After police this week locked down the border to better screen for travellers coming from the Greater Sydney COVID-19 hotspot, a spokesman for Police Minister Mark Ryan said on Wednesday the call for renewed ADF help had been knocked back.
“The Queensland government asked the federal government for assistance but, disappointingly, that request was denied,” he said. A similar request from Victoria was also declined. The SES is helping police on the Queensland border.
The union was contacted for comment, while police directed questions to Mr Ryan’s office.
A Defence Department spokeswoman said its position had been made clear to states in September that border support would need to transition to local agencies or commercial solutions.
The ADF is, however, providing accommodation and catering to police on the NSW/Victoria border. It will also support Northern Territory border biosecurity measures until February, given the “unique and significant” risks to Indigenous communities.
Asked on Monday about the lack of ADF personnel on the southern states’ border, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters it was not something the force was “doing any longer”.
On the eve of 100 days without community transmission in Queensland, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk defended her decision to close the border to people from Greater Sydney until at least January 8.
Her NSW counterpart, Gladys Berejiklian, has accused other states of over-reacting to the Northern Beaches cluster, which is now responsible for 97 cases. Seven of the eight new cases recorded in NSW on Wednesday were linked to that cluster.
Ms Palaszczuk told reporters on Wednesday: “If there hadn’t been the cluster outbreak in the Northern Beaches … no one would have had to take these measures and everyone would have been seeing their family and friends over this Christmas and New Year period.”
Queensland Health reported one new overseas-acquired case in hotel quarantine on Wednesday from the 13,162 tests carried out in Queensland in the previous 24 hours – up from 8000 the day before.
Meanwhile, a new public health directive has been issued to mandate the use of electronic check-in systems in businesses and venues across the state.
The requirements will mean businesses must have a QR code or other digital arrangement in place for recording patrons’ details, or they’ll face fines of up to $13,345.
Paper forms, which frustrated contact-tracing efforts after a woman linked to the NSW cluster attended the Glen Hotel in Eight Mile Plains last week, will be permitted only as a back-up, with any details to be digitised within 24 hours.
Ms Palaszczuk pointed to the ACT government’s check-in app when asked about plans to roll out a similar unified system in Queensland – the only state or territory without one.
Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe also announced tour boat changes to help operators ferry more visitors through the Great Barrier Reef, as existing national and renewed state border closures continue to adversely affect the tourism sector.
Get our Morning & Evening Edition newsletters
Matt Dennien is a reporter with Brisbane Times.