‘Bizarre’ reason troops will stop manning borders
The Australian Defence Force is in talks to remove troops from Queensland borders - but will apparently continue guarding quarantine hotels.
It is understood the ADF is looking at a pull-out date somewhere between late September and mid-October, claiming it needs to begin preparing for storm season.
The move will leave the Queensland Police Service scrambling to find more officers to man border checkpoints and has copped a blast from Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers, who described it as "really bizarre" and disappointing.
The moves comes criticism from the Prime Minister that the State Government should be opening Queensland's borders.
The Courier-Mailhas been told the ADF is still negotiating the removal of its troops, initially discussing a date of late September.
Police sources confirmed officers were preparing to lose ADF troops on the border by the end of the month.
It comes as border checkpoint cops brace for a surge of visitors after Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced she was reopening Queensland to tens of thousands of people from northern NSW areas, including Byron Bay, Ballina and Lismore from October 1.
About 60 ADF soldiers have been helping police, Rural Fire Service and State Emergency Service volunteers man the busy Gold Coast border checkpoints since July after huge traffic jams caused chaos.
Police are now drawing up contingency plans to fill the gap, including bringing in extra officers from across the state.
Gold Coast police Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler would not comment on the ADF withdrawal but said officers were ready for an influx of extra visitors when the border reopens to northern NSW.
"We review what the Chief Health Officer's directions are daily and will respond to any changes with additional resources if needed," he said.
"We think we're well-placed to manage the additional traffic flow."
However, Queensland Police Union President Ian Leavers said the move sounded "really bizarre" and "disappointing".
"I find it really disappointing when Queensland is finally opening borders and emerging on the other side of the battle with COVID-19 that 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," Mr Leavers said.
"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.
"Scott Morrison and his LNP government has clearly forgotten that Queensland gave him a large win last year and he has also forgotten Queenslanders pay taxes too.
"That all seems to have gotten us nowhere with Scott Morrison and it seems he would rather Queensland was over-run with COVID-19."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly urged Queensland and other states to open their borders and last week said "as long as we are closed, we cannot claim success, as a country".
"If we are shut, we are not living alongside the virus, the virus is actually keeping us from living," he said.
"So as we emerge from this second wave in Victoria - and I had a good message from the Victorian Premier this morning - let's now seize the opportunity ahead of us to safely and successfully reopen this country, reconnect this country, and stay open.
"Only when businesses can see their way to expanding what they do and how many more people they can employ, then they can see that, that's why they will invest."
According to the ADF's website, 578 personnel are currently assisting with the coronavirus effort in Queensland.
This includes 344 working in the area of quarantine compliance management, including at airports and hotels. A further 148 troops are stationed on Queensland borders.
The ADF has been contacted for comment.
Originally published as 'Bizarre': Why troops will stop manning Qld borders