approved a request from WA authorities to expand quarantine compliance support, which will cease on 31 December or earlier if support is no longer required,” the spokesperson said.
“About 100 personnel from the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, and 3rd Combat Signal Regiment (part of Army’s 3rd Brigade) have deployed to Western Australia to support hotel quarantine compliance tasks.
“This is due to the increased passenger caps and the number of Australians expected to return home.
“Additionally, following a request for assistance from the Western Australian Government, 10 ADF personnel are supporting WA Health quarantine compliance monitoring at the Hedland Hotel.”
Miles said on Saturday that there were no new cases of COVID-19 for a second day and only six active cases in the state.
The Epoch Times has reached out to the federal government for comment.
This article has been updated to include comments from the Australian Defence Force spokesperson.