Various: TPAV speaking up about border policing

3AW: ADF refuse frontline support for Victoria Police on NSW border


Secretary of the Police Association Wayne Gatt says it’s ‘a bit disappointing’ the government’s request for additional support on the New South Wales border has been refused.

It means hundreds of police officers have been redeployed from general duties and will spend Christmas monitoring activity on the border.

“This does happen at a time when policing is at its busiest,” he told Tony Jones, filling in for Neil Mitchell on 3AW Mornings.

“There’s a lot of movements on our road, major events and gatherings that keep police very, very busy at this time of year.

“So when you wrap in this the commitment of over 700 members at hotel quarantine, you’ve got an enormous chunk of police resources diverted to duties that in any other year they simply wouldn’t be doing.”

Mr Gatt paid credit to the 500 members who had either volunteered or directed to go, some with only 24 hours notice.

“They deserve a medal in my view,” he said.

“We should all be very grateful for the work that they’re doing, and continue to do for all of us.”

The Age: Hume Freeway a ’24-hour free-for-all’ after police checkpoint delays

Premier Daniel Andrews has expressed frustration at the Australian Defence Force’s refusal to help man the NSW border as it was revealed it took police until Monday afternoon to set up a checkpoint on the busy Hume Freeway.

Hundreds of police officers from across Victoria will spend Christmas on the border after the ADF turned down a request to help prevent Sydney’s coronavirus outbreak spreading south.

The police union warned some single person stations in the state’s east would be forced to temporarily close their doors as more than 700 officers are deployed to the NSW border.

Albury mayor Kevin Mack said there were long queues at the newly set-up checkpoint on the Hume Freeway late on Monday afternoon.Advertisement

But he said many people had travelled from NSW into Victoria before it went up.

“Ostensibly it’s been a free-for-all for probably 24 hours,” Cr Mack said.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley has explained the decision to close the Victorian border to Greater Sydney as the Northern Beaches outbreak continues to grow.

The border redeployment came as NSW recorded 15 newly acquired cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday, bringing the total infections linked with the Avalon cluster to 83.

The ADF confirmed it would provide no additional frontline support for police at the border. Instead it will offer up personnel for logistics and accommodation for those police being sent to the border.

Premier Daniel Andrews said he was disappointed there was little support from the ADF.

“I’m not pleased that we’ve asked for 200 to 300 people, we may get a much smaller number than that,” he said. “What that simply means is that more members of Victoria Police and more SES volunteers will have to be on that border right throughout Christmas.”

Mr Andrews said 13 checkpoints had been set up and 19 more would be installed throughout Monday afternoon and into the evening.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said 1600 ADF personnel were directly involved in efforts to contain the coronavirus around the country and there would be additional logistics and other support to the Victorian government’s border operations.

“But that does not extend to actual patrolling of the borders. That’s not something the defence force is doing any longer,” he said.

“That will be done by state officials and supported through the ADF for the logistics and other planning experience. But our major priority for ADF is actually on [hotel quarantine programs].”

Victoria recorded one new case of coronavirus in hotel quarantine as the state notched up its 52nd day of zero community transmission since the end of the second wave.

Melbourne University epidemiologist Tony Blakely said it was “very reassuring” that no new cases had been found outside the Avalon cluster after more than 38,000 tests were conducted in NSW on Sunday.

Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt said said officers from single-officer stations, crime scene departments, highway patrols and specialist units were among those being sent to the border to stop the spread of COVID-19 into Victoria.

Mr Gatt said he fully supported the border efforts and was in no way critical of having to send officers, but noted the redistribution of staff came at a cost.

“We’re seeing hundreds and hundreds of police officers being deployed away from their families to the frontline in circumstances they didn’t expect,” Mr Gatt said.

“We understand this has to happen [but] our members are frustrated, our members are tired.

He said the deployment also came not only after one of the most challenging year in policing history, but as the state moves into the force’s busiest time of year.

On behalf of his members, Mr Gatt asked the federal government to “help us juggle this professional responsibly we have”.

“Any support would be greatly appreciated,” he said.

A Defence spokeswoman said the ADF was prioritising its resources towards support for mandatory quarantine and preparations for the “high-risk weather season”.

She said the ADF had received three formal requests for support from the Victorian government.

“Defence will not provide direct support to vehicle checkpoints on the NSW/Victoria border,” she said. “Defence will continue to work with Victorian authorities to determine how best it can continue to assist in its COVID-19 response.”

There are currently 235 defence personnel in Victoria, compared with 379 in NSW and 348 in Queensland.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said officers had been conducting roving patrols on major arterial and back roads on the border since midnight on Friday.

“There will continue to be a significant number of roving patrols occurring on back roads to ensure that no one from NSW is entering Victoria in breach of the current Chief Health Officer directions,” the spokeswoman said.

On Monday the Department of Health and Human Services said Victorian residents who had been in or visited greater Sydney or the NSW Central Coast from December 11 had until 11:59pm on Monday to return home.

They must apply for a travel permit and get tested within 24 hours of returning to Victoria and self-quarantine for 14 days from when they leave the “red zone”.

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