Mayor concerned about plan to send ADF into western Sydney to enforce COVID compliance

Police patroling Liverpool CBD during lockdown. Picture: Simon Bennett
Police patroling Liverpool CBD during lockdown. Picture: Simon Bennett

Liverpool mayor Wendy Waller is concerned that sending the military into western Sydney to enforce lockdown rules will send the wrong message to residents.

However, opposition spokesman for western Sydney and Campbelltown MP Greg Warren says residents should not be afraid of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) members.

Cr Waller said she was concerned the move to deploy hundreds of ADF personnel into COVID hotspots would do nothing to prevent the spread of the Delta strain of the virus.

She said she was worried about the impact this response could have on many Liverpool residents who have come from war-torn countries as refugees and are now faced with the prospect of Australian soldiers patrolling their streets.

"I don't feel this is the right response and sends the wrong message to bring the army into culturally diverse communities where language is a barrier on many fronts," Cr Waller said.

"We are very proud of the being a community of more than 150 different cultures and 140 different languages, but this has its challenges."

Cr Waller said that the NSW Premier should instead be allocating more resources to NSW Health to improve the dissemination of public health order information in emerging languages.

"Instead of bringing in army patrol, we need more health workers, more COVID-19 testing sites and vaccination information translated and delivered to diverse communities," she said.

"I know we are in a very challenging situation, although COVID-19 cases in Liverpool haven't been growing at a faster rate compared to neighbouring Local Government Areas.

"Liverpool City Council has and will continue to support the work of NSW Health by getting timely advice and messaging out to residents during this time on social media and other channels."

Mr Warren, a former ADF soldier, said 'any support was good support' though he also acknowledged some of the community's concerns.

"As a former soldier myself, I know our ADF personnel just want to serve the community and provide support to the police as this is ultimately a police operation," he said,

"It's about communication and messaging.

"We need to make sure our community understands that ADF personnel are there to help.

"I certainly acknowledge the backgrounds of many from our vast and diverse multi-cultural community, and I know their experiences haven't been the best - and in some cases tragic."

Mr Warren said residents should not be scared of the ADF personnel.

"Just engage with the service personnel and police and do all you can to comply with COVID-19 health orders," he said.

"This is ultimately a police operation, not a military operation. The ADF is simply supplying logistical support to a police operation that already exists."

Liverpool Council announced last week that four new pop-up vaccination hubs would be located around Liverpool from Monday, August 2, with the capability of delivering hundreds of AstraZeneca vaccinations.

"We know the only way to help safeguard the community against COVID-19 is through getting jabs in as many people's arms as possible - not through a policing approach," Cr Waller said.

"Surely, hundreds of defence force personnel can be deployed in a better way. For instance, getting qualified personnel to join forces with NSW Health to administer the jabs rather than assist with enforcement.

"Therefore, we are calling on the NSW Government to reconsider this response for a more appropriate and measured solution."

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said the deployment of ADF personnel was requested as the NSW Police Force was significantly expanding its COVID-19 welfare and compliance activities in Sydney.

"I have requested 300 ADF personnel to boost our operational footprint," he said.

"What this means is police officers will be assisted by ADF personnel as they deliver food parcels, conduct welfare door-knocks and go through compliance checks of stay-at-home and self-isolation orders.

"This operation will be led and managed by the NSW Police Force.

"The ADF will be present in a supporting role under the direction of the NSW Police Force."

Commissioner Fuller said the operation would be centred around community welfare and ensuring stay-at-home orders issued by NSW Health to specific individuals are observed.